Children with Dyslexia: Research Responds to Frequently Asked Questions

Article excerpt

But Mr. Falker caught her arm and sank to his knees in front of her. "You poor baby," he said. "You think you're dumb, don't you? How awful for you to be so lonely and afraid."

She sobbed.

"But, little one, don't you understand, you don't see letters or numbers the way other people do. And you've gotten through school all this time, and fooled many, many good teachers!" He smiled at her. "That took cunning, and smartness, and such, such bravery."

Then he stood up and finished washing the board. "We're going to change all that, girl. You're going to read-I promise you that."

(Excerpt from Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco)

Patricia Polacco, now an accomplished author and illustrator of children's books, wrote this inspirational autobiographical tale Thank you, Mr. Falker. In the story Trisha was very excited about starting school and learning, but when she tried to read, all she could see were jumbled letters and numbers. Her classmates called her "dummy" and "toad." It was Mr. Falker who discovered Trisha's strength as an artist, and her secret, -that she couldn't read- and who set out to help her prove to herself that she can, and she did!

Unfortunately, not all children with dyslexia are as fortunate as Trisha. Dyslexia continues to be a mystery to most parents and classroom teachers. Consequently, many children with dyslexia pass through school without learning to read; and may not ever be provided with opportunities to reach their potential.

In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that dyslexia is a learning difficulty affecting a substantial minority of the school population, however, there are still continuing speculations about the nature, causes, and treatment of dyslexia. Of particular interest to classroom teachers are the questions: How can we recognize dyslexia in the classroom?, and How can we help children with dyslexia in our classroom?

RECOGNIZING DYSLEXIA IN THE CLASSROOM

Dyslexia, or reading disorder, is defined as a significant discrepancy between oral language (i.e., verbal IQ, listening comprehension) and reading achievement. It is associated with deficits in word-level reading that might be caused by deficits in phonological processing (Uhry & Shepherd, 1997; also Clark & Uhry, 1995; Shepherd & Uhry, 1993). It is a specific learning difficulty affecting a person's ability to deal with text, and often numbers as well. Children with dyslexia have phonological difficulties, that is, they find it difficult to sort out the sounds within words. This means that they may have problems with reading, writing and spelling. The majority of these children also have difficulty with text, memory and the sequencing processes of basic mathematics.

On the other hand, children with dyslexia can be intuitive and highly creative, and excel at hands-on learning. They are visual, multidimensional thinkers. However, because they think in pictures, it is sometimes hard for them to understand letters, numbers, symbols, and written words. They can learn to read, write and study efficiently when they use methods geared to their unique learning style (Davis, 1997).

In The Threshold for Confusion (Davis at ), a number of disability categories that appear to be related to, or varieties of, dyslexia are identified. Among them are (1) ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder)-the inability to maintain attention or focus on what is being presented, (2) Autism-a condition that prevents a person from being in contact with outside reality; severe disorientations triggered by auditory stimuli, (3) Central Auditory Processing Disorder-a term used to describe individuals who have problems with listening, either in distinguishing sounds in their language or in comprehending the words they hear, (4) Dyscalculia/Acalculia-difficulty with math or an inability to use numbers and do math, (5) Dysgrphia/Agraphia-difficulty writing or an inability to write, (6) Dysmapia-difficulty with reading maps or finding places, and (7) Hyperactivity-inattention or "daydreaming" with the addition of physical motion by the student. …