WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?  Robert D. Smith, PhD The   International   Dyslexia   Association   defines   Dyslexia   as   “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     growth     of     vocabulary     and     background knowledge.”( International Dyslexia Association ) Your level of reading is not a reflection of your intelligence.  Many smart people have dyslexia.    Contrary   to   a   long-held   belief,   dyslexia   is   not   a   visual   disorder,   but   is   actually   an   auditory   processing   problem   involving phonemic information.  Developmental   Dyslexia   is   officially   classified   as   a   neurologically   based   learning   disorder,   meaning   that   it   is   considered   a physical brain disorder.  However,   that   conclusion   is   not   so   clear   cut.      Our   brains   evolved   so   that   most   people   learn   how   to   talk   automatically   with no   particular   instruction.      However,   reading   is   a   skill   activity   invented   by   human   beings.      People   are   not   hard   wired   to equally   perform   the   skilled   activity   of   reading.      Not   everybody   can   learn   to   throw   a   football   equally   well,   or   draw   equally well or sing equally well (think about American Idol).    When   reading,   you   have   to,   simultaneously,   do   many   things.         Our   language   is   made   of   distinctly   different   little   sounds   that we   assemble   to   make   the   words   we   speak.   These   little   sounds   are   called   phonemes .      We   humans   developed   a   system   in which   every   letter   of   the   alphabet   has   one   or   more   of   these   sounds   attached   to   it.      The   spoken   word   is   made   up   of   distinct building   blocks   of   different   sounds   called   phonemes.   Every   letter   of   the   alphabet   has   a   phoneme   sound   associated   with   it. Some   letters   have   more   than   one   sound   such   as   the   letter   “R”,   which   is   the   label   not   to   sound.   The   two   sounds   associated with   the   letter   R   are   "ruh"   and   "ur".      The   alternate   sound   is   used   depending   on   where   the   letter   is   placed   within   the   word. Every   letter   of   the   alphabet   therefore   stands   for   one   of   the   distinctly   different   phonemic   sounds   that   make   up   the   spoken word.      Consequently,   the   phonemic   system   is   used   like   a   secret   agent’s   code   to   translate   the   printed   word   back   into   the spoken   word.   Initially,   all   words   are   unfamiliar   and   require   laborious   application   of   the   phonemic   system,   but   after   enough practice the process of reading becomes automatic for most words. However,   people   with   dyslexia   have   a   hard   wiring   difficulty   learning,   retaining   and   applying   this   phonemic   system.   People without   dyslexia   can   process   phonemic   information   automatically   with   little   effort   and   cannot   relate   to   the   dyslexic   reader’s difficulty.   The   dyslexic   reader’s   struggle   processing   phonemic   information   is   perplexing   to   those   without   dyslexia   because processing   phonemic   information   seems   like   such   a   simple   automatic   task,   like   breathing.      However,   reading   is   a   man- made   skill,   like   throwing   a   baseball   and   not   everyone   can   do   it   equally   well.      Think   of   how   some   contestants   on   American Idol   cannot   process   the   relationship   between   pitches   and   cannot   carry   a   tune   in   a   bucket,   while   others   sing   with   ease.   We can get by in life without singing very well, but the same is not true of reading. The   non-dyslexic   reader   readily   learns   the   phonemic   system   and   intuitively   applies   it   to   word   decoding.   However,   the dyslexic   reader   has   difficulty   hearing   the   difference   between   many   of   the   phonemic   sounds   in   a   similar   way   to   the   poor singer   who   battles   their   tone   deafness.   Consequently,   standard   instruction   progresses   too   rapidly   and   with   chunks   of information   to   big   for   the   dyslexic   reader   to   process.   The   dyslexic   reader   needs   to   have   the   phonemic   system   broken   down into   its   most   fundamental   steps,   carefully   presented,   corrected   and   rehearsed   over   an   extended   period   of   time   by   individual instructors.   Every   mistake   made   by   dyslexic   reader   must   be   immediately   corrected   to   minimize   the   confusion   that   is inevitable   for   the   dyslexic   reader.   However,   most   dyslexic   readers   can   learn   to   read   independently   and   adequately, although   the   degree   of   fluency   attained   varies   between   individuals.      Reading   comprehension,   spelling   and   writing   problems are usually the result of the dyslexic reader’s difficulties processing phonemic information.  Dyslexia   is   one   of   the   most   common   problems   affecting   children   and   adults   in   the   United   States.      The   prevalence   of dyslexia   is   estimated   to   range   from   5   to   17%   of   school-age   children.   It   is   the   most   common   form   of   learning   disability. Over   40   million   Americans   suffer   from   dyslexia,   making   it   an   extraordinarily   widespread   disorder.      It   can   affect   both   boys and   girls.      It   is   more   common   in   children   and   adults   whose   parents   also   had   difficulty   with   reading   and   writing.   It   is   one   of the   most   common   learning   disabilities   among   people   and   can   disrupt   both   education   and   social   development   if   left untreated.   Dyslexia   is   a   problem   that   many   people   face   and   usually   causes   great   difficulty   coping   with   the   school   or working    environment.        Although    dyslexia    is    life-long,    individuals    with    dyslexia    frequently    respond    successfully    to appropriate   intervention.      It's   never   too   late   for   the   dyslexic   reader   to   learn   to   read.   Appropriate   instruction   is   effective   for children and adults of all ages.
© Robert D. Smith, PhD
Robert D. Smith, PhD Diagnosis & Treatment for Dyslexia, ADD & Learning Disorders IQ Optimization Children & Adults