What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling (Rose Report, 2009). It is a specific learning difficulty and not a general learning difficulty. This specific difficulty relates to phonological processing at a word level. Generally, more boys present with the difficulty and the overall prevalence range can be from 5-15% of the general population. Other statistics suggest 1 in 10 people have Dyslexia. In an average class this means that three children experience Dyslexia at some level.
Dyslexia is a persistent and lifelong learning difficulty that affects people of all ages, countries and languages. It is not related to intelligence but is easier detected when other strengths are apparent. The continuum of Dyslexia ranges from mild to severe.
The main areas affected by Dyslexia are expressive language (transferring our thoughts into language by writing and spelling) and receptive language (receiving language and interpreting it).
There is a generic link and it can run in families. Dyslexia can be identified fairly confidently from senior infants onwards by a class teacher. It is best alleviated by appropriate teaching and learning. Early identification and intervention are essential for any child with Dyslexia.
Dyslexia Assessment and Additional Support
Children displaying signs of Dyslexia can be assessed in order to ascertain the level of difficulty or Dyslexia they are experiencing. This can be done by your child’s class teacher or support teacher. Many parents choose to get their children assessed privately through the DAI (Dyslexia Association of Ireland) particularly where their child may also be experiencing other impeding factors to learning.
Children with Dyslexia do not get Resource hours. Therefore, it is up to the child’s class teacher to design an early intervention programme for the child in conjunction with the learning support teacher. Therefore, a child experiencing Dyslexia is more likely to receive help through the Learning Support remit within the mainstream class setting.
Signposts of Dyslexia:
Children with Dyslexia may have difficulty with:
- Differentiating between letter-sounds vs letter names.
- Sounding out and breaking up words.
- Sight vocabulary.
- Guesses at words from the initial sounds of the words eg ‘house’ / ‘home’
- Memorising (again not a sign of IQ).
- Reading but ‘not getting it’.
- Skipping words and lines.
- Noticing turning more than one page.
- Reversing words/ letters.
- Reading speed.
- Keeping their place.
- Adding words not there.
- Omitting words and reading through punctuation.
- Letter order e.g. place/ palace.
- Omitting little words.
Spelling & Writing
- Difficulty with blending sounds together to form a word.
- Omitting suffixes ‘ed’/ ‘s’/ ‘ing’.
- Letter blends omitted ‘fed’/ ‘fled’ or wistle.
- Substitutes t/d, f/v, sh/ ch.
- Identifies beginning and/ or end of word but not the middle e.g. md/ mind.
- Confuses vowel sounds ‘bit’/ ‘bet’.
- Difficulty remembering spelling rules; ‘tape’ spelt as ‘tap’.
- Phonological errors- fotograf.
- Letters or groups of letters out of sequence; beniging (beginning), anostrot (astronaut).
- Missing vowels slibrt (celebrate).
- Uses mixture of capital and lower case letters.
- Reverses letters on/ no.
- Inverts letters eg. u/ n, m/w.
- Difficulty with double letters, ss, oo, ff, etc.
Note: learning the Alphabet has little benefit in preparing children to read, likewise the order of alphabetical letters.
A good reading assessment should give an indication as to why children are making particular errors. The common MICRA-T standardised test does not cover phonics accurately enough to inform teachers and parents as to whether a child may have a reading difficulty.
Standardised tests that can provide useful insight are:
- Dyslexia Portfolio (Martin Turner): covers: word reading, spelling, reading speed, non-word reading, phoneme deletion, naming speed, writing speed and working memory (this assessment can be done by any of our schools learning support teachers).
- WIAT-II (Weschsler Individual Achievement Test): Reading comprehension, single word reading, pseudoword decoding.
- WRAT-4 (Wide Range Achievement Test): assesses: reading, spelling and sentence comprehension.
- C-TOPP (Comprehension Test of Phonological Processing): phonological awareness, phonological memory and rapid naming.
- PhAB (Phonological Assessment Battery): Alliteration, rhyme, non-word reading, fluency, speed naming of Digits and pictures.
*The Dyslexia Portfolio is a school- based assessment and most teachers can carry it out. It is a sufficient assessment to inform teaching, plan intervention and provide parents with answers.
Dyslexia and IQ
Children with high IQ and Dyslexia are likely to be highly frustrated. Without appropriate intervention and stimulation, reading difficulties have the power to reduce a child’s IQ and therefore reduce their ability to reach their true potential. However, “one of the biggest myths associated with Dyslexia is that is should be defined in relation to intelligence, the ‘discrepancy definition’ of Dyslexia. Research over the past twenty years has demonstrated that this is not the case” (Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014).
Given that 18 months after a child starts primary school, teachers should be able to tell whether a child has literacy difficulties. This signals an immediate call for early intervention and dialogue with parents. Crucially, the longer the delay with early intervention the greater the struggle for the child.
If a student is regularly reading at a ‘frustrational level’ their ability to learn is being diminished therefore their chances of successfully reading for meaning are reduced and their potential to read for pleasure is minimised and confidence and self-esteem are undermined. Reading at a frustrational level; where 1 in 10 words are tricky and there is less than 90 % success rate.
Roads to Intervention
The Emotional Climate of the child is paramount. The child needs contingent praise, feedback for their effort and acknowledgement of their effort and difficulty. Teachers and parents must foster determination, resilience and persistence while increasing a child’s self-esteem. Related information from significant people conveyed directly or indirectly has the greatest impact for the child, “The way we talk to children becomes their inner voice” (Peggy O’Mara).
All children learn differently and their work needs to be differentiated by task, product, length of time, format, teacher response, wait time etc. Work must be within the child’s Zone of Proximate Development. Therefore, we focus on a child’s strengths and use this as a basis for learning, rather than seek to correct previous errors made.
There is a lot of Hardware and Software to support students with learning and Dyslexia. To maximise its benefit teachers must be clear on a child’s exact need area within literacy. Significantly, Dyslexia provides; repeated practice, multi-sensory approach and is customisable to a given child’s literacy level (see Nessy Dyslexia programme).
The Nessy programme is particularly recommended for literacy. It is available in our school for specific children. If you would like more information on this programme for your child, please contact your child’s class teacher. Further ICT possibilities will be listed later on this page.
Source of Information: DAI (Dyslexia Association of Ireland, 2016).
*Please talk to your class teacher in Skerries ETNS about further ideas to enrich your child’s reading experience.
*Please review this page for further resources and development of Whole School Dyslexia statement.
*Incoming plan to organise a literacy group of children to meet once a month and share experiences and read together.