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Topic: Dyslexia
Researched and written by:  Monica McCoy
                                                I attest that the following report is a product of my own original work.

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Dyslexia is defined as a learning disability characterized by problems in expressive or receptive, oral, or written language. It can also be defined in other ways such as in biological terms and processes. Dyslexia affects one out of every five children in the United States of America. It also affects more males than females. Some of the characteristics of dyslexia include trouble with remembering things, confusion of letters and words, as well as less than satisfactory penmanship. Children who have dyslexia often compare the success of others without the disability to their success. This frequently leaves them feeling inadequate and they start to show this behavior in the classroom. There is no treatment for Dyslexia; there are nevertheless tools to help these students perform up to the level of their peers or maybe beyond their peers. Extra time is a tool that most dyslexics use to their advantage to overcome their disability.



Overview/definition of disability/disorder

Dyslexia is a common learning disability among America’s children. When defining the disability it is important that we define learning disability as well. Turnball, Turnball, Shank & Smith (2004) state that the Individuals with Disability Education Act defines having a learning disability as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, which the disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.  A student does not qualify as having a learning disability if the student’s impairment is primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

There are several different ways in which dyslexia is defined. Often times people define Dyslexia in educational terms and others in biological terms. Also many different organizations as well as different professionals in the field of education develop their own definition of the disorder. The International Dyslexia Association (2004) defines dyslexia as a language based learning disability. They also believe that dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. The British Dyslexia Association (1998) defined dyslexia as a neurological condition which is constitutional in origin. The symptoms may affect many areas of learning and function, and may be described as a specific difficulty in reading, spelling and written language. Turnball, Turnball, Shank & Smith (2004) define dyslexia as a learning disability characterized by problems in effective imperative language skills such as writing, speaking and reception.  In terms of biology, Rooney (1995) believes that the basic assumption underlying the concept of dyslexia is the importance of dominance of the brain mainly by one side is the central feature of language acquisition. Rooney also believes that deviations from this dominance can result in language acquisition difficulties describes as dyslexia.

Another way in which dyslexia is defined is in terms of processes. Gorman (2003) defined dyslexia based on the way the brain functions. Gorman stated that there are three areas of the brain in terms of language called the phoneme producer, word analyzer, and the automatic detector. The phoneme producer helps a person say things- silently or out loud- and does some analysis of phoneme found in words. The word analyzer analyzes words by pulling them apart into their constituent syllables and phonemes and linking the letters to their sounds. Automatic detector builds a permanent repertoire that enables readers to recognize familiar words on sight. For children with dyslexia their brain prevents them from easily gaining access to the word analyzer and the automatic detector.  Gersons-Wolfensberger and Ruijssenaars (1997) also defined dyslexia in terms of processes. They believe that dyslexia is present when the automatization, the establishment of an automatic process characterized by a high level of speed and accuracy, of word identification( reading) and /or word spelling does not develop or does so very incompletely or with great difficulty. Automatization also has several characteristics along with it. It is usually carried out unconsciously, makes minimal demands on attention,

and is difficult to suppress, ignore, or influence.



Gorman (2003) reports that one out of five children living with dyslexia. The International Dyslexia Association (2004) reported that 85% of the 15-20% of people with a reading disability has dyslexia. The committee on dyslexia of the Health Council of the Netherlands estimates that 2-10% of the population has dyslexia. Lawrence and Carter (1999) believe that two to four percent of the population has severe dyslexia, with there being six percent of the population having mild or moderate dyslexia. It is important to note that most dyslexics are never diagnosed. Dyslexia affects more boys than girls.


            Children with dyslexia are often defined by their inability to read words correctly. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (2004) cites 12 things that parents should look for in terms of characterizing children with dyslexia.

  • Difficulty recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds and blending sounds into speech
  • Confusion when pronouncing words, i.e. "mawn lower" instead of "lawn mower"
  • Slow to learn and use new vocabulary words correctly
  • Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week or similar common word sequences
  • Difficulty with rhyming
  • Difficulty mastering the rules of spelling
  • Trouble remembering facts and numbers
  • Poor handwriting, awkward pencil grip
  • Slow to learn and understand new skills - relies heavily on memorization
  • Frequent reading and spelling errors such as reversing letters (d,b) or moving letters around (left, felt)
  • Difficulty following a sequence of directions
  • Trouble with word problems in math

Classroom Issues

Having a child with dyslexia in the classroom raises several issues. On the positive side it must be noted that children with Dyslexia are intelligent and often are considered gifted because of their ability to “think outside the box”. Not only is there an issue about the child’s inability to perform well when it comes to matters that are associated with reading but the result directly affects the child’s behavior and performance. Heirervang, Stevenson, Lund, and Hugdahl (2001) reported that dyslexia is associated with more externalizing (delinquent and aggressive) behavior in boys and more internalizing (withdrawn, somatic complaints and anxious depressed) behavior in girls. According to their report children with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia experience more failure and frustration than children with learning problems. Children usually display this frustration by performing behaviors such as talking out in class and throwing objects as well as other delinquent behaviors. In turn their progress is hindered by these externalizing behaviors.

Humphrey and Mullins (2002) suggest that one of the most exciting discoveries in educational psychology in recent times has been finding that people’s levels of achievement are influenced by how they feel about themselves. In their study the researchers looked at the attitudes about achievement of dyslexic individuals. They found that children with dyslexia perceived a significantly stronger association between ability at reading and intelligence than those without dyslexia. Humphrey and Mullins (2002) found that children with dyslexia encounter more negative consequences for their self development. The implications of this study means that children with dyslexia look at their unsatisfactory past performance and associate that with whom they are, and what they will amount to. For a lot of these children because they perform so poorly they do not believe that there is any hope in store for them. This negative self concept trickles over to the classroom and may cause the student to disassociate themselves from learning. Not only will they disassociate themselves from the classroom but there is a strong possibility that since these students are not able to gain positive attention through good grades, they will seek out negative attention through disrupting the class. This disruptive behavior will take away from the extra time needed for dyslexics to achieve as well as a label being placed upon them by their teachers.


Since the cause of Dyslexia is unknown there is not necessarily treatment for the disorder. As an assistant director of a program centered around children with special needs, I have come in contact with the various issues regarding treatment of dyslexia. Assessment is very important in the treatment of dyslexia. Many people with dyslexia are incorrectly diagnosed. Children with Dyslexia are often misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Since children with dyslexia have trouble with the material in class because of their disability they have a tendency to be inattentive. Either they are inattentive or hyperactive by trying to find something to occupy their time. A child is not going to continue to do an assignment that he/she is having a major problem with understanding. Often times teachers confuse these actions as symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

It is also important that the teacher and the parent have a working relationship. Both are needed in order for the child to achieve successfully. Everything can not be handled during school hours so most of the work needs to be done at home. It is imperative that parents know what type of educational plan that their child’s teacher has in store, so that they can be kept abreast of what it is that their child is doing in the classroom and should be doing at home.  A supportive home environment can help a child succeed as well as a non supportive home environment can hinder a child’s development.

However there are adaptations that can be applied in order for children with dyslexia to achieve more or on the same level as their peers, or maybe even greater. Early identification and intervention can be essential to the success rate of someone who has dyslexia. Extra time is essential to a majority of those with dyslexia. It gives them time to utilize the proper tools they have been taught to help them complete various task. Some other devices that can be useful for children with dyslexia are books on tape to prevent the lack of recognition of words, as well as voice command computer software to helping with writing tasks. The Committee on Dyslexia of the Health Council of the Netherlands (1997) thinks that the treatment of dyslexia should be task oriented, with aims at assessing deficiencies in reading, and spelling and eliminating them by means of systematically built up subtasks. Then if these results are not achieved the committee suggests the usage of hemispheric alluding stimulation can make a valuable contribution to the treatment of children with whom no results or inadequate results have been achieved.

 Rooney (1995) has some other helpful suggestions that parents as well as teachers can carry out.


  • Language lessons should follow a format that covers the major components of language instruction such as letter/sound correspondence, syllable patterns, applications in language, morpheme patterns, and multi-syllabic application.
  • Frequent repetition and review of previously learned skills should be incorporated into new lessons on a daily basis.
  • Skills should be presented in a highly structured sequence using multisensory instruction.
  • Usage of journals to monitor writing development
  • Structures of written language should be made visible through the use of linear visual organizers that represent the organization of details, main ideas, and sequence of ideas.
  • The student should use the textbook format to support his reading comprehension.
  • Diagramming each piece of information of a word problem so that it provides visual support for the language processing and to bypass short-term memory weakness should be taught to the student.
  • Confidence Building exercises that focus on the positive performances of the child so that he/she is able increase their self esteem and possibly their overall performance.

     Dyslexia affects one out of five children. The disorder/disability is characterized mainly by difficulties in language expression and reception. The reading disability has several implications when it comes to the lives of these children, not only does it impede on all aspects of their lives but it has an extreme affect on their education. School age children with dyslexia generally have problems with their self concept which results into behavior problems in the classroom. These behaviors most noticeably the external ones generally raise unwanted issues in the classroom that take away from the learning that is to transpire. Treatment for this disorder comes in various ways, including modifying basic learning strategies that we learn in the beginning of our academic careers. Journals to monitor writing progress as well as extra time on written assignments have shown to be useful to those who suffer with the disability. Although the affects of having dyslexia can be overwhelming new procedures and methods are continually being devised to improve the lives of individuals with dyslexia.







Related Websites

National Center for Learning Disabilities


The International Dyslexia Association


The British Dyslexia Association




Gersons-Wolfensberger, D. C. M. & Ruijssenaars, A. J. J. M. (1997).Definition and

treatment of dyslexia: A report by the committee on dyslexia of the health council of the Netherlands. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30(2), 209-213.

Gorman, C. (2003, July 28). The new science of dyslexia. Time, 162, 53-59.

Guron, L. M. , & Lundberg, I (2003). Identifying dyslexia in multilingual students: can

phonological awareness be assessed in the majority language? Journal of Research in Readings, 26(1), 69-82.

Heirervang, E. , Stevenson, J. , Lund, A. , & Hugdahl, K. (2001). Behaviour problems in children 
            with dyslexia. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 55(4), 251-256.
Humphrey, N. , & Mullins, P. M. (2002). Personal constructs and attribution for 
academic success and failure in dyslexia. British Journal of Special Education,    
  29(4), 196-203.     

Kantrowitz, B. & Underwood, A. (1999, November 22). Dyslexia and the New Science

of Reading. Newsweek, 72-79.

Lawrence, B. , & Carter, J. (1999). The identification and assessment of dyslexia: Class

teachers' perception of the usefulness of the dyslexia screening test for seven to eight year-old pupils.British Journal of Special Education, 26(2), 107-111.

McNulty, M. A. (2003). Dyslexia and the Life Course. Journal of Learning Disabilities,

36(4), 363-381.

National Center for Learning Disabilities. Dyslexia a Quick Look.

Piotrowski, J. & Reason, R. (2000). The National Literacy Strategy and dyslexia: A

comparison of teaching methods and materials. Support for Learning, 15(2), 51-57.

Rooney, K. J. (1995). Dyslexia revisited: History, educational philosophy and clinical

assessment applications. Intervention in Schools & Clinic, 31(1), 6-16.[Electronic Version]

Smythe, I. & Everatt, J. (2002). Dyslexia and the Multilingual Child: Policy into Practice.

Topics in Language Disorders, 22(5), 71-80.

Turnball, R. , Turnball, A. , Shank, M., & Smith, S. J. (2004).Learning Disabilities. In

Sharp, A. P. (Ed.), Exceptional Lives: Special education in Today's Schools (4th ed. pp.102-129).Upper Saddle  River, NJ : Pearson Education.

Wadington, E. (2000). Effective Language Arts Instruction for Students With dyslexia.

Preventing School Failure, 44(2), 61-66.[Electronic Version]

Wheat, K.(1999). Liability for failure to diagnose dyslexia. Journal of Forensic 
               Psychiatry, 10(2), 355-365.

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