Dyslexia or Weak Literacy


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What is Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a persistent difficulty with written language; reading, writing or spelling. The eyes, ears, motor and balance system must move together smoothly and rapidly to master literacy.

Dyslexia can be caused by an auditory, visual or balance deficit. Recent research suggests that dyslexia is more often caused by a combination of sensory issues – abnormal visual and auditory processing. But in some underdeveloped balance or immature motor skills also contribute. 

Dyslexia affects between 10-20% of the population, with males at 2-3x the rate of females  and can persist throughout adult life. Those with dyslexia struggle to read and spell with mainstream teaching.

Dyslexics typically have at least average intelligence and normal (or corrected) hearing and vision. Many individuals with dyslexia may also experience difficulty with attention and comprehension, maths, and written expression. While some people with dyslexia mix up their letters, this is only one of many symptoms. So many people who find learning difficult also have dyslexia. Dyslexics can find numbers challenging because they struggle to understand the question outlining maths problem and they tend to have weak sequencing.

The International Dyslexia Association taskforce defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disability … characterised 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 … Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Auditory processing, distractibility and an inability to filter out irrelevant information could be one of the main causes of dyslexia. This suggests that children who cannot properly distinguish background noise from information could have problems identifying letters and word sounds.

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Understanding Dyslexia

The dyslexic brain struggles to read because even small distractions can throw it off, according to a new model of dyslexia emerging from a group of recent studies. The studies contradict an influential, 30-year-old theory that blamed dyslexia on a neural deficit in processing the fast sounds of language. Instead, the studies suggest that children with dyslexia have bad filters for irrelevant data. As a result, they struggle to form solid mental categories for identifying letters and word sounds.

Dyslexic individuals cannot read fluently or spell well. “Reading fluency is the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with good understanding”. A successful reader must be able to rapidly decode the individual sounds or phonemes in a word and recognize whole words. Spelling is the ability to translate sounds into letters or recall the sequence of letters in sight words.

Language system deficits, particularly phonological awareness, are thought to be the primary reason that dyslexic children and adults have difficulty acquiring fluent reading and spelling skills. Effective reading instruction is essential to develop these skills. Without appropriate intervention, dyslexia can weaken comprehension and vocabulary which can undermine academic and professional achievement.

Because our ears are attuned to selected languages, it is possible to have dyslexia in one language but not another. The son of a diplomat came for treatment when he started struggling at an Australian school on his return from Switzerland, where he had excelled in a French-speaking curriculum. Unfortunately, this young Aussie had a “French” ear.

How can listening therapy help?

Because auditory processing is closely associated with the capacity to read, if we can improve auditory processing, this allows us to address many of the auditory causes of dyslexia. Listening therapy is an effective tool for rebuilding the auditory foundations of reading and learning. It can substantially improve auditory processing speed, auditory discrimination, pitch discrimination and spatial awareness.

By improving the ability to discriminate the different sounds we can improve awareness of syllables and vowels and associate these sounds accurately with the symbols we use for language in our alphabet.

What else may help?

Investigate and rectify visual deficits at these clinics

  • Behavioural optometrist
  • Alison Lawson program (Sydney, Canberra) and
  • Irlen Dyslexia Centre
Start here! Take the Listening Scorecard.