What is the meaning of dyslexia & reading difficulties?
A short guide to understanding dyslexia and reading difficulties: what are some of the common misconceptions and how you can address it.
Reading difficulties is a spectrum, with dyslexia and normal reading abilities on either end of the scale.
Dyslexia creates difficulties in reading fluency, accuracy, and spelling, but also has links to heightened problem solving skills.
Misconceptions about dyslexia include the effect of dyslexia on reading abilities, fine motor skills, and vision.
Early intervention is the best way to address dyslexia, and at home support is just as important as other sources of intervention.
Understanding dyslexia and other reading difficulties
Dyslexia is a learning weakness in reading and writing, which impacts the reader’s ability to decode and comprehend written words fluently and with accurate speed. Some refer to it as a learning ‘disability’ or ‘disorder’, but we believe these terms are unhelpful when trying to understand the nuances of dyslexia.
Children, teens, and adults living with dyslexia might have a difficult time with fluency and speed in their reading comprehension, spelling, and writing. It is important to understand that these challenges are not intelligence-related and should not be portrayed as such.
In fact, dyslexics are often exceptional creative thinkers, with wonderful critical thinking and reasoning capabilities. Their ability to think outside of the box gives them an edge in creative fields such as entrepreneurship and visual arts, and their problem solving skills help some to become excellent mathematicians and computer scientists. The terms ‘disorder’ and ‘disability’ could therefore discourage and limit a dyslexic’s potential.
The reality of the situation is that dyslexia is a real challenge, especially in a society that revolves around written communication. It is also very common. Because some cases of dyslexia go undiagnosed or missed, the exact percentage of the population that experience dyslexia is unknown, but experts believe it is as high as 17%. If we also consider children that experience consistent struggles with reading and writing without being dyslexic, more than 1 in 5 children experiences some form of difficulty with literacy skills.
What unfortunately gets overlooked is that reading weaknesses that are not classified as dyslexia have a similar impact on a person’s personal, academic, and professional development. This may mean that they do not benefit from the same level of support as dyslexics do, specifically within the educational system, even though they can benefit from the same methods of intervention.
Spotting a reading weakness is very similar to spotting signs of dyslexia. This includes difficulties with word decoding - where people have difficulty matching letters to their proper sounds - fluency and accuracy in reading, and reading comprehension. However, not everyone with a reading disorder may have the same “symptoms”, which makes it difficult to diagnose.
The understanding of dyslexia as a spectrum and not a definitive and distinct set of symptoms can help with understanding this differentiation. If you picture a scale with dyslexia and normal reading skills at either end, reading weaknesses would place anywhere in between.
Dyslexia and reading difficulties don’t just go away and they should not be seen as an unwillingness to learn, laziness, or poor intellect. But children do not “grow out of it”. They necessitate specific, adapted intervention. With effective intervention, especially when it is started early, people with dyslexia can improve their reading skills remarkably, helping them to successfully navigate their education and career. By understanding dyslexia and reading weaknesses better, you can start to understand your child, their learning process, and how you can support it.
Truths and myths about dyslexia
Here are some lesser known facts about dyslexia that may help you understand its many nuances:
Truth # 1: Dyslexia is the most common learning ‘disability’
While 1 in 5 people suffer from dyslexia, about 80% of children in special education programmes are placed there due to dyslexia.
Truth # 2: Dyslexics have great spatial awareness and use of their right brain
This makes them excellent problem solvers, and you’ll find that a lot of dyslexics are comparatively better at more mathematical and conceptual subjects.
Having better use of their right brain makes for excellent creative thinking skills, such as visual arts. Because of these skills, there are a lot of famous dyslexics
Truth # 3: A lot of brilliant minds were dyslexic
The famous quote by one of the most brilliant dyslexic minds, Albert Einstein, reflects his experience growing up and living with dyslexia:
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Other famous dyslexics include renowned inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, great politicians Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin, as well as talented composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and John Lennon.
Truth # 4: Authors can be dyslexic too
Challenging the odds, some of the world’s most beloved authors are also known to be dyslexic. These include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jules Verne, and Agatha Christie.
Because dyslexia only became a widely recognised phenomenon less than one hundred years ago, there are still a lot of misconceptions and ‘myths’ about dyslexia:
Myth # 1: Dyslexics have poor fine motor skills
While some children with dyslexia may experience difficulties with fine motor skills, it has been disproved that this is a sign or cause of dyslexia.
Interventions that address these difficulties may not be helpful for everyone, and if they focus solely on improving fine motor skills and not on improving reading skills, then it may not be helpful for a dyslexic child’s reading development.
Myth # 2: Dyslexia is a problem with vision
Children with dyslexia are not more likely to have problems with their vision than children without it, and it is incorrect to assume dyslexia creates or is the result of vision problems. Dyslexia is a problem with language processing, not vision.
While problems with a child’s vision may hinder reading comprehension and fluency, getting glasses for your child will not solve their difficulties with reading.
Myth # 3: Dyslexics are slow learners
There is no link between intelligence and dyslexia. Dyslexic children have demonstrated a range of IQ levels, and the likelihood of dyslexics having an above or below average intelligence is the same as anyone else.
Dyslexia is normally spotted when a child reads and writes at a level that is below expectations in relation to their IQ. With early and effective intervention, children with dyslexia can enjoy the same academic accomplishments as their peers.
Another myth is that dyslexics will never learn how to read at the same level as everyone else. In fact, children with moderate or mild dyslexia normally go unnoticed because they have learned to read well enough to remain under the radar, and are only noticeable from their spelling skills.
Myth # 4: Dyslexia cannot be helped in adults
While early intervention is the most effective way to support dyslexics, it is still possible to support dyslexic adults with the right kind of intervention. This varies from person to person; some may benefit from training and tutoring to improve their reading skills, and others may find technology, ( e.g. recording meetings, or using organisation / time management / speech-to-text apps) to help them navigate through their workplace and career.
Myth # 5: Dyslexics can’t learn foreign languages
It can obviously be difficult to learn a second language when you are struggling with your first language, but it is not impossible. In fact, many dyslexics perfectly speaks multiple languages, and some find they experience fewer difficulties reading and writing in some languages than in others.
When learning a foreign language, dyslexics need only apply the same techniques they use to make reading easier: Structured approach, learned in small steps and through regular work.
Myth. . . or truth?: Dyslexia is genetic
As mentioned before, dyslexia was recognised only recently, so there are limited studies in understanding what exactly causes dyslexia. While there seems to be a link between genetics and dyslexia, it is entirely possible to have dyslexia without a family history of it.
Whether dyslexia has a ‘genetic cause’ or not, it is a difficulty that can be helped, and benefit greatly from early and effective intervention
How can you support dyslexia and reading difficulties?
First off, you are already doing the right thing, informing yourself about learning difficulties and how they relate to your child's situation. The next step is to find how to address it effectively.
The most important step you can take is to act fast. It is possible to prevent further difficulties with reading fluency and accuracy by establishing appropriate methods of intervention early on. If you suspect your child has dyslexia or reading difficulties, you don’t need to wait until you have received a dyslexia diagnosis to begin adapted intervention.
As time passes, the gap in reading skills will get wider and wider. This means there will be more ground to cover with remediation, but it will make it more difficult for children to follow other classes where reading comprehension is important. It will also bear a heavy toll on children’s self-esteem and confidence as their struggles with school continue.
That's the reason why we have developed GoLexic. We know that access to professionals for diagnoses and intervention is limited. Waiting lists are long and intervention can be expensive. We have built an intervention app that is easy to use, effective, and fosters children's autonomy and self-confidence.
Our program uses a tried and tested remediation method that ensures that children have solid foundations on which to build further literacy skills. Everything in this program has been developed to support the learning needs of children who struggle with written language. With every session, the program solidifies and expands the skills and automatisms acquired in previous sessions.
Whether your child has already been diagnosed, you are waiting for the diagnosis, or your child has not been diagnosed but has shown signs of reading difficulties, the GoLexic app can help you support your child in their reading and writing journey.