Catherine Christo, Ph.D., LEP
Christo Educational Consulting
Difficulties in learning to read constitute up to 80% of students identified as having a specific learning disability and needing special education support. Most of these students likely have dyslexia. One of the most widely accepted definitions of dyslexia was jointly authored by the International Dyslexia Association and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological 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.”
Dyslexia is a “print-specific” disability. These students struggle with going from print to language not with understanding of language itself. They often have stronger listening comprehension than reading comprehension because decoding the print impedes their converting to language. Some students with dyslexia may also have oral language disabilities.
Dyslexia is often called a language learning disability because it most frequently results from a difficulty in phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is an element of the "form" component of language rather than the construction, meaning or use of language.
Dyslexia is the most studied area of learning disabilities. Phonological processing, or the ability to manipulate the sounds of language, has been identified as one of the most common areas of difficulty for individuals with dyslexia. It is specifically the ability to manipulate the phonemes (smallest unit of sound in a word) that is critical to being a successful reader. Other causes of dyslexia include weakness in rapid naming, orthographic processing and working memory.
Useful information on dyslexia can be found at the following websites:
• Decoding Dyslexia www.decodingdyslexia.net
Decoding Dyslexia is a nationwide parent network providing information and advocacy on dyslexia and working to promote dyslexia legislation in all states.
Ldonline provides information on learning disabilities for parents and educators.