Dyslexia literally stems from the Greek, meaning “difficulty (dys) with words (lexia) ”.
In the 1980’s, the only definition of dyslexia was an exclusionary one. If a child’s difficulty with reading could not be explained by low intelligence, poor eye sight, poor hearing, inadequate educational opportunities, or any other problem, then it was determined by exclusion that the child must be dyslexic.
In 1968 the World federation of neurologists defined dyslexia as- “a disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experience, fail to attain the language skills of reading, writing and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities”.
A more specific definition was needed rather than one based on exclusion. A number of organisations have attempted to produce a more specific definition based on the more current research work.
International Dyslexia Association definition
Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.
Dyslexia is not the result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment, inadequate instructional or environmental opportunities, or other limiting conditions, but may occur together with these conditions.
Although dyslexia is life long, individuals with dyslexia frequently respond successfully to timely and appropriate intervention.
National Institute of Health definition
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.
Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
However what these definitions do not address are the many other symptoms found to be part of the dyslexic profile as well as the reason for the significant overlap with other conditions associated with learning and behaviour. These include problems with attention or learning other skills like handwriting, visual skills, memory abilities etc.
The National Institute of Health in the USA have spent many years researching learning disabilities. They found that:
Dyslexia affects at least 1 out of every 5 children in the United States
Dyslexia represents the most common and prevalent of all known learning disabilities.
Dyslexia is the most researched of all learning disabilities.
Dyslexia affects as many boys as girls.
Some forms of dyslexia are highly heritable.
Dyslexia is the leading cause of reading failure and school dropouts in the USA.
Reading failure is the most commonly shared characteristic of juvenile offenders.
Children do not outgrow reading failure or dyslexia.
Research evidence does not support the use of “whole language” reading approaches to teach dyslexic children.
Dyslexia and ADHD so frequently coexist within the same child that it is always best to test for both.
Children with both dyslexia and ADHD are at dramatically increased risk for substance abuse and felony convictions if they do not receive appropriate interventions.
T he cerebellum rather than the thinking brain.
Professor Rod Nicolson at University of Sheffield has shown that the cerebellum is very underactive during most types of learning in people with diagnosed dyslexia and not just learning to read. This therefore increases the effort that an individual has to make when learning and many dyslexics will complain that the very complex process of learning to read is a very tiring process. However it is only one of a number of different symptoms of cerebellar underfunctioning.
When people were examined by Professor Nicolson he also found that they showed many medical signs of an underactive and poorly functioning cerebellum.
Sequencing, another function of the cerebellum, is also affected in dyslexia. Sequencing difficulties can include: sequencing of numbers, or ideas in arguments, or the order of a story, co-ordination of movements and timing.
The cerebellum is also very closely linked to the controlling systems of eye movements. This means that instead of being able to move the eyes swiftly between two points the eyes take one or more corrective measures to reach the correct point. This can make copying a very difficult task, whether off a blackboard or another page of writing. The smooth pursuit or eye tracking of a moving object is also disrupted, as the eyes “jump” from the target and movements are needed to correct back to following the moving object.
This has big implications for reading as words; letters or whole sentences can be missed, or are misread due to the eye movement difficulties rather than lack of knowledge. But learning spellings can also be affected in this way, as can mathematical calculations when the eyes are moving between different numbers or letters. This is not a difficulty of understanding but of eye movement control.
Short-term memory is also affected, so that a process learnt one day would have to be re-learnt the next. This includes calculation procedures, factual information, spellings, and for some it includes personal information such as birth-dates and addresses.
In terms of reading, dyslexia does not mean that a child’s reading age is necessarily below that of their peers. It does mean that there is a difference between the ability that should be attained due to their levels of intelligence and the performance in academic work. For example a child who is equivalent to four years ahead in their intelligence levels, might be a year ahead in their reading levels, but there is still a discrepancy between their intelligence and performance. Likewise a child of average intelligence may be less than two years below in their reading age but still struggle in performing to their potential.
Many children we see at Dore are of above average intelligence, this is why many have not been picked up by the schools as having problems severe enough for special needs teaching. Despite this many of these children are frustrated by the difficulties they are experiencing.
Self-Esteem in Dyslexia
Self-esteem is affected when the child is aware that they have greater capabilities but are unable to demonstrate them and therefore are considered to be “thick” or stupid. This was said very well by a person who has suffered from this:
“Many of the behaviours associated with (dyslexia) are essentially antisocial and are duly treated as such. Of course a teacher will tell off a child who is always the last to appear from the playground at break time, who consistently fails to learn his times tables, who throws babyish temper-tantrums. Processes or socialization are subconscious, and consequently that child will naturally assume that he is in the wrong, that everyone else experiences his difficulties but makes less of a fuss about it. In the same way he will convince himself that he is isolated from his peer group because he is simply not a likeable person. He will repress his emotionality, discover ways of compensating for his difficulties, learn to distrust his own judgement and intuitions, and above all overlook the fact that he has a problem. This of course, complements his inability to think clearly and to express why he feels he has been treated unjustly, in so doing severely undermining his self-esteem. From an early age the dyslexic child will be subconsciously disguising his disorder as best as he can. Needless to say, its cognitive side is secreted most easily.”
Hans Christian Andersen, Alexander Graham Bell, Cher Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Stewart, Quentin Tarantino
……the list could continue for pages and pages with 1000’s and 1000’s of “not so famous” dyslexics. They may be anonymous but they all suffer with the symptoms outlined in this section, and that is why the work of Dore is so important…
Key features of Dyslexia
Often has average or above average I.Q., but doesn’t do as well on school tests as they should
Feels “dumb”, has poor self-esteem and lacks confidence
Easily frustrated and emotional about school, reading, or testing, often uses avoiding tactics.
Seems to “zone out” or daydream often, gets lost easily or loses track of time
Reads or writes with additions, omissions, substitutions, repetition, reversals, or transpositions of letters, numbers or words
Often confuses left/right, over/under § Has difficulty telling or managing time, being on time or learning sequenced information or tasks.
Mispronounces long words; transposes phrases, words and syllables while speaking
Sometimes complains of dizziness, nausea, or headaches or stomach aches while reading or studying. Often feels exhausted after reading since it is such an effort to read since the child has to work so much harder.
The quotes below although not taken from Dore patients illustrate what people endure, and sums up what life can be like suffering with a learning difficulty like dyslexia.
Quote: “My wife was badgering me, the children were encouraging me, and friends were lecturing me. They had all become convinced that I was dyslexic. They had heard programmes about it, read books about it, talked to people about it – talked to people about it – and now they were absolutely positive I was dyslexic. But I didn’t feel so sure.
True, all my life I’d struggled with reading and writing. True, I’d always felt in a muddle somehow – but surely that was just me. At school I’d been put down as ‘lazy’, ‘not very bright’, at college I had to work twice as hard as everyone else just to survive; and at work I was constantly in trouble for forgetting things and making silly mistakes.
I always seemed to be battling somehow, battling to express myself, to take in what people were saying, battling to organise myself, battling to keep some self respect in the face of constant frustration and humiliation.
And now suddenly people were telling me, “No, this isn’t stupidity, it isn’t laziness or bloody-mindedness, it isn’t anything terrible at all – it’s just a collection of difficulties that you can do something about.” “
The quote above illustrates how people feel stupid and lazy and wonder why everybody else around them is coping far better than them. At Dore we help people to achieve things easier and realise the potential within them.
Quote: “When at school, I had a number of problems but was always perceived by teachers as a successful pupil as I was always in the top groups for the subjects that I was taking. The fact that I had a spelling and grammar problem was always ignored by teachers although my parents constantly challenged this view.
Once I left secondary school, with my fist full of GCSE’s, and went to college to study for my A levels, an observant lecturer became concerned and referred me to their support unit for evaluation. It was there that my “problem” was recognised and I became “statemented.”
Throughout my school life I achieved by working harder than my peers. When they did their homework in one hour it would take me 4 or 5 hours.
When I was at the college and later when studying for a law degree, I had to record each lecture on a tape recorder. Back at home I would play the lecture back once to familiarise myself with it, a second time so that I could make my key notes. My learning then took place from my notes. The whole process was laborious and very time consuming.”
The above quote indicates the way in which people will cope with their difficulties and find ways in which to compensate. Although the individual in question achieved great success the level of work that she had to endure was significantly greater than her peers. The inefficiency of the cerebellum can add such a load to a person that it can drain even the most intelligent of individuals