Disability as the name suggests is the lack of ability of some kind (Shaywitz 2003). The lack of ability could be mental, physical, development, mental, sensory or a combination of some or all of them. Disability is a complex phenomenon which encompasses the inability of one to coordinate his/her body parts to perform tasks that perceived by the society as normal. I am going to look at dyslexia disorder as one type of disability. I hope to get to know how it comes about, which target group is affected and how it can be cured.
Definition of Dyslexia
Dyslexia in broad terms as explained by Shaywitz (2003) can be defined as the inability of children to learn in classrooms at the normal pace as expected. The inability usual impairs the reading ability of a child. A person exhibiting dyslexia finds it difficult to identify and differentiate alphanumeric and is unable to decode them. Lessons communicated to them by audio means most of the time evaporates after a short while. The children are also said to respond rapidly in terms of visual or verbal. According to the World Federation of Neurologists (1968), dyslexia is the inability of children to be able to master skills of reading, spelling, writing or speaking even though they attend classes and are taught like any other children of the same age group. This kind of disorder can be mild or severe persisting from childhood and throughout life if proper medical attention is not sought. According to the Catts & Kamhi (2005), Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects reading, writing, spelling and speaking ability.
Dyslexia comes about due to the brain being unable to translate/decode images it receives from either the ears or the eyes (Booth and Burman 2001). Dyslexia does not come about due to vision or hearing problems. It should not be confused with poor instructions administered to the learners or non-neurological deficiency associated with sight or hearing. It is estimated that in a given population, at least a good proportion of 5% - 10% of the population is affected by this disorder (Shaywitz, 2003).
Who Gets it and How?
Dyslexia can affect both children and adults (Colorado Department of Education 2008). The adults exhibit this disorder after brain damage may be due to an accident (commonly referred to as trauma dyslexia) or if they suffer from dementia. It may also come about due to inheritance. Studies carried out recently have identified some genes that may cause a person to develop this kind of disorder. There exist several types of dyslexia and reasons behind their causes. Trauma dyslexia is uncommon in school age children. Those commonly seen in children include:
Primary dyslexia which is a dysfunction of the left side of the brain called the cerebral cortex (Booth and Burman 2001). This type is hereditary and is more pronounced in boys than girls (Colorado Department of Education 2008). Children who exhibit this disorder have difficult in reading, spelling or writing. Most children who are affected by this kind of disorder do not exhibit the condition beyond fourth grade (Colorado Department of Education 2008). The other type is secondary (or development) dyslexia. Scientists say that this type develops during the development phases of the fetal development. As the child matures, the disorder fades away. It is commonly seen in boys than girls (Colorado Department of Education 2008).
There have been several theories that have been put forward to explain the causes of dyslexia and they include:
Cerebellar theory, suggests that any little dysfunction of the cerebellum will lead to dyslexia, (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). Medically, celleberum is responsible for motor control. If the neural motor coordination is affected, then speech articulation will be affected such that there will be a problem with phonological processing. The celleberum is also responsible for the memorization of new learnt things. Its dysfunction will render the child unable to differentiate different texts (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003).
Another theory is the evolutionary theory. This theory argues that reading is not a natural phenomenon in the human race (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). It also suggests that there are areas in the world where reading has not been heard of since the West recently took this new phenomenon to other parts of the world. The theory continues to say that our genes are still weak and unable to handle or conform to this new and unnatural act. The phonological theory suggests that people with dyslexia disorder have a kind of a specific sound manipulation disorder (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). The sound manipulation disorder affects the ability of one to remember words, speech and sound association. The affected children find it difficult to associate alphabet or number symbols with the sounds they represent.
Research has been used to support perceptual visual-noise exclusion hypothesis. In this theory, those affected by dyslexia disorder, show difficulty in performing visual tasks in the presence of a perceptual distraction (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). However, the same subjects do not experience the same problems in performing visual tasks when the same distractions are removed.
Naming speed deficit and double deficit theories have also been put forward (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). It is said that high speed of naming familiar objects or letters is a strong indication of dyslexia. Slow naming than usual is also an indicator of dyslexia and can be identified as early as in kindergarten and continues to persist into adulthood. Naming speed is theorized to be different from phonological processing. In these theory, there are four different types of readers i.e. normal readers with no deficits; those with naming speed deficits; those with naming speed and phonological processing deficit and those with only naming speed deficit.
The visual and rapid auditory processing hypothesis; the visual theory is based on people who are unable to divulge information from written text or words (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). This is caused by problems related to visual crowding, binocular and poor convergence or divergence. The auditory processing theory is argued from the point of poor performance in frequency exclusion and temporal order judgment.
The magnocellurar hypothesis combines the following hypothesis: The phonological hypothesis, the visual hypothesis, the rapid auditory processing hypothesis and the cerebellar hypothesis (Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE 2003). The theory suggests that the hypothesis are interlinked and intertwined and one cannot exist without the other.
There has been considerable research in the field of dyslexia with the help of modern technology (Shin, Linda M, ed. (1998). There are two main types of neuroimaging techniques that are in use these days. We have PET, the short term for Positron Emission Tomography and FMRI which is also a short term for Functional Magnetic Imaging. The two techniques show that there is a clear difference in brain structure of children who have difficulties in reading. The left hemisphere of the brain (which consists of inferior parietal lobule, inferior frontal gyrus, ventral and middle temporal cortex) is responsible for the reading abilities. Neuroimaging has shown that children with dyslexia have a deficit in this part of the brain. Shaywitz (2003) showed that there is a difference in the way the brain operates in dyslexic children and the normal ones. Using FMRI, Shaywitz (2003) found out that there is greater activation in the back brain (temporal cortex) than in the front brain in normal children during reading tasks. However, in dyslexic children, it was the exact opposite.
The front part of the brain in dyslexic children was more activated as compared to the back brain during reading tasks. From these observations, Shaywitz concludes that children with dyslexic use the front part of the brain to compensate for the distraction the back brain might be experiencing. The same findings were recorded after a similar study was carried out by the University of Maastricht, Netherlands (2009). According to the University of Hong Kong (2008, dyslexia affects different structural parts of the brain of children based on the language they read. The study focused on two groups; those children who were reading English and those who were reading Chinese. This argument was supported by a review by Hadzibeganovic et al. (2010).
Dyslexia is a disorder that is quite difficult to diagnose (Lyon GR 2007). Psychologists or healthy professionals, use a number of observable factors to determine whether a child has the disability or not (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999). The functional reading ability is tested and compared with his/her reading potential. The outcome is evaluated by an intelligence test. All areas of reading/learning are evaluated just to find the exact problem. The child is also tested on the ability to take in information, process it and finally the reaction or usage of that information. The tests also involve the determination of what method of teaching that the child understands better i.e. whether it is either by visual, auditory or motion. The child is also tested on when his/her performance output is at the peak i.e. is it when the child is allowed to participate in an activity, speak or use of motion. The tests further goes on to determine how well the three different parts coordinate, that is, the visual, the auditory and the motion part.
However, there exist symptoms and signs that one can use to identify a dyslexic child (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999). These symptoms include letter and number reversals. This is common from the early ages up to the age of seven or eight eyes. Thereafter, this difficult disappears. However, if the kid continues to exhibit this symptom, it may be advisable to check whether they have other learning difficulties and or even carry out dyslexia test. Another symptom is when a child finds it difficult to copy from a board. The work in an exercise of such a child would be disorganized. The child will also find it difficult to remember his/her favorite TV shows or a movie. Another symptom is that the child may have problems with special relationships. Here, the child finds it difficult coordinate the various parts of the body. The child will have disorganized sports and even dancing to the rhythm of music might be uncoordinated (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999).
Cure and Treatment
There is no cure for dyslexia (Cicely Richard 2010). What needs to be done is proper management of the disorder. This management is what is being referred to as treatment. There is no specific treatment of dyslexia. Every dyslexic individual has his/her special needs and thus the treatment administered to each individual must be tailored in such a way it meets those specific needs. The specific learning difficulties should be identified and taken into account. After identifying the specific problem, the teaching methods should then be modified and the teaching environment changed such that it meets the specific needs of that dyslexic individual.
Parents and their Dyslexic Children
Parents should check for the above symptoms in their children (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999).This will aid in early treatment of the disorder and thus avoid stunted development of the brain. The parent on seeing signs of depression and low self -esteem creeping into their children, they should find out what the root cause is. If the child develops dislike for school and is always causing problems at school or home, this may well be a sign of dyslexia (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999). A parent should seek further advice from a psychologist. He/she should call on the classroom teacher of their child to seek more answers which could be useful in helping the kid. If a school has a team which regularly meet to discuss the progress of a kid, the parent should make sure she/he is involved. Leaving the development of their kids to teachers alone will be detrimental since the parent is the closest person to the kid and is in a position to meet the requirements of the kid. The parent, on his/her own suspicion that the kid has a problem, he/she should contact this team to ask for assistance in evaluating the kid's abilities. If proper testing is not done at school, the parent should seek the help of a health professional in assessing his/her kid (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999).
If a child is to be tested, the parent should ensure that the child gets a good night's sleep (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999). Breakfast should ideally be the one which is their favorite. Parents are also advised to inform their kids prior to the tests that there will be visitors/visitor who will be coming to work with them. The parent should as much as possible avoid coaching the kid about the tests. It is highly recommended that the parent is absent during the test.
Teachers and Dyslexia Children
It is very difficult for a classroom teacher to identify and determine whether a child is dyslexic (Lyon 2007). The classroom teacher usually has several students under his/her care. He/she might find it difficult to identify children who require special care. However, if they detect any signs of the disorder, they should suggest to the parent to seek assessment from a health professional or a psychologist to determine whether their kid has the disorder. Sometimes schools have their own team that does assessment on each child (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999). The team usually comprises of the principal, the classroom teacher, a psychologist or a nurse. The classroom teacher should identify a special problem for the child and recommend methods to be used during the assessment. However, the teacher should make sure that the following five areas are tested: Academic performance, intelligence, sensory/motor, health, development and communication. The teacher should use game type or puzzle kind of assessment on the kid since it is somewhat friendly.
The teacher is also encouraged to have the right attitude towards a dyslexic kid (Trevor Payne, Elizabeth Turner 1999). This condition should not be used as an excuse for a teacher to exempt a dyslexic from written work. Since the kids who have this disorder tend to tire very fast, large chunks of class work should be broken down into small bits and then given to the kid. The kid is encouraged to complete all the work. Any achievement and performances should be appreciated accordingly. The teacher should ensure that there are enough breaks in between the class work. Classroom teachers dealing with dyslexic kids are encouraged to explore other techniques of delivering their lessons to make them more enjoyable. Learning should not strictly be paper and pencil or chalk and board.
As they say, disability is not inability. The topic of study was quite insightful. I have learnt on ways of detecting the symptoms of dyslexia earlier enough and the necessary steps that need to be taken. I have come to appreciate this condition, and largely since it is not human made, it has taught me not to look down upon those people who are affected by this disorder. Having this knowledge, I am in a position to advice parents that dyslexia is not a disease but it is just a totally different way of interpreting and grasping written work. This experience to me and to those who might come across it should be in a position to avoid bullying the dyslexic people because they too are human beings and whatever misfortune has befallen them is not of their own making.