Learn about dyslexia !
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Author:  Nimeshi [ Sat Apr 22, 2006 4:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Learn about dyslexia !

Learn about dyslexia !

By Rtn. Shanthi Wijesinghe Executive President-Association of Montessori Directresses (AMD) Chief Administration Officer-Competency Centre for Early Childhood Development (CCECD)


@ wow / 22APR2006


The reason I’m addressing this issue is because I work with many kids who are said to be dyslexic. Do not let anyone tell you that your child is dyslexic without the results of a proper test. There are many “special educators” amongst us to grab your money and make lots of noise to scare you. They use standard reading material based on phonics and arrive at nothing conclusive whilst tiring out the child and draining your purse. Believe me some can be quite skilled at the latter !

Very often, parents are ill-informed and more unfortunately misinformed about dyslexia. The common worries are whether their child/children would be able to interact in society and become professionals. My experiences of over 10 years has shown that children with dyslexia can become great human beings and become skilled as well as reach professional heights in their chosen field.

NOT a disease !

A typical case in point was about five years ago when two sets of parents wanted to enroll their children in the speech and communication class I conduct on weekends. After the initial round of questions one set of parents confessed that their child wasn’t into reading and that he had ‘a little difficulty’ in the area.

Having worked with the child for a couple of weeks I realised that he did have a problem. After carrying out the necessary tests, I found he fell short of the average requirement according to standard practice tests. The parents were worried and more or less rather huffed that I had detected the ‘deficiency.’ They were dumbfounded probably because in my earnestness of finding new pathways to the child’s difficulty I had stumbled on their fears.

Had they been referred to me by another educator perhaps they would have felt better ! It was a bad case of ego.

To get back to the story – somehow, the other set of parents had got wind of this and had instructed their child to”……. not even sit next to ……….because you might also be infected.”

This bit of news was delivered loud and clear when the class was going through a quiet moment and you can imagine the chaos it created !

I had to bring in ALL the parents and ease their anxieties but for the child concerned, to feel comfortable again, it took almost two whole months !

What is Dyslexia?

It is a persistent, lifelong condition. There’s no cure for it, but there are ways to approach learning and be successful.

The first thing that needs to be said is that dyslexia is not the result of poor parenting. You or your spouse are not to blame and once you understand this it would be easier to cope with the problem and support the child instead of pointing fingers at each other or the lineage of ‘maybe’ ancestors.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) defines dyslexia as a learning disability in the area of reading. While reading is the primary problem, some definitions of dyslexia also include difficulties with:





Number (math)

A person with dyslexia is someone whose problem in reading is not the result of emotional problems, lack of motivation, poor teaching, mental retardation, poor vision or a hearing defect.

Although kids with dyslexia have language processing and learning difficulties in common, the symptoms and severity can be quite different. Kids learn some academic skills at a level lower than others their same age but they can do other things quite well. They may be talented in the arts, skilled in technology, or proficient at spatial relationships. These strengths and talents need to be encouraged and reinforced over a long period of time.

Ages 6-11 may have the following difficulties:

pronouncing words, may reverse or substitute parts of words

carrying out a sequence of directions

in hearing fine differences in words; e.g., writes “pin” for “pen”

stating thoughts in an organized way (sequences)

recognising the order of letters in words

recognising words previously learned

spelling a word several different ways; without recognising the correct version

reading comprehension

What causes dyslexia ?

No conclusive findings have been recorded as yet but there has been an increase in the amount of research taking place, and a number of possibilities are beginning to emerge. The overall picture is that dyslexia can be caused by inherited factors, and/or hearing problems at an early age.

The hereditary factor

It has been established to a large extent that dyslexia is very frequently found in families, and is often accompanied by left-handedness somewhere in the family. This does not mean to say that a dyslexic parent will automatically have a dyslexic child, or that a left-handed child will necessarily be dyslexic. However, in studies and research carried out in many of the developed countries, where dyslexia is identified, between a third and a half of children have a history of learning difficulties in their family, and more than half have a family member who is left-handed.

The results of technology

With the technical advances that have come about in brain-scanning in recent years, a lot of research has been carried out examining the brains of dyslexic people. Bunches of cells beneath the surface of the brain have been detected which lie on the surface in the brain of a non-dyslexic person.

These groups of cells ought to have moved to the brain’s surface at the time when the brain was developing in the foetus, but failed to make the journey. They are known as ‘ectopic’ cells (like an ectopic pregnancy, where the egg fails to reach the womb and is fertilized in the Fallopian tube).

These ectopic clusters of cells are mainly found in the left and the front of the brain - the areas which are important for reading and writing. Another area of the brain - the magno-cellular system, which deals with our ability to see moving images - is smaller in the brains of dyslexic people. This makes reading harder, where the brain has to quickly interpret the different letters and words which the eyes see as they scan words and sentences.

With the use of EEG (electroencephalogram), where small electrodes with wires are temporarily attached to the outside of a person’s head, it has been possible to see increased brain activity on the right side of the brain when a child is beginning to learn to read. Increased activity is noticeable on the left side in an advanced reader.

However, the brains of dyslexic children show an unusual variation in left- and right-side activity. Recent research has found that, whereas non-dyslexic children use the left side of their brain for language work, dyslexic children have to use the right side as well. This is not the side of the brain that is wired for language, and, as a result, the brains of dyslexic children and adults have to work about six times harder. This may be why say researchers, dyslexic children and adults become fatigued by language work and dealing with text. In the past, the established view has been that dyslexia is the result of a problem in the highly developed language centres of the brain found in the cerebral cortex.

This new research by psychologists from Sheffield University, indicates that the problem is linked to abnormalities in one of the most primitive areas of the brain, the cerebellum. Situated at the base of the brain, where the spinal cord is attached, the cerebellum controls motor functions and is common to humans and some species of animals.

Hearing problems at an early age ?

If a child suffers frequent colds and throat infections in the first five years, the ears can be blocked from time to time so that hearing is impaired. The parents can easily be unaware of this until a pediatrician actually looks into the child’s ear. This condition is sometimes known as ‘glue ear’ or ‘conductive hearing loss’. If the difficulty is not noticed at an early stage, then the developing brain does not make the links between the sounds it hears.

This early learning of sounds and words is fundamental to the child’s developing ability to handle language and text. If a child cannot hear clearly, he/she will be unable to hear the difference between words like ‘pin’ and ‘thin’, or ‘fan’ and ‘van’. The lack of clear hearing will also delay the child’s phonemic awareness(the ability to hear that words are made up of smaller sounds and syllables), like ‘c-a-t’, or ‘in-ter-est-ing’.

A delay in phonemic awareness causes lifelong difficulties(dyslexia) if corrective action is not taken at a very early stage. The most common treatment is the insertion of a tiny tube or eyelet (grommet) into the child’s ear. This allows the fluid to drain off so that the child’s hearing is restored. Another treatment is the removal of the tonsils, which are sometimes the cause of the repeated infections.

A combination of both

Sometimes a child has inherited genes which focuses on his difficulties dealing with the printed word as well as having experienced early hearing problems. These children are often found to be quite severely dyslexic, and need a lot of support through their schooling and later during the years in higher education, as well as in the workplace.

Compensating strengths.

There are compensating strengths for children and teens that benefit greatly in three important areas:

1. creativity,

2. physical co-ordination, and

3. empathy with others.

Teachers working with dyslexic children and teens see many instancesof their creative and imaginative talents that may depict through their drawings done in school, and their skills and pleasure in sports, games, swimming and other activities which require the physical co-ordination that many non-dyslexic children find hard to master. Sadly many dyslexic children experience problems and frustration at school - often including bullying.

Learning strategies can make a huge difference

* A ‘multi-sensory’ approach and method does really help: this involves teaching children to learn spellings, for example, not only by hearing and saying the sounds of the letters, but also by using their visual and tactile (touch) memories by writing the letters on sand trays, in the air, on small rugs, molding them with play-dough or for very large (joined) handwriting on big sheets of paper.

This gives their brain a visual and tactile memory of the word as well as the memory of hearing the sounds of the letters. Joining the letters together - in joined handwriting - helps the brain to remember the order of the letters in a word.

Breathe easy !

To ease your mind take a look at the people who are said to be dyslexic. I confess that I do not recognize most of the names which is why I checked on a website that gave the following easy-to-follow table. Remember that although there is no cure for dyslexia there is a way to cope and face it.

Drama - Tom Cruise, Anthony Hopkins, Zoe Wannamaker, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley

Chefs - Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver

Entertainers - Eddie Izzard, Ben Elton, Dominic Wood

Media - James Whale, Nicholas Parsons,

Poets - W.B.Yeats, Benjamin Zephaniah

Authors - Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie, Esther Freud

Photographer - David Bailey

Filmmakers - Walt Disney, Guy Ritchie

Architect - Lord Richard Rogers

Entrepreneurs - Anita Roddick, Richard Branson, Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA founder)

Politicians - John Prescott, Michael Heseltine, Winston Churchill

Sportsmen - Duncan Goodhew, Jackie Stewart, Steve Redgrave

Engineers - Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison

Physicist - Albert Einstein

For more information, help and discussions join our parent support groups. Please call 077-900-5346 or email: or write to : CCECD, 713, D.P.Wijesinghe Mw., Pelawatte, Battaramulla

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