Dyslexia is the most common language based learning disability. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that between 15 and 20% of students in the U.S. may have dyslexia. Even so, it is still largely misunderstood. Children with dyslexia too often go undiagnosed, struggling throughout their school years and beyond. Since early detection is so important to helping children succeed, teachers should understand what dyslexia is and be aware of the warning signs and refer a child for evaluation if they believe a learning disability is present.
What Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disability which impacts a person's abilities in reading and spelling. Individuals with dyslexia usually have a discrepancy between their abilities and their achievement. They are able to learn, but their brains process information differently. Some of the main characteristics of dyslexia include:
- Difficulty with phonics and sounding words out
- Difficulty with spelling
- Mixes up directional words
- Writing letters backward, often mixes up d and b; and q and g.
- Difficulty following instructions with multiple steps
How Dyslexia Appears in the Classroom
Spelling: Children with dyslexia struggle with spelling. Some of the ways students with dyslexia have trouble are:
- Spelling words exactly as they are heard, for example: lern for learn, duz for does, muny for money.
- Using the correct letters but in jumbled or incorrect order, for example: dose for does, freind for friend, huose for house.
- Spelling the same word different ways, even within the same paragraph or assignment.
Students with dyslexia may do well on weekly spelling tests because they have memorized each word. At the same time you will notice daily writing assignments may be filled with spelling errors.
Reading: Difficulty reading is one of the main characteristics of dyslexia. Students may have trouble distinguishing different sounds in words, especially if words sound similar. They may also struggle with the following reading skills:
- Problems rhyming words
- Difficulty breaking words down into syllables
- When learning to read, the student may not be able to remember the names and shapes of letters
- Just as they can reverse letters when writing words, they transpose letters when reading
- Find it laborious to sound out long words
- Omits words when reading
- Difficulty sequencing events
Many students with dyslexia have poor reading comprehension because they focus so much on reading each word or because they read inaccurately.
Writing: One of the most well-known characteristic of dyslexia is reversing letters or numbers. Additional ways students with dyslexia have trouble writing are:
- Missing letters of words when writing, such as writing weathr for weather.
- Writing words backward, such as tac for cat.
- Having sloppy or illegible handwriting
- May have trouble proofreading
Many children ith dyslexia have trouble organizing their thoughts or putting their thoughts on paper. The students may know and understand the work, do well when summarizing information orally or taking tests orally but fail when they are required to translate their knowledge through writing.
Oral Communication: Although reading and writing deficiencies are most closely associated with dyslexia, there are some oral communication skills, such as sounding out words, which are impacted by dyslexia. Some examples are:
- Difficulty following directions, especially when instructions include two or more steps
- Confusion with directional commands, such as "up" and "down," "in front of" and "behind" or time references, such as "yesterday" and "tomorrow" and "before" and "after."
- Problems with word retrieval
- May have a hard time understanding concepts and relationships
Some children with dyslexia began talking late, have a limited vocabulary or have a hard time understanding and using age-appropriate grammar. As young children, they don't understand rhyming, choosing words that sound the same rather than those that rhyme. They may have difficulty learning and remembering songs or nursery rhymes.
Each child with dyslexia is unique. Not every child will exhibit all of traits explained above. But if you have a student in your classroom who has the ability and has been given opportunities to learn and still struggles with reading, writing and spelling, it may be wise to refer the student for further assessment and evaluation.
"Dyslexia," Date Unknown, David Perlstein, M.D., Melissa Conrad Stoppler, M.D., Medicinenet.com
"Dyslexia Statistics," 2009, Staff Writer, Nemours.org
"Genes and Dyslexia," 2004, Jeffrey W. Gilger, Ph.D., Northern California Branch of the International Dyslexia Association
"NINDS Dyslexia Information Page," Updated 2010, May 12, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health