What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difference, of neurological origin, characterised by difficulty to read and spell.
Primary deficit is in the phonological component of language, the inability to associate letters and groups of letters with their sounds, how these sounds structure a word, and how this word is produced out, effectively, either orally or in written expression.
Co-occurring difficulties maybe seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia. (Rose, 2009) Quite often, students with dyslexia, also struggle with mathematical concepts. These challenges could be due to the use of language in mathematical concepts, like word problems, and linked to their difficulty in understanding and processing language.
In the backdrop of adequate cognitive capabilities and effective classroom instruction, dyslexia is often unexpected and misunderstood for laziness, unintelligence or lack of motivation in a student. (IDA, 2002) While facing these challenges, these students often lose confidence and develop a low self-worth and self-reliance.
Common confusions about Dyslexia:
Since we learn to read most of the words from sight memory, some children might be good readers, but still struggle to spell and write. Such children when growing older might end up avoiding or disliking writing and their dyslexia is masked by behavioural issues.
Usually and traditionally letter reversals were associated with dyslexia. A lot of students, especially in early years reverse the letters but with scaffolded instruction, its corrected. However, children not showing such writing trends, might still be struggling with dyslexia.
How can an Educational Therapist help?
Various approaches throughout the world have been proven useful in helping students with dyslexia overcome or cope with their challenges and become efficient readers, writers and successful learners.
Our Educational Therapists use the Orton-Gillingham , Structured Literacy, Lindamood Bell (Seeing Stars, Visualising and Verbalising) approaches. These have been shown to be the most effective in the remediation of Dyslexia.
An Educational Therapist (ET) trained in any of these approaches, utilizes them to re-establish and scaffold the basic literacy concepts, in a direct and multi-sensory approach. Teaching, practicing and solidifying each concept and its relationship to language helps in making sense of the language, hence making reading, spelling and writing an easier and possible task. The pace of the approach always matches the pace of the student, to ensure mastery in each concept.
The Educational Therapy Process:
- The struggling learner is usually referred to an ET by the school or a clinical/educational psychologist before/after a psychological assessment and diagnosis for dyslexia.
- The ET starts with a process called the Informal Assessment. The purpose is not to diagnose, rather to detect and analyse the error patterns and the areas of struggle. These areas could be in phonemic/phonological awareness, segmenting and blending, syllabication, spellings, oral reading fluency, comprehension and inference, sentence structure and writing challenges. It is important to note that standardized tests may be used during the assessment phase but again, the intent is not to diagnose but rather to faciliate goal development.
- The approach always begins with Basic Literacy concepts like letter-sounds awareness, blending, segmenting, spelling and sight words. Depending upon the age of the child, he/she can be advanced to higher levels. Each lesson plan is specifically designed based on the student’s individual areas of struggle, level of language proficiency and learner profile.Through a multisensory (visual, auditory, tactile), direct and structured approach, a concept is introduced and taught and practiced in multiple ways so that it is embedded in the long-term memory. It is reviewed until a level of mastery is achieved, before moving on to the next concept. The aim is to help each student learn to Decode (read) and Encode (spell/write).
- Using specially designed Benchmarking Tools, each student’s progress is recorded, and further lesson plans are designed based on the achievement and learning curve.
- As students master basic literacy, there are taught the concepts of Advanced Literacy like Grammar, Morphology (origin of the words) and Syntax (sentence structure). This helps in establishing them as good and efficient readers as well as writers.
Dyslexia is a life-long learning difficulty, and through proper instruction, particularly in early years, can be compensated for by direct and structured Educational Therapy teaching strategies and coping tools.