Welcome to Parent Hub

What is dyslexia?

Posted on 30 July 2016

A working definition

1.1 There are many published definitions of dyslexia.  The Expert Advisory Group considered these carefully, in constructing a working definition for the review that includes key characteristics as explained below.  The working definition is set out:

 

●● Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the

skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and

spelling.

 

●● Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in

phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal

processing speed.

 

●● Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.

 

●● It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct

category, and there are no clear cut-off points.

 

●● Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of

language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation,

concentration and personal organisation, but these are not,

by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

 

●● A good indication of the severity and persistence of

dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the

individual responds or has responded to well-founded

intervention.

 

 ‘Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling’

 

1.2 Many definitions of dyslexia identify the primary difficulties as involving learning to read and spell words accurately and fluently.  Table 1 below is taken from recent dyslexia research. It summarises the common features of dyslexia-related literacy difficulties observed during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.  The table shows what early signs can be observed during pre‑school, that is, before formal literacy instruction begins.  It also

highlights how literacy difficulties for children with dyslexia can change as the child grows older.  Some children cope well during infant school but struggle during later school years as the demands on reading and writing fluency increase.  Poor readers often try to avoid reading activities in their leisure time – and this can further constrain word-level reading and spelling development.  Teachers will often observe an increased difference between learners’ ability to express themselves orally and their ability to record their ideas in writing.  Some difficulties may persist throughout life, particularly slow reading and idiosyncratic spelling.

 

Table 1: Developmental phases of dyslexia in children and young people learning to read in English

 

Developmental

phase

 

Signs of dyslexia

 

Preschool

Delayed or problematic speech.

Poor expressive language.

Poor rhyming skills.

Little interest/difficulty learning letters.

 

Early school years

Poor letter-sound knowledge.

Poor phoneme awareness.

Poor word attack skills.

Idiosyncratic spelling.

Problems copying.

 

Middle school years

Slow reading.

Poor decoding skills when faced with new

words.

Phonetic or non-phonetic spelling

Adolescence and

adulthood

 

Poor reading fluency.

Slow speed of writing.

Poor organisation and expression in work.

 

 

 

 ‘Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed’

1.3 Phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed are all aspects of phonological processing and a convincing body of evidence shows that difficulties with them are reliable markers of dyslexia.

 

1.4 Phonological awareness is defined as the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds in words, and is recognised as a key foundation skill for early word-level reading and spelling

development.  For example, phonological awareness would be demonstrated by understanding that if the ‘p’ in ‘pat’ is changed to an ‘s’, the word becomes ‘sat’.

 

1.5 Verbal (phonological short-term) memory is the ability to retain an ordered sequence of verbal material for a short period of time; it is used, for example, to recall a list of words or numbers or to remember a list of instructions.

 

1.6 Verbal processing speed is the time taken to process familiar verbal information, such as letters and digits.

 

‘Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities’

 

1.7 Difficulties of a dyslexic nature can affect children across the range of intellectual abilities.  This represents an important shift away from reliance on a discrepancy between measured IQ and measured attainment in reading and spelling once used to identify

dyslexia.  Convincing evidence shows that, regardless of general level of ability, those with marked reading and spelling difficulties perform badly on tasks such as decoding (ie turning written language into spoken language), word recognition and phonological skills.  Furthermore, measures of IQ do not predict how learners will respond to literacy intervention or their long-term outcomes.  However, where teachers observe increasing differences between learners’ ability to express themselves orally and their ability to

record their ideas in writing, the question of whether the child or young person may be experiencing at least some dyslexic difficulties should be explored.

 

‘Dyslexia is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points’

1.8 The definition proposes that dyslexic difficulties are best thought of as existing on a continuum from mild to severe, rather than forming a discrete category.  Until recently, a child was deemed to either have or not have dyslexia. It is now recognised that there is

no sharp dividing line between having a learning difficulty such as dyslexia and not having it.

 

 ‘Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia’

 

1.9 The definition acknowledges that some individuals with learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature may experience other co-occurring difficulties.

 

‘A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention’

 

1.10 The severity of a particular learning difficulty can be gauged by the response of the learner to good, well-implemented intervention.  For example, those with mild literacy or dyslexic difficulties will make good progress in word-level reading in the context of

appropriate classroom teaching (Quality First Teaching incorporating programmes such as those compatible with the Letters and Sounds framework), or after some additional support

(Wave 2).  Similarly, others will make good progress following Wave 3 interventions.  A small proportion will need more intensive support and long-term assistance.  It is important that those children who have responded well to interventions continue to be monitored, to ensure that progress is maintained and to notice whether there are subsequent difficulties involving aspects such as reading fluency and spelling.

 

From: Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties.  An independent report from Jim Rose to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families June 2009

 

Poll

At what age would you give your child a mobile phone?







Show statistics