Friday, 27 November 2015

What is a reading disability?

Despite some children (and adults) having average or above intelligence, they still have problems acquiring basic reading skills. If this is the case and a child's reading ability is 18 months to two years behind their chronological age, they may be said to have a specific reading disability, a reading disorder or be dyslexic. 

Specific reading disorder are not the result of a visual or hearing problem. It is not caused by an intellectual disability or an an emotional problem.

There seems to be no reason for a specific reading disability, and psychologists, neurologists, educators and scientists are still researching this. You can find the official definition of reading disorder here

Dr. Sally Shaywitz is a neuroscientist who is passionately dedicated to helping children and families overcome the pain and strain of reading difficulties. She is a professor of Pediatric Neurology at Yale university in the United States.

Dr.Sally Shaywitz (Photo Source)

Dr Sallywitz found that good readers use three major systems on the left side of the brain. It was also found that poor readers had two regions in the back of the brain which were significantly under-active.

Difficulties with reading often begin with individual sounds or phonemes. Students will have problems with rhyming, dividing words into syllables (segmenting) and putting individual sounds  together to make words (blending). Students with reading disorder often have trouble discriminating short vowel sounds such as 'a' in apple; 'e' in egg; 'i' in ink, 'o' in orange; and 'u' in umbrella.

This makes it very difficult to decode words, which leads to problems with reading accuracy, rate and comprehension. This makes it very difficult for students to achieve well at school. 

Reading disability is one type of learning disorder. The 3 types of learning disorder are
  • Reading disorder or  dyslexia
  • Written language disorder or dysgraphia
  • Math disabilities or discalcula

Dyslexia or Specific Reading Disability or Disorder

When we read we decode symbols that represent the spoken word. Students with a reading disability often have difficulty with word recognition and decoding abilities. Sometimes students may appear to be able to read out loud quite well but cannot tell you what they have read. This was the case with my daughter. It turned out that so much of her cognitive functioning (brain power) was taken up with decoding that not enough was left for comprehension of what she was reading. While she could read out loud she couldn't tell you what she had read. This problem began about year 2. Before this reading had not been a problem.

Students with reading disorders can have different problems . Some cannot sound out words even though they can tell you all the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent. Some students cannot have trouble rhyming words. These skills are fundamental to reading successfully.

There is more to reading than just recognizing words. We have to form images as we read in order to understand what we are reading.

  Some children have problems sounding out words, while others have trouble with rhyming games, such as rhyming "cat" with "bat." Yet, scientists have found these skills fundamental to learning to read. Fortunately, remedial reading specialists have developed techniques that can help many children with dyslexia acquire these skills. However, there is more to reading than recognizing words. If the brain is unable to form images or relate new ideas to those stored in memory, the reader cannot understand or remember the new concepts. Other types of reading disabilities can appear in the upper grades when the focus of reading shifts from word identification to comprehension.

What is effective instruction for students with a Reading Disorder.?

Students with learning disabilities benefit from instruction that is explicit and well sequenced, starting with the basic and building on these. But it must engage the student, especially younger children. and it cannot cause anxiety. Boredom and anxiety affect successful learning.


 Shaywitz, S.E., and Shaywirz, B.A. (2001) "The Neorobiology of Reading and Dyslexia." Focus on Basics: Connecting research and Practice,Volume 5, Issue A ::: August 2001

1 comment: