October is Dyslexia Awareness month in Australia. Dyslexia is defined by Oxford Languages and Dictionaries Online as “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.”
Where the term Dyslexia came from:
The word Dyslexia itself, according to the March 2018 edition, volume 31, The Pyschologist, was invented by the German Professor and Opthamologist, Rudolf Berlin, over 130 years ago. Dyslexia comes from the English prefix dys- meaning difficult, and the Greek lexis meaning word. So it means “Difficulty with words”.
The technical definition as explained by AUSPELD:
“The definition of dyslexia recognised by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), AUSPELD, the NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) and DSF suggests that dyslexia is:
- Characterised by poor reading accuracy and/or fluency,
- Often associated with phonological (and/or orthographic) processing difficulties,
- Unexpected in relation to the amount of effective instruction and intervention provided, and
- A contributing factor to low levels of vocabulary and general knowledge, as well as poor reading comprehension.”
Let’s talk about Dyslexia:
That is not a small definition but it definitely removes any room for confusion. Dyslexia was always presented to me as a reading and eye issue. Well, I am here to tell you that is one nasty-little-myth! (Many other myths have been corrected here with Dekker Delves into Dyslexia’s article about Riding the Dyslexic Unicorn to the land of myths!)
Although, if you suspect your child is having reading difficulties it is a good idea to have their sight and hearing tested. A new pair of glasses – see an optometrist! Discovering my daughter and son could not read the blackboard was not very helpful to their learning journey. Somehow they passed the starting school eye check!
Now, where was I… oh, yes! Sight issues are not related to dyslexia, it just makes reading harder before you start to deal with dyslexia.
The Australian Dyslexia Association reports that approximately 10% of the Australian population is affected by dyslexia. Unfortunately, when they consider figures from other English speaking countries across the globe they believe this figure, when undiagnosed cases of dyslexia are taken into account, may be as many as 1 in 5 people in Australia.
Recently in Australia, a phonics check has been set up for all grade 1 students in the hope that children with learning difficulties may be identified before they leave the lower primary years of school. This year in New South Wales, Australia, will see the ceasing of the Reading Recovery program to be replaced with science and evidence-based programs using decodable readers and explicit synthetic phonics lessons.
This past month the Five From Five, AUSPELD and Learning Difficulties Australia announced “The Primary Reading Pledge”. Their goal is:
“To reduce to near zero the number of children who finish primary school unable to read by providing primary schools with the resources and training to provide effective assessment and intervention.”
Further details can be found on their webpage.
What are the signs of dyslexia?
If you think your child may be having difficulties with reading or spelling, what should you do? What are the signs it is more than your child needing help with homework?
Some signs may be:
- Reading at a rate that does not correspond to your child’s large vocabulary.
- Spelling may not make sense.
- Letters are not well-formed.
- Your child holds a pencil like a lifeline, and
- Once their pencil is in hand it appears they have totally forgotten the topic.
- Rhyming does not make sense (e.g.. asking quite seriously “Do cat and dog rhyme?” after a 20-minute lesson about the words that rhyme with cat.)
- Their teacher will often report them sitting quietly in class or acting the clown to avoid the task.
- Your child may have no idea they were shown the task the previous day.
- Reading aloud is a major struggle and they avoid it.
What do I do now?
If your child shows any of the above characteristics, firstly talk to your child’s class teacher. See if they are experiencing the same issues at school as working on the after school homework.
If so, your school most likely has a counselor to help navigate evidence-based reading support. If this does not appear to be making any progress it is time to talk to your child’s doctor or paediatrician.
The first steps will be:
- To have your child’s eyes checked, in case they need glasses, and
- To have their hearing checked, in case they need hearing aids.
The next step needs to be discussed with your doctor. Sometimes they will refer your child for an assessment with a psychologist. Sometimes an Assessment may be organised through the school, ADA, or SPELD.
The final course of action is evidence-based instruction in a systematic synthetic phonics class. Many are available based on either the DiStar (Direct Instruction Method), for example, “ Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons program” (Engelmann, Haddox & Bruner, 1983)” or using the Orton Gillingham method of instruction.
Following please find two lists of Approved programs, prepared by Dyslexia Victoria Support (DVS), that meet the scientìc and evidence-based criteria for intervention for students with Specific Learning Disabilities.
Thank you so much to Heidi Gregory from DVS for your assistance and for supplying the memes for this article.
Australian Dyslexia Association https://dyslexiaassociation.org.au/
Code Read Network https://codereadnetwork.org/
DSF – Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation of WA (Inc.) https://dsf.net.au/
Dyslexia Support Australia https://www.facebook.com/groups/DyslexiaSupportAustralia/
Dyslexia Victoria Support https://dyslexiavictoriasupport.com/
Five from Five https://www.facebook.com/fivefromfive/
International Dyslexia Association https://dyslexiaida.org/fact-sheets/
Learning Difficulties Australia https://www.facebook.com/LearningDifficultiesAustralia/
Reading Rockets https://readingrockets.org
SPELD NSW www.speldnsw.org.au
Stealth Dyslexia Support https://www.facebook.com/groups/1826837860905655
Supporting Multilingual Children with Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, etc.)
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
Google Oxford Languages and Dictionaries Online.
The British Psychologist Society. (March 2018). The Psychologist. Volume 31. A brief history of dyslexia. Kirby, Phillip.
Dekker Delves into Dyslexia. Riding the dyslexia unicorn to the land of myths. https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/riding-the-dyslexic-unicorn-to-the-land-of-myths/