This project aims at exploring the phenomenon of dyslexia. It is the disease that manifests itself in reading difficulties. Most of all, it is identified in children reached a school going age. The paramount goal of this project is to determine factors that promote dyslexia as well the ways to address it. In this regard, this presentation will reveal key points that are associated with dyslexia, including its causes, evaluation tools, possible interventions, and recommendations. It is expected that parents and elementary school teachers will benefit from the results of this study.
It seems appropriate to briefly outline the course of the project. First of all, the main characteristics will be identified to create the overall understanding of the issue. After that, some assessment tools along with interventions will be illustrated. Furthermore, both traditional treatment and its alternatives will be specified in a comprehensive manner. The mentioned points will allow coming up with relevant recommendations to help children with dyslexia. Finally, conclusion will embrace all the key aspects of the project.
Characteristics and Manifestation of Dyslexia in Children
Let us start with the definition of dyslexia. Frith (2013) states that it may affect children differently. In particular, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke identifies dyslexia as “difficulty with phonological processing, spelling, and rapid visual-verbal responding” (as cited in Frith, 2013, p. 49). In other words, this disease affects one’s ability to form words, using voice and facial muscles. According to the British Dyslexia Association, the mentioned disease refers to learning challenges that promote effortless word reading and spelling. In spite of these deviations, children with dyslexia tend to preserve other cognitive abilities. However, the inability to understand texts and the lack of vocabulary impede not only the literary reading and language but also other subjects. What lies at the basis of this disease?
The damage of cerebellum-controlled muscle movement is one of the main causes of dyslexia (Berninger & Abbott, 2013). For example, traumatic brain injury, neural infections, children’s infections such as rubella or measles may impact the reading ability. Dyslexia may also be caused by the lack of formation (or decay) of mental functions involved in the implementation of the reading process. This cause is associated with fetal brain development. At the same time, genetic predisposition is considered to affect dyslexia development, especially when it comes to people with the hemispheric style of thinking.
The main manifestations of dyslexia are stability, typicality, and repeatability of errors in the reading process. For example, it can be mixing and replacing of sounds, reading letter by letter, breaching of reading comprehension, and so on. The reading process of children with dyslexia is characterized by poor vocabulary, inaccurate understanding and use of words, incorrect grammar design, and other similar expressions. Kovelman et al. (2013) argue that spoken language becomes a serious challenge for these children as they cannot fully express themselves. In addition, one more manifestation worth turning one’s attention to is the fact that children with dyslexia may not be able to distinguish between right and left.
Assessment Tools for the Condition
The diagnosis of dyslexia involves the assessment of the level of speech formation, writing, reading, and non-voice functions. There are the two key assessment tolls that are used in practice: Nessy’s Dyslexia Quest screening tool and Dyslexia+ Profiler. Let us consider each of them in detail. According to Kovelman et al. (2013), Nessy’s Dyslexia Quest screening tool is a set of “tests of educational psychologists, mirroring the output that they would assess to determine the likelihood of dyslexia” (p. 758). However, it should be noted that this tool cannot establish an official diagnose yet helps to reveal symptoms of dyslexia and leads to the subsequent intervention. The effectiveness of this screening tool is achieved through a certain quest that is necessary to complete. Children aged between 5 and 16 years are covered by Nessy’s Dyslexia Quest. It seems important to stress that the visit to a doctor is an integral part of dyslexia identification, assessment, and treatment.
Dyslexia+ Profiler is another screening program that can be accessed online. It is an easy tool to identify whether one’s child has some features of dyslexia or not. Once the evaluation is made, the program presents an individual list of links that are likely to help in handling the identified symptoms. This tool is beneficial both for children and adults, suffering from dyslexia or just suspecting that they have some manifestations.
The diagnosis of spoken language implies the evaluation of phonemic development, ability to form words, lexical and grammatical resources of the language, and speech logic. The assessment of written language focuses on the pace of reading, its accuracy, understanding of the text, and the specific errors.
Intervention and Instructional Strategies
In order to cope with dyslexia, a range of instructional and intervention techniques may be applied by teachers in the context of school environment and by parents at home. For example, teachers may elaborate high-quality instructions supported by occasional standard assessments to determine children with difficulties. The high-quality instructions here imply various research-validated instructional practices. In particular, appropriate selection of the research-based strategies in the corresponding field is to be used. To improve poor reading, teachers should avoid improper instructions. For example, differentiated instruction can be used as one of the approaches the effectiveness of which was proved on practice. This approach focuses on flexible teaching, taking into account all the peculiarities of individuals. The differentiated instruction also allows tracking errors and progress of a child with dyslexia and, what is also important, to provide him or her with adequate feedback to improve the future reading performance.
The implementation of universal screening is also an advantageous strategy. While working on the mentioned instructions and assessments, it is necessary to remember that dyslexia requires an individual approach to every child as the disease may manifest itself differently. Therefore, the peculiarity of intervention is to adjust the entire educational process, including the direct and indirect teaching, to developing word recognition skills.
In the framework of secondary intervention, it seems essential to point out that according to Nelson and Gregg (2012), secondary response “corresponds to the provision of more intensive instructions given individually or in groups to failing readers in early years” (p. 42). In other words, the secondary response is used after the primary one proved to be ineffective. The main elements of the secondary intervention are spelling and writing, phonemic, fluency, and comprehension instructions. The key distinction between the primary and the secondary instructions is that the latter requires more precise attention to a child as well as immediate feedback.
The direct teaching uses a special type of phonetic methods that come apart from learning to read. As for the indirect teaching, it implies the introduction of training programs for reading a special type of phonics. Meanwhile, the approaches that include learning to read specific expressions and words in general as well as those that use a hierarchy for the acquisition of reading skills, ranging from audio records to written words and sentences, may be used. Some interventions may involve the exposure on several types of senses. In many cases, it is useful to let children work with computer to assist in the selection of words throughout the text or in perception of the written speech.
Along with the identified instructional and interventional strategies, it is necessary to discover treatment options. However, Nelson and Gregg (2012) argue that there are no drugs for curing dyslexia. Nonetheless, multisensory instruction may be used to equip children with reading and learning skills. This method implies the application of the integrative verbal, visual, and sensory teaching. The multisensory instruction involves special correction programs that are selected individually for each child. The reading skills obtained through these special courses can significantly help dyslexia sufferers feel much more confident in a variety of fields. Such a correction of dyslexia contributes to overcoming difficulties with reading, namely, recognizing numbers and words.
The mentioned system of multisensory therapy involves work on all the aspects of both speech and non-speech processes. It is oriented at the child-centred teaching to navigate him or her in space, distinguishing between right and left sides, develop memory, particularly, visual and motor skills, and explain the grammatical rules of the language. All in all, to overcome dyslexia, the multisensory method promotes the development of sound pronunciation, phonemic processes, and vocabulary and grammatical structures as well as non-voice processes.
The research presents one more method that refers to decoding that entails “associating letters with sounds, breaking words into sounds, and blending sounds into words” (Tops, Callens, Bijn, & Brysbaert, 2014, p. 466). Teachers, psychologists, and reading experts may help children with dyslexia through the work with sounds. In other words, this treatment implies focuses on the correction of pronunciation defects, the maximized development of phonemic processes, the formation of ideas about sounds, and sound-letter-word syllabic composition. The treatment option is aimed at recognizing the words as a whole.
Evaluation and Treatment Alternatives for Children with Dyslexia
The evaluation, treatment, and intervention strategies that were listed above compose tradition approach to addressing dyslexia. However, some alternatives also should be noted as they are important in the context of the comprehensive approach to the problem. The alternative evaluation assumes information gathering that is followed by thorough analysis and identification of causes of dyslexia. Among the sources of information, there can be parents, close relatives, teachers, and friends of a kid who suffers from reading disorder. It is quite important to collect information regarding educational and growth opportunities that are offered to a child. As a result, the described method is expected to promote the appropriate selection of intervention and treatment strategies.
Speaking of intervention alternatives, it is possible to note that a child’s degree of development should be assessed while choosing a particular treatment. Van Viersen, Kroesbergen, Slot, and Bree (2016) claim that it is crucial to apply a functional approach to teaching a child with dyslexia. On the contrary to the conventional approach, the functional one focuses on the integrative method of treatment according to which all the elements are interconnected. In particular, it proposes that grade level, competence, learning environment, and other aspects should be considered. For example, not only grade level but also competence should be taken into account. In this connection, the preferred method of treatment should depend on the current competence of a child. Accordingly, the more developed a kid is, the more sophisticated treatment he or she should receive.
Recommendations to Parents and Teachers
The balanced intervention and treatment program should focus on individual approach, including systematic teaching of phonemic awareness skills, mastering the relationship between sounds and words, automation and reading fluency, reading comprehension strategies and writing skills. It is of great importance to ensure measures of psychological support and educational assistance to such children. In particular, teachers are expected to motivate children to acquire reading skills through a set of individually selected options (Kilpatrick, 2015). Motivation can be achieved through different means. For example, it is important to choose interesting materials and prepare activities to grab the attention of children with dyslexia. More importantly, every lesson should be multisensory, thus providing the best environment to address challenges that are related to reading disabilities. Thus, it is expected that a teacher would integrate listening, touching, speaking, and looking activities in the learning course.
Unfortunately, many parents and teachers refer these errors to inattention. As a result, a child creates negative attitude to reading and writing. To avoid this, it is critical to consider a child’s errors. If such errors are not random and repeated regularly, it may be recommended to consult with a speech therapist. However, a certain extent of dyslexia treatment may be performed by parents. To give encouragement to their child, parents should properly understand him or her to select the appropriate method of treatment. Regardless of certain peculiarities, it can be recommended to read printed materials that would undoubtedly improve the current reading ability of a child. Namely, child encouragement leads to the enhanced level of spelling and pronunciation. It is necessary to talk openly with a child about his or her problems. It can be a good idea to romanticize a certain image. Let it be a mighty hero, who is preparing to behead a dragon-dyslexia by a powerful Sword of Knowledge. It can also be a super agent, who steals all the sensitive information from insidious dyslexia. In other words, hard work can be encouraged through interesting presentation of the topic. These qualities should be nurtured continuously to improve the situation.
Also, it is possible to recommend following preventative treatment. The degree of personal self-esteem, relationships with peers and teachers, the level of claims and success in achieving the objectives are dependent on dyslexia prevention (Pumfrey & Reason, 2013). The result will be more effective if evaluation and treatment start as soon as possible. It is essential to stress that prevention of dyslexia should start in pre-school age by developing visual-spatial functions, memory, attention, analytic-synthetic activities, and sensory skills. An important role is played by overcoming violations of pronunciation along with the formation of the lexical and grammatical structure of speech. The listed activities will prepare children for reading and writing at school.
Thus, it is of great importance to motivate and encourage a child with dyslexia. The teachers and parents may apply different means to do it. For example, to prepare interesting reading material or let a child choose, talk about a certain reading or write about it, and provide timely feedback. Meanwhile, some preventative activities should be used such as the development of visual-spatial functions and attention at an early age. These activities cannot guarantee dyslexia prevention, yet they can reduce the risk of its occurrence.
In conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize that this project revealed key aspects of dyslexia. It was identified that dyslexia is a specific disorder in learning reading skills. Medicine and science connect it with neurological disorders and genetic nature of the disease. A child suffering from dyslexia may have difficulties in reading, writing, and pronunciation. Along with traditional methods of disease evaluation, including Nessy’s Dyslexia Quest screening tool and Dyslexia+ Profiler, there is the alternative way of information gathering. The latter involves interviews with parents, tutors, and friends of a child with reading disability. If traditional treatment offers multisensory therapy and decoding options, the alternatives focus on the intervention that depends on the competence of a kid rather than on his or her grade level. As a result of the project, it was recommended to parents and teachers to motivate and encourage children with dyslexia to read and use specific programs, thus overcoming the disease manifestations. All in all, it seems important to stress that such skills as visual-spatial functions, memory, and sensory and analytic abilities are to be promoted and developed.
Berninger, V., & Abbott, R. (2013). Differences between children with dyslexia who are and are not gifted in verbal reasoning. Gifted Child Quarterly, 57(4), 102-125.
Frith, U. (2013). Autism and dyslexia: A glance over 25 years of research. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(6), 45-63.
Kilpatrick, D. A. (2015). Essentials of assessing, preventing, and overcoming reading difficulties. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Kovelman, L., Norton, E., Christodoulou, J., Gaab, N., Lieberman, D., Triantafyllou, C.,… Gabrieli, J. (2013). Brains basis of phonological awareness for spoken language in children and its disruption in dyslexia. Cereb Cortex, 22(4), 754-764.
Nelson, J., & Gregg, N. (2012). Adolescents and college students with ADHD, dyslexia, or comorbid ADHD/dyslexia. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(3), 34-65.
Pumfrey, P. D., & Reason, R. (2013). Specific learning difficulties (dyslexia): challenges and responses. London, UK: Routledge.
Tops, W., Callens, M., Bijn, E., & Brysbaert, M. (2014). Spelling in adolescents with dyslexia: Errors and modes of assessment. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47(4), 435-478.
Van Viersen, S., Kroesbergen, E., Slot, E., & Bree, E. (2016). High reading skills mask dyslexia in gifted children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 49(2), 782-793.