What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is actually one condition amongst a group, which are known to co-exist; it is not that common to meet an individual who is purely dyslexic, they are likely to have some traits of dyslexia but also may have some aspects of these other related conditions. It is now commonly accepted, by academics in the field, that dyslexia is part of a spectrum of neuro-diverse difficulties which co-occur with each other.
Dyslexia – Dyspraxia – Dyscalculia – Dysgraphia – A.D.D/A.D.H.D. – Specific Language Impairment (SLI) – Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) SpLD can also co-occur with difficulties on the autistic spectrum such as Asperger Syndrome. They are neurological, usually run in families and occur independently of intelligence.
Often, dyslexia is thought of as being not able to spell or read properly. Children can experience a very bad time at school with other children thinking and, in some cases, saying they are “thick”. Both these views are incorrect. Dyslexia is a genetic condition which creates differences in the way we take in, store and use information. These differences in how the brain functions can produce particular strengths such as thinking outside the box. It can also mean though, that children can have difficulty with basic skills in reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic because they are not being taught the way they can learn. If we provide appropriate teaching, then most dyslexic children can learn to read and write and do sums as well as anyone else. The key thing to do is to identify dyslexia and then work out what the child’s key strengths are and key difficulties are and how to help them.
The overall term now used for dyslexia is “Neurodiverse Specific Learning Difficulty” (SpLD) and that’s quite useful as it indicates that dyslexia is responsible for some very “specific” difficulties in learning. Outside these specific difficulties is often a very able person with particular strengths.
Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
Dyslexia is constitutional in origin, that is it is part of one’s makeup, and independent of social or economic or language backgrounds. It occurs despite normal intellectual ability and teaching. Some people only have very mild symptoms, whilst others are severely dyslexic. Some dyslexic individuals have very well-developed creative skills and interpersonal skills, others have strong oral skills. Some are not exceptional in any way but all have strengths. The key is to develop those strengths and mitigate any weaknesses.