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Different Brains,. Different Learners. The Challenged Reader: Dyslexia. Instructor. Amy A L L E N. Student. Mia S P A N U. WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?.

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Different Brains,

Different Learners

The Challenged Reader: Dyslexia


Amy A L L E N


Mia S P A N U



The term dyslexia, first used in 1887, is derived from the Greek dys, which means difficult and lexicos which means pertaining to words.

IDEA defines Dyslexia as “a disorder in one or more of basic psychological processes involved in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculation… The term doesn’t include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage” (Sullivan Spafford &Grosser, 1996).




  • According to Brewster Clark & Kellog Uhry (1995),
  • dyslexic children:
  • display reading difficulties and deficits of awareness of sounds in words, which reflect phonological problems. They can’t recognize patterns inside the words and they reverse letters. They see printed words distorted (upside down, backwards, shrinked or waving)
  • have poor spelling and writing skills
  • exhibit time and directions confusion, and memory deficits
  • display attention and social behavior problems


Subtypes (Sullivan Spafford & Grosser, 1996):

1. visual-dysphonetic type

2. auditory-linguistic type

3. mixed type ( with symptomology consistent with the first types combined)



There are no consistent statistics regarding the percentage of individuals identified specifically as dyslexic because very often the term learning disability is used interchangeably with Dyslexia, Severe Reading Disorder (SRD) and Reading Disability (RD) (U.S. Department of Education, 1995, Schnaiberg, 1994, Brewster Clark & Kellogg Uhry, 1995).

The research requested by the U,S. Dept. of Education in 1995, indicated the percentage of 5.25% learning disabled students (of a total of 10.25% of disabled students who were served in American schools) At least half of these students (2.625%) would be classified as dyslexic.

If a parent is dyslexic, the child’s risk of developing the disorder is up to 8 times higher than the risk for a child without a family history in dyslexia.



5 to 12% of the school-aged population may be dyslexic

Dyslexia occurs close to equally in both sexes even some literature suggests that dyslexic boys outnumber dyslexic girls. The excess of identified dyslexic male children over females has been explained by a bias in the classroom referral system.

Dyslexia affects 10% of schoolchildren in the United States.

20% of children are born with varying degrees of Dyslexia.

Most students with dyslexia do not receive help until the 3rd grade.

Up to 80% of students with dyslexia who start receiving special services in 3rd grade will have the reading problem for the rest of their lives.




  • According to Sullivan Spafford & Grosser (1996):
  • delays in speech and language development
  • difficulties in reading, writing, math and spelling
  • difficulties in time and space concepts
  • disorganization in thinking through a problem, planning ahead and following directions
  • poor self-image and self-confidence
  • hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, low frustration tolerance, easily distractible mood swings
  • slowness in completing tasks
  • memory problems
  • poor study habits, poor test performance



  • CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUNG DYSLEXIC CHILDREN (Davis, R. D., 1992, Stainsby, M., 2001, Baumel, J., 2004):
  • Vision, Reading and Spelling
  • the child’s reading or writing shows repetition, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions and reversals in letter, numbers and/or words
  • the child confuses the order of letters in words. The shapes and sequences of letters and numbers appear changes or reversed to him. Letters and numbers appear to move, grow or shrink
  • the child has difficulties pronouncing words. Digraphs such as ch, th and sh are mispronounced
  • the child doesn’t recognize words previously learned; he can spell a word several different ways
  • the child has poor reading comprehension



  • Writing and Motor skills
  • the child has trouble with writing and copying; pencil grip is unusual
  • the child is uncoordinated; he has difficulties with fine/gross motor skills
  • the child confuses left/right, under/over; he has poor sense of direction



  • Math and time management
  • the child can count, but has difficulty counting object and dealing with money
  • computing math shows dependence on finger counting; the child fails word problems
  • the child has difficulty being on time or telling time



  • Memory and cognition
  • the child has good long-term memory for locations and faces, but poor memory for sequences, facts and inexperienced information
  • the child has difficulties in following oral directions; he thinks primarily with images and feelings
  • the child has above average IO but doesn’t do well on school tests; he often loses the train of thoughts and has problems with generalization



  • Hearing and speech
    • the child doesn’t hear fine differences in words. Sounds are perceived as quieter, louder, farther or nearest; he complains of dizziness , headaches or stomach aches while reading
    • the child is not able to rhyme by age four
    • the child has difficulty putting thoughts into words, leaves sentences incomplete, stutters under stress and mispronounce long words.



  • Behavior, personality and development
    • the child has difficulty sustaining attention; seems to be hyper or daydreamer; he can be class trouble-maker or too quiet.
    • the child has low self-esteem (he feels “dumb”); he can easily get frustrated and emotional about school testing; he might strive for perfection
    • the child is emotionally sensitive and sensitive to food and chemical products.


Heredity – Researchers have suspected that dyslexia is carried on human chromosomes, which determine and transmit hereditary characteristics. The new studies indicate Chromosome 6 as a source of dyslexia and estimate the risk of a dyslexic parent having a dyslexia child (Schnaiberg, L., 1994).

Auditory-Processing Deficits- Based on evidence, it has been suggested that dyslexia could result from pathology in the primary auditory cortex in the left hemisphere (Cocace, A.& McFarland, D. J., 1998). Dyslexic children with auditory-processing deficits are less able to pay attention and follow oral directions and they are easily distracted. Their inability to integrate auditory information and to make connection between phonemes and graphemes results in poor reading skills.

Phonological Awareness Problems is the metacognitive understanding that spoken language is made up of a series of sounds that have a sequential order. There is evidence that range of difficulties attributed to dyslexia may stem from phonological core deficit. According to Stanovich’s research ( 1988) dyslexic children’s failure to decode words is caused by phonological processing problems, which leads to deficits in reading comprehension, vocabulary development and even IO through lack of access to print experience



Visual System Dysfunction and Visual Memory Problems- Because of visual perception deficiencies the dyslexic children are not able to obtain meaning from the print. Magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI) data indicate a relation between dyslexia and a deficit in visual-motion processing (Eden et al., 1996).

Scotopic Sensitivity- Five % of dyslexics have difficulties seeing black-white contrast and painful sensitivity to light

Abnormal Neural Activity – PET scans reveal less activation of the left posterior and temporal areas of the dyslexics’ brain. Increased reading skill for dyslexic was correlated with greater reliance on the right hemispheric systems (Marshall, 2003).

Environmental factors – lack of individual and family reading experiences




  • According to Uhry & Shepard (1993) and J. Thomaswick, a reading specialist at the Washington Local School, dyslexic children:
  • don’t get engaged in reading experience because they have limited sight vocabulary; they exhibit lack of phonological awareness (strong reading predictor) and metalinguistic awareness (the ability to recognize symbols and words as representations of spoken language).
  • because of their poor spelling, reading and writing skills they develop inappropriate behavior ( according to the reading specialist who was interviewed dyslexic children don’t follow the directions, avoid reading situation by changing the subject, don’t pay attention to the text, etc)
  • experience difficulty comprehending basal and content text ( they require explicit comprehension instruction)



  • According to Uhry & Shepard (1993) and J. Thomaswick, a reading specialist at the Washington Local School, dyslexic children:
  • write poorly ( deficits in spelling absorb so much energy and attention that other aspects of writing- poor punctuation, word omissions, lack of subject/predicate agreement- are diminished in quality)
  • have poor study skills and display problems with information recall
  • have attention problems and display hyperactivity which lead to slowness in completing assigned in-class or at-home tasks
  • have low self concepts which are related with social behavioral problems such as negative peer interactions, external locus of control and disregard of social conventions


      • What teachers can do ( Marshall, 2003, Hodge, 2000, Thomaswick, J)
  • motivate childrento read by helping them to pick interesting booksat their level
  • introduce reading scheme that involves repetition and slowly introduction of new words
  • introduce word games, context cues, concept maps, graphic organizers, tape recordings, journal writing, portfolio projects, etc.
  • incorporate meaning-based strategies for acquisition of basic reading skills such as using clay to model the concepts that are associated with word meanings and to model the letters of each word
  • provide a short list of topic based words for spelling including three or four irregular words each week
  • teach dyslexic children to proof read, to use dictionary, story maps, graphic organizers, text structure and anticipation guides
  • scaffold each effort of dyslexic children to face initial reading challenges – word recognition and automaticity skills
  • provide a small reference chart to serve as a remainder for the cursive script in upper and lower case and encourage children to practice handwriting words


      • What teachers can do (continued from previous page)
  • that present no problem in terms of meaning or spelling
  • rehearse mathematical vocabulary using sensory/kinesthetic methods, put the decimal point in red ink, encourage the use of estimation and break down math tasks into smallest steps
  • teach dyslexic children study and organizational skills ( using of folders, dividers and a list with phone numbers of friends), encourage daily routine to help develop their responsibilities and self-reliance
  • provide notes and handouts with main ideas that are going to be taught in lessons and appropriate worksheets that would help the homework.
  • provide them with well spaced and colorful writing on the blackboard and with extra time for completion of required work.
  • ensure successful integration of dyslexic children by using remedial instruction and strategies that suit each dyslexic child
  • be prepared to accept alternatives to written description, such as verbal description or kinesthetic expression
  • praise dyslexics’ accomplishment and support their strengths.


Baumel, J. Dyslexia- an overview. Retrieved 05/21/2004 from

Brewster Clark, D. & Kellogg Uhry, J. (1995). Dyslexia. Theory and practice of remedial instruction. York Press: Baltimore

Cacace, A.,T. & McFarland, D., J. (1998). Central auditory processing disorder in school-aged children: A critical review. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 41, 2, 355-374

Davis, R. D. (1992). 37 common characteristics of dyslexia. Retrieved 05/21/2004 from http://

Eden, G.F., VanMeter, J., W., Rumsey, J.M., Maisog, J.M., Woods, R.P., & Zeffiro, T.A. (1996). Abnormal processing of visual motion in dyslexia revealed by functional brain imaging. Nature, 382, 66-69

Hodge, P. (2000). A dyslexic child in the classroom. Retrieved 05/19/2004 from

Marshal, A. (2003). Brain Scans show dyslexics read better with alternative strategies. Retrieved 05/19/2004 from

Schnaiberg, L. (1994). Study adds to evidence of genetic link for dyslexia. Education Week, 14, 8, 10-13

Stainsby, M. (2001). The gift of dyslexia. Children with reading disability finally feeling good about themselves. Retrieved 05/19/2004 from http:// www.

Stanovich, K.E. (1988). Explaining the differences between the dyslexic and the garden-variety poor reader: The phonological-core variable-difference model. Journal of Learning, Disability, 21, 590-604

Uhry, J.K. & Shepard, M.J. (1993). Writing disorder. In Child and adolescent psychiatry clinics of North America, ed. L.B. Silver, 2, 209-219

Sullivan Spafford, C. & Grosser, G.S. (1996). Dyslexia. Research and resource guide. Allyn and Bacon: Massachusetts

U. S. Department of Education (1995). Sixteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the individuals wit disabilities Education Act. Washiongton DC: U.S. Government Printing Office


Different Brains,

Different Learners

The Challenged Reader: Dyslexia


Amy A L L E N


Mia S P A N U