What is Dyslexia?

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

As indicated by Fletcher and colleagues (2007), this definition is considered to be inclusionary (as opposed to exclusionary) as it focusses on a key set of characteristics that aid in the identification of dyslexia, “…it specifies that people can be identified with dyslexia when they show problems with decoding single words accurately and fluently, and spell poorly” (pg. 104, Fletcher et. al. , 2007). The IDA definition best reflects current research evidence on the defining features of dyslexia, and according to Fletcher and colleagues (2007), it is a model for definitions in other domains of learning difficulties.

(Reference: Fletcher, J. M., Lyon, G. R., Fuchs, L. S., & Barnes, M. A. (2007). Learning disabilities: From identification to intervention. New York: Guilford.)

This definition has been adopted by both the IDA and the NICHD. The Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation believe it best reflects current research evidence on the defining features of dyslexia.

It is now well recognised that dyslexia is commonly associated with difficulties with phonological awareness and processing. In simple terms, this refers to the ability to hear and manipulate the separate sounds within words (phonemes). Although such difficulties can be detected orally at an early age, they are frequently overlooked and the problem becomes most apparent when the child struggles to learn to read in the early years of schooling. In the reading process, lack of phonological awareness skills leads to difficulty recognising that sounds can be represented by letters or groups of letters within written words (often called Phonics at school).

It is also now accepted that there is a strong hereditary component in dyslexia – that is, it runs in families. It used to be thought that it affected far more boys than girls, but recent research tends to show that it is more evenly distributed. It appears to be that it is more noticeable in boys in the classroom situation.

Information on teaching people with dyslexia:

Teaching Reading

Teaching Spelling

Teaching Written Expression