1. What exactly is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a reading impairment for someone of average or high intelligence. This implies that their reading skill is significantly lower than what their cognitive abilities predicted. One of the most well-established and studied dyslexia deficits is a core phonological deficiency.
This difficulty affects the processing and manipulation of units of sounds in a spoken language. People with dyslexia often find it harder to learn, retain, and retrieve the representation of sounds in their native language. Dyslexia shows up as impaired fluency and accuracy in reading, nonword reading deficit, and weak spelling ability. The phonological deficit is common but not universal in individuals with dyslexia. Other auditory, visual, and cognitive deficits may also impact the individual’s ability to read and spell. Studies have revealed variations in the severity of dyslexia. Individuals with “surface dyslexia” have relatively acceptable word reading ability but struggle to read and spell irregular words that do not follow the regular letter-sound correspondence in pronunciation (e.g., knife, once) and distinguish homophones (e.g., to-too, of-off). Those considered to have “phonological dyslexia” have more difficulties in applying phonological strategies to read and spell.
2. How common is dyslexia?
The prevalence of dyslexia in the population varies across studies. Generally, it can range between 5 to 20 per cent of the people. Although dyslexia is a life-long difficulty, the impacts vary across the lifespan. For example, an adult who has had sufficient exposure to reading over the years may show reduced impairment in reading accuracy and fluency compared to a child, even though the spelling difficulty may persist.
3, Is dyslexia inherited?
Many worry if dyslexia runs in the family, especially if other family members have difficulty with reading or writing skills. Chromosomal studies have found some genetic components of dyslexia that remain to be narrowed down to pinpoint the gene responsible for reading difficulty. Indeed, there is a genetic risk for dyslexia in a family with a history of reading impairment, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed. However, it is also assuring that having the risk does not equate to having the disorder because of epigenetics. Generally speaking, epigenetics helps us understand how the body reads DNA sequences and what gene expressions are “on” or “off” depending on environmental and behavioural influences. Therefore, the transaction between the individual and their environment affects the genetic expressions and whether this genetic risk develops into a disorder.
4. How is dyslexia identified?
Getting a diagnosis might be daunting if you feel that you or someone you know has dyslexia. Fortunately, dyslexia testing does not involve needles but a comprehensive evaluation with professionals such as educational psychologists. During this evaluation, the psychologist will analyse pertinent information such as cognitive ability, verbal language skills, phonological abilities, spelling and other abilities in conjunction with developmental background. Only qualified professionals can diagnose dyslexia.
5. What are the primary symptoms of dyslexia?
The impact of dyslexia varies depending on the severity of the condition and the efficiency of the intervention. The main symptoms of dyslexia are difficulties with accuracy and fluency in word reading. Other problems that arise in tandem with impaired reading are poor phonological awareness, verbal short-term memory, rapid naming, learning of phonology, speech perception, processing speed, and nonword repetition. In addition, their memory of what they had read or their comprehension may be affected because too much time and effort is spent decoding the words, so they do not have sufficient cognitive resources to comprehend what was read. When intervention is provided, many people with dyslexia can overcome the reading impairments and develop adequate reading and spelling skills. However, they may still struggle when the task demands more advanced skills such as essay writing.
People with dyslexia may also present with social-emotional symptoms such as anxiety, poor self-esteem or self-image, and negative thought patterns. For example, when reading becomes difficult and effortful, children are likely to become frustrated, angry, and/or anxious at reading tasks that they avoid as much as possible by any means known to them, such as meltdowns and showing challenging behaviours. It is not uncommon for these accumulated emotional experiences to lead to an increased risk for anxiety disorder when they are older. In addition, when children compare themselves with their peers and notice a huge difference in their abilities, they may begin to develop poor self-image and negative thought patterns such as “I’m stupid” because they cannot figure out why their struggles persist despite trying their best. Poor self-image might kickstart the downward spiral of negativity, leading to depression later in life.
6. What are the treatments/ interventions available for dyslexic learners?
There are a myriad of reading programs that have been shown to help children with dyslexia. Here at Total Communication Therapy, we use Lindamood Bell’s Seeing Stars Programme. Dyslexic learners can consult our educational therapists, who can recommend a programme or intervention suitable for them.