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Is it Dyslexia?

In Canada, Dyslexia is not diagnosed as such. Rather, if falls under the broader term of Reading Disability. Some psychologists may write Dyslexia in brackets on their reports. However there is a movement called #saydyslexia to bring about change for a diagnosis. The reason being, is that it is not a general learning disability. Rather, there is science to support it's prevalence, it's origins and effective methods for remediation. If we identify it, we know what course of action to take.

But what exactly is Dyslexia?

Dr. Sally Shaywitz, neuroscientist, defines Dyslexia as "an unexpected difficulty with reading". It is unexpected as it cannot be explained by IQ differences. Often these students understand higher level language, some are gifted; however, they still struggle to read. This difficulty reading is resulting from difficulties processing the individuals sounds in language (phonological processing). Overcoming Dyslexia (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2020).

It is a linguistic problem, not a visual one. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a joint statement saying Dyslexia is not correlated with eye or eye movement abnormalities. Can some students also have visual difficulties in addition to reading difficulties? Yes! So checking vision is recommended as part of the process to understanding if any additional aids (e.g., glasses) are needed.

Reading difficulties that result from challenges in understanding oral language are often a result of a Developmental Language Disorder, which can be diagnosed by a speech language pathologist. It is possible for a student to have BOTH a developmental language disorder and Dyslexia.

Given the linguistic nature of Dyslexia, there are a number of reading behaviors parents or teachers may notice:

  • sounding out words that should be instantly recognized

  • reading a word correctly on one line, and then reading the same word incorrectly elsewhere in the text

  • slow, deliberate reading or fast scrambled reading

  • skipping lines in text or parts of sentences

  • omitting / adding words in the sentence (prepositions, articles, or other words)

  • switching prepositions or articles (e.g., ‘a’ for ‘the’)

  • semantic substitutions (e.g., ‘yell’ for ‘shout’)

  • persistent b/d/p confusion beyond grade 2

  • poor recognition of base words (e.g., ‘deny’ in ‘undeniable’)

  • dropping, adding, skipping, substituting syllables in multisyllabic words, especially for those with suffixes

  • word finding difficulties - the student can represent the concept of the word in their mind and it's meaning but when they go to retrieve the sounds needed for the word a breakdown can occur. The student may experience the "tip-of-the-tongue" phenomenon

  • misnaming, not from lack of knowledge but from confusing sounds of the language (e.g., 'tornado' for volcano)

R.O.A.S.T. errors:

Reversing sounds in words (e.g., ‘mats’ for ‘mast’)

Omitting sounds in words (e.g., ‘bad’ for ‘band’)

Adding letters to words (e.g., ‘slip’ for ‘sip’)

Substituting sounds in words (e.g., ‘bug’ for ‘bag’)

Transpositions of sounds in words (e.g., ‘broad’ for ‘board’)

From Fluency Builders, Lively Letters, Overcoming Dyslexia

If you are a parent or teacher with a concern about a child's reading, speak with a speech language pathologist near you as they can help identify what systems (sound system / oral language system) are contributing to those difficulties and provide evidence-based intervention.

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