Teaching English to Children with Dyslexia

Dyslexia Research

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2009

89 Pages


Table of contents


Chapter 1 - Theoretical Background
1.1. Terminology and definition of dyslexia
1.2. History and Origins of Dyslexia The Origins of Dyslexia The Evolution of Dyslexia Research Modern Approaches towards Dyslexia
1.3. Possible Causes of Dyslexia
1.3.1. Neurological/Brain Causes The Hemispheres Phonological Skills Visual Aspects Motor Control
1.3.2. Cognitive/ Learning Causes
1.3.3. Educational/Environment Learning Experiences
1.4. Different Types of Dyslexia
1.4.1. Acquired Dyslexia Surface Dyslexia Deep Dyslexia Phonological Dyslexia Direct Dyslexia
1.4.2. Developmental Dyslexia
1.5. Dyslexia and Language Learning
1.5.1. Dyslexics’ Major Problems with Studying Words Secondary Symptoms: Class Participation Problems Primary Symptoms: Language Weaknesses
1.5.2. Vocabulary Learning and Dyslexia Problems with spelling Other problems with studying words
1.5.3. Methods of Supporting Students with Dyslexia

Chapter 2 - Research Methods
2.1. Problem Statement
2.2. The Case Study Description
2.2.1. The 4th Grade Students in Class A
2.2.2. The 4th Grade Students in Class B
2.2.3. The 4th Grade Students in Public Elementary School
2.3. Research Questions
2.4. Data Collection Methods and Tools
2.4.1. Checklists Checklist for the Dyslexic Students Checklist for the Dyslexic Students’ Parents
2.5. Assessing Reading and Spelling Skills
2.5.1. Assessing Word Recognition Single-Word Test Non-word Spelling Test
2.6. Some Helpful Techniques
2.6.1. The Use of RIP Technique
2.6.2. Mind Mapping

Chapter 3 – Data Presentation and Analysis
3.1. Introduction
3.1.1. Diagnostic criteria
3.1.2. Case Study Subjects’ Experiences regarding English Courses
3.2. The Results
3.2.1. Checklist for Dyslexic Students Reading Checklist’s Results and Discussion
Discussion Spelling Checklist’s Results and Discussion
Discussion Writing checklist’s results and Discussion
3.3. Dyslexics’ Parents Checklist
3.4. Assessing Word Recognition
3.4.1. Single-Word Test Materials for Teaching the Vocabulary Materials for the Test Procedure Design Results
3.4.2. Non-word Test Materials for the Test Procedure Design
3.5. Conclusion

Chapter 4 - Implications for teaching and learning
4.1. General Instruction
4.2. Organizational and Study Skills
4.3. Language Arts
4.4. Test-Taking




In modern world, written language is one of the key modes of communication. Being illiterate or not being able to read properly can be quite distressing is such a world. While most children acquire reading and spelling skills relatively easily, obviously given that they receive proper instruction, there is a room for a small proportion of the population has significant difficulties in learning how to read. For these children the onset of reading instruction marks the beginning of their failure to acquire reading skills. These children suffer from the phenomenon of dyslexia.

Currently, dyslexic children are tested and diagnosed only after they tried and failed to learn how to read. The ideal situation is for a dyslexic to be diagnosed at an early age and learn how to deal with this condition as early as possible. If a dyslexic fail to get the necessary help, their learning and reading disability will usually result to frustration, loss of self confidence and as can be expected low self-esteem.

Dyslexia is a term that is frequently used in schools and in the wider community – yet a term that many would admit is surrounded by confusion and ambiguity. Such confusion does not help the teacher understand the needs of children with dyslexia and this can in fact give rise to some anxiety.

The causes of dyslexia are yet unknown, although there exist many theories, some more popular than others among scientists. For many years, scientists studying dyslexia have considered a large variety of symptoms as representative of dyslexia. In the first chapter, a historical perspective of some of these theories will be presented.

Dyslexia cannot be considered as a disease, that one may have or not, but as a syndrome, or rather a range of symptoms on which dyslexic subjects experience some relative, quantifiable, difficulties. Nowadays, although there are many common theories, various dyslexia researchers agree that dyslexia is a type of learning disability, affecting specifically language and reading skills, more than for example math skills. It is important to remember that although dyslexics exhibit quite a variety of different symptoms, they seem to experience deficits in certain skills, for example phonological, or reading, more often than expected in the population taken as a whole. Therefore, the current denomination of dyslexia is as reading disability.

Given the broad scope of dyslexia research, it is impossible to cover everything in this introduction, and therefore some issues will be discussed while the others avoided. For example, although there is an evidence of a correlation between reading and math deficits, and also attention span problems, the author focused entirely on the study of reading and language problems, which are considered the most representative symptom of dyslexia. Indeed, comparative analysis of several definitions of dyslexia revealed that reading problem was the only common symptom among all of them.

It is the aim of this paper to clarify the confusion surrounding dyslexia from the class teachers’ perspective and to highlight some strategies for the dyslexia identification and teaching and particularly to provide a solution perspective in order to ensure that learners will have access to the full material, equally to those without dyslexia.

In order to cover all of the aspects in interest, the author decided to divide the work into following parts:

Chapter One deals with terminology as well as historical background of dyslexia; it also provides possible causes and explains common symptoms of this learning disability. The following Chapter Two is a presentation of the research methods that the author chose for the purpose of the paper. The Chapter at the same time presents the Study Case – three various fourth-grade classes consisting of dyslexic students.

Consequently, Chapter Three is a presentation of collected data and an analysis of the research facts. The chapter includes an in-depth analysis of Case-study’s weak and strong sides regarding various language areas, with special focus on their ability to learn English language.

Finally, Chapter Four serves as a tool for helping dyslexic learners’ teachers to go through process of teaching those students with satisfaction and success. This chapter was also written with the purpose of reminding that associating learning disabilities with mental retardation is a mistake. It is worth to remember that there are established national organization for teachers, speech and language therapists and other professionals, to promote and increase the awareness and understanding of children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.

Chapter 1 - Theoretical Background

1.1. Terminology and definition of dyslexia

The word ‘dyslexia’ has entered into conventional conversation and is commonly used, but it still creates controversy. Up until the 1960s, the study of dyslexia was primarily the domain of medical specialists. Foremost amongst them was Samuel T. Orton, whose insights into the condition that he described as “strephosymbolia” presaged much present thinking.[1]

It is interesting fact that the term ‘dyslexia’, or to be more precise dislexie, was first used by Kausman in 1883, who adopted the common practice of using Greek or Latin morphemes to develop a new word. The combination of the ‘dys-’ meaning difficulties, and lexis meaning word.[2]

Richards and Smith provide the following definition of the term “dyslexia”:

Also word blindness. It is a general term sometimes used to describe any continuing problem in learning to read, such as difficulty in distinguishing letter shapes and words. Reading specialists do not agree on the nature or causes of such reading problems, however, and both medical and psychological explanations have been made. Because of the very general way in which the term is often used, many reading specialists prefer not to use the term, and describe reading problems in terms of specific reading difficulties.[3]

At present, research into dyslexia proceeds at an exciting pace, Turner states.[4] New facts emerge or re-emerge into prominence, naming speed deficit, or self-esteem, as older ones cease to interest researchers like in case of laterality or motor skills. The main scientific consensus of the 1980s - the emergence of so-called phonological deficit hypothesis, continues to survive challenges from ‘visual’ and rapid processing theories.

Doyle assumes that the word ‘dyslexia’ appears in a large number of terms - ‘acquired dyslexia’ and ‘surface dyslexia’ are just two taken at random from a long list.[5] It is also associated with other terms that do not contain the words ‘dyslexia’ or ‘dyslexic’ but nevertheless are considered by many people to mean the same thing, for example - ‘specific learning difficulties’ and ‘specific reading retardation’ are two of the most common phrases.

1.2. History and Origins of Dyslexia

As an overview of the history of dyslexia, three stages can be taken into account which, although not clearly differentiated, allow a deeper review of these historical events. The first stage, the actual origins of dyslexia, identified the first subjects with reading and language deficits, who were generally acquired aphasic patients, and lasted until the end of the nineteenth century.

During the proper beginning of the study of developmental dyslexia between 1895-1950, this condition was discovered and its causes and characteristics began to be analyzed. Next, there was an evolution stage - 1950-1970 in which the field of dyslexia opened up to a variety of clinical research, and educational approaches.

Finally, the modern theories, from 1970 created the foundations of our current knowledge about dyslexia. The Origins of Dyslexia

The origins of dyslexia in the scientific literature are due to the first findings of language problems, mainly due to acquired aphasia. It was around the sixteenth century when philosophers and physicians decided that the body localization of thought was not the heart but the brain.

Moreover, Pierre Paul Broca, a French neurologist localized in 1865 the specific brain areas where language functions might reside. It was the first reference to a dominant left hemisphere of the brain responsible for language.[6] However, later it was realized that this does not apply to all people but is true in the case of the great majority. The further researches led to formulating the name aphasia which was applied to those cases of people who had lost the power of speech. As Doyle claims, eventually it was realized that a number of aphasias existed - some in which reading and writing was affected as well as speech, others in which reading and writing were seriously affected but speech only to a lesser extent. This latter group were then described as ‘word blind’ but today is also referred to as ‘alexic’.[7]

The first reference of the term dyslexia occurred in 1887 by the physician Berlin of Stuttgart, Germany, who used the term to describe the case of an adult with acquired dyslexia, that is, loss of reading ability due to a brain lesion.[8] Shortly before, in 1877 Dr. A. Kussmaul suggested the term “word blindness” and described the symptoms of alexia. At this time, dyslexia was considered a disability of essentially neurological origin caused by a cerebral trauma, what is nowadays commonly called acquired dyslexia.

The specialists mentioned above were in the main working with traumatized patients who suffered disturbances of spoken and written language. However, from 1895, James Hinshelwood, a Glasgow eye surgeon, published in The Lancet and The British Medical Journal a series of articles describing a similar disorder, but not apparently caused by brain injury. He described the phenomenon as: “a constitutional defect occurring in children with otherwise normal and undamaged brains, characterized by a disability in learning to read so great that it is manifestly due to pathological conditions and where the attempts to teach the child by ordinary methods have failed.”[9]

It is currently known, that there exists another form of dyslexia which is not caused by a sudden brain insult, as the ones described above, but it develops during the growth of the child. However, in order to discover this what is called nowadays ‘developmental dyslexia’, it was necessary the existence of physicians or educators who would pay attention to the cognitive development of a particular patient.

Following upon Hinshelwood’s seminal work in this field, the notion of a developmental dyslexia was accepted by a number of medical and psychological authorities. Moreover, this article inspired W. Pringle Morgan, a general doctor of the town of Seaford, to describe the case of an intelligent fourteen years-old boy who could not learn how to read. His article, published in the British Medical Journal on November 7th 1896, is considered as one of the first reports about ‘congenital word blindness’, if not the first. In this sense, Morgan is recognized as the father of developmental dyslexia.[10]

As much as Morgan is considered the father, the ultimate founder and sponsor of the study of dyslexia was Hinshelwood, who between 1896 and 1911 published a series of reports and articles in the medical press describing clinical cases and suggesting its possible congenital nature. Hinshelwood contributed essentially to create a clinical and social awareness necessary to consider dyslexia as a medical issue of greatest importance.

In 1917, Hinshelwood published a second treaty on “Congenital Word Blindness”, which summarized the current knowledge on the issue. According to him, the defect involved the acquisition and storage in the brain of the visual memories of letters and words. This defect was hereditary, but remediable, and what is interesting - more common amongst boys. His classification of dyslexics in three groups is also very accurate: Alexia, for cases of mental retardation with reading disability; Dyslexia, for common cases of small delays in learning to read; and word blindness, for severe cases of pure reading disability.

One of the most prominent figures in the history of dyslexia was the American neurologist Samuel Torrey Orton, who between 1925 and 1948 modeled the evolution of the study of dyslexia. According to Turner and Rack, Samuel Orton believed that the memory traces of letters presented to the brain were stored in mirror-image fashion in the left and right hemispheres.[11]

In addition, Orton described the underlying features of dyslexia as: “difficulties in acquiring series and in looking ‘at random’, associating the occurrence with unstable patterns of individual laterality. He related such patterns to hemispheric control of functions, and referred to the problem as one of ‘lacking cerebral dominance’”.[12]

Turner assumes however, that Orton’s theory has logical as well as empirical shortcomings and is no longer taken seriously today, although - his contribution to the field is valued for his recognition of the problems faced by dyslexic individuals.

The Orton Society, later renamed Orton Dyslexia Society was founded in the USA short later after Orton’s death in 1948, with the goal of promoting the study of the functional and social problems of dyslexics. This society, along with Orton’s pupils, has been greatly influential both in the US and in Europe, and has helped improve our knowledge about dyslexia, as well as improving the quality of life of dyslexics, creating special attention and learning centers for dyslexics, and even fighting for their legal rights. This society has grown considerably and has recently become the International Dyslexia Association, it organizes annual conferences, and publishes a journal “The Bulletin of the Orton Society”, name recently changed to “Annals of Dyslexia”.[13]

Meanwhile in Europe the study of dyslexia continued sporadically. Besides a few studies elsewhere, like Ombredanne’s who introduced the term dyslexia in the First Congress of Child Psychiatry in Paris in 1937, the research on dyslexia was almost exclusive to the Scandinavian countries. In this place it is worth to mention Edith Norrie, a dyslexic patient herself, who founded in 1938 the Word Blind Institute in Copenhagen to diagnose and teach dyslexic subjects.[14] This center was probably the first one of its kind in the world. The Evolution of Dyslexia Research

Until the time of Orton, dyslexia was an almost exclusive field for physicians, specially ophthalmologists and neurologists. After Orton, the study of dyslexia was shared also by psychologists, sociologists, and educators. This competition between clinicians and researchers contributed to the proliferation of new theories about the causes and the symptoms of dyslexia.

Regardless of a researcher's opinion in this debate or about the causes and symptoms of dyslexia, there was a general consensus that dyslexia could be remediated, if the appropriate method was used. There were of course different methods proposed.

In 1950 St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London became involved in the diagnosis and the treatment of dyslexic children, although the study of dyslexia was largely ignored until the early 1960s in England. Other Hospitals also showed an interest and carried out work.[15]

Perhaps because of the increasing interest on dyslexia by many different scholars, the study of the psychiatric consequences of dyslexia was also undertaken.

Dyslexia was defined for the first time by the World Federation of Neurology in 1968 when it was defined that this phenomenon is: “a language disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experience, fail to attain language skills of reading, writing and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities’.[16] The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) says:

Dyslexia is best described as a combination of abilities and difficulties which affect the learning process in one or more of reading, spelling and writing. Accompanying weaknesses may be identified in areas of speed of processing, short-term memory, sequencing, auditory and /or visual perception, spoken language and motor skills. It is particularly related to mastering and using written language, which may include alphabetic, numeric and musical notation. Some children have outstanding creative skills, others have strong oral skills. Dyslexia occurs despite normal teaching, and is independent of socio-economic background or intelligence. It is, however, more easily detected in those with average or above average intelligence.[17]

Since then, many eminent scientists have sought understanding in the patterns of links between sensory, motor, perceptual, linguistic, and directional mechanisms of the two hemispheres of the brain.

The evolution of the study of dyslexia also had legal consequences in Great Britain. The first attempt in Britain to achieve legal recognition for dyslexic individuals was in 1970, when the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was passed. The word ‘dyslexia’ was first mentioned by the legal system.[18] Soon, the Tizard Committee was appointed to look further into what was needed. Unfortunately the Tizard Report of 1972 was a great disappointment as far as the recognition of dyslexia was concerned, as Miles states.[19]

It was left to the Warnock Report of 1978 to provide the means via which the needs of dyslexic children could be recognized and met. Until that time children with special needs had been classified according to their category of handicap – blind, deaf, having speech defects etc.[20] Dyslexia was not one of the specified handicap.

According to Miles, the Warnock Report did away with these ‘categories of handicap’ and replaced them by the concept of ‘special educational needs’.[21] It was reckoned that 20% of the school population would have such needs at some stage in their school career, and this was a greater proportion than was receiving help at the time, and would therefore require more funds.

When the Warnock Report was followed by appropriate legislation, things really started to develop. The climax came in 1987, when Robert Dunn, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Education and Science, announced in the House of Commons: “The Government recognize dyslexia and recognize the importance to the educational progress of dyslexic children, their long-term welfare and successful function in adult life that they should have their needs identified at an early stage.”[22] This announcement marked the formal recognition of dyslexia by the British government. Modern Approaches towards Dyslexia

After the 1970s, theories of dyslexia based on cognitive psychology and neuroscience provided the most compelling results. Within psychology, a very important character was Isabelle Y. Liberman, Psychology Professor at the University of Connecticut, and Research Associate of the Haskins Laboratories in New Haven.

Her work was very influential to the scientific study of dyslexia, and demonstrated the importance of language in general, and speech in particular, to the development of reading skills.[23] Today, the Haskins Laboratories continue studying language and reading, even with state-of-the-art methods like neuroimaging. In an attempt to determine the localization of processes, researchers using neuroimaging have developed specific tasks designed to isolate phonological and orthographic processing. According to Knight and Hynd: “it is very difficult to create orthographic tasks that do not also involve phonological processing”.

As early as 1971, Liberman stated that the linguistic determination of children’s reading and language errors is very important. Visual or reversal errors, like those pointed out by Orton, only account for a small proportion of reading errors. Moreover, reversal errors do not have to be visual in nature.

Liberman and her colleagues also described the relationship between human speech and phoneme awareness, and claimed that poor-readers’ difficulties are usually linguistic in origin, specially rooted in the misuse of phonological structure and segmentation.[24]

Following upon the neurological and neuropsychological observations on the nature of information processing in the central nervous system, other intriguing findings emerge. According to Malmkjær, clinical and psychological observation reveals that dyslectic persons are often superior in the so-called right-hemisphere skills, i.e. in skills which require basic aptitudes in spatial perception and integration. Therefore, dyslexic persons often succeed in the areas of art, architecture, engineering, photography, mechanics, technology, science, medicine, athletics, music, design, and craft.[25]

Two similar studies – that of Spring and Capps in 1974 and also Denckla and Rudel in 1976 showed that dyslexics, in general, have a good vocabulary but they are slow in naming objects. Moreover:

Overall, it appears that when poor readers are asked to carry out memory tasks involving phonological material, they perform worse than would be expected. This is true whether the task involves list recall (as described above), list learning.[26]

Turner stresses that the speed and accuracy with which pictures, digits, and letters can be named is a well-documented linguistic correlate of reading ability that is thought by some to reflect phonological memory or retrieval processes.[27] From this moment on, it became apparent that it was necessary to study all these language and cognitive skills that are related to reading ability. The goal was to find out which of these skills are causally important in the development of reading and the etiology of dyslexia.

Gradually, the cognitive abilities more strongly related to reading were identified. Maryanne Wolf described in 1984 the tight relationship between reading and rapid naming. It was established that dyslexics do have difficulties finding words accurately and quickly.

At the same time, other theories of dyslexia were also proposed. For example, results of Pavlidis test in 1981 with fourteen dyslexic children showed that reading deficits characteristics of dyslexia could be the consequence of abnormal eye movements. As Turner states: “The study of eye movements during reading has a long history, with research consistently indicating that reading-disabled individuals show erratic eye movement behaviors.[28]

This is evident in both fixations and saccades: dyslexic individuals show more frequent and longer fixations, shorter saccades, and more frequent regressive saccades (eye movements from right-to-left back through a text). These findings have led to opinions that reading problems may stem from erratic eye movement behaviours. There are, however, two problems with this view. Firstly, the severity of the reading problems shown by a particular dyslexic person may not be directly proportional to the abnormality of their eye movements. […]Second, even if the severity of dyslexia had a direct correspondence to eye movement abnormality, it does not mean that reading disability is caused by such behavior. The main consensus is that reading dysfunctions produce abnormal eye movement behavior as the individual tries to compensate for their reading problems.[29]

During the 1980s, two important researchers in the field of reading, Keith Stanovich, of the University of Toronto, Canada and Charles Perfetti, of the University of Pittsburgh, stated that accuracy and speed of single word identification predicts reading, and it is indeed a crucial skill for efficient reading. And therefore: “readers might predict the identity of an unfamiliar word by using context cues such as pictures or the preceding text, or they might use beginning letters”[30]

Stanovich claims that dyslexics have mainly a phonological deficit that consequently hurts their word recognition skills, and this later affects negatively their reading comprehension, vocabulary, and even intelligence. Stanovich has named this phenomenon as the Matthew effect[31], in which the richer get richer, and the poorer get poorer. In the case of learning to read, good readers become better, while poor readers get worse.

Nonetheless, the most influential theories of this time claimed that the essential deficits that dyslexics face are in phonological skills and in isolated word recognition. John Rack showed that dyslexics are slower than normal children in rhyming tasks, and they have serious difficulties matching speech sounds to their respective letters.

Interestingly, the most recent advances in dyslexia-related fields, such as cognitive psychology, have also influenced the current linguistic theories of reading. In addition, Sally and Bennett Shaywitz and their collaborators from Yale University, studied extensively the issue of a correct dyslexics’ classification.

Finally, a clinical psychologist at the University of Denver - Bruce Pennington, confirmed many theories, like the importance of phonological deficits, which according to him last for a life-time, and the fact that reading is more strongly related to speech than vision. Finally, Pennington has shown that reading ability depends on single word recognition, as well as on the ability to process words in a text.

The most frequently cited definition of dyslexia was developed by a working group of the International Dyslexia Association. This definition reads as follows:

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.[32]

There are several key points in this definition. First is the statement that dyslexia is of neurobiological origin. This statement indicates that to be considered dyslexia the reading difficulty must not be attributable to external environmental causes, such as poor instruction, and that the difficulty lies somewhere within the individual.

Second, the definition is very clear that dyslexia is related to problems at the word level and the role of phonological processing is also highlighted in this definition.

Third, the difficulties in reading are unexpected. Within this definition, dyslexia would not apply to students whose cognitive abilities were significantly below their age peers, or those who had not received adequate instruction in reading.

Finally, the definition notes that problems in single word decoding can lead to reading comprehension problems, and to limited growth in vocabulary and background knowledge.

For Polish children the requirement to read and write in English can become just another obstacle on their educational path. In order to be able to apply any steps towards proper assisting in educational process of the dyslexic children, it is necessary to distinguish between the possible causes of dyslexia.

1.3. Possible Causes of Dyslexia

Naturally, any parent of a dyslexic child wants to know why their child is dyslexic - exactly what it is that has caused him to have the difficulty he does. Parents are not alone. Countless teachers, psychologists and researchers are also interested in knowing the answer.[33]

Unfortunately, the single answer is not known so far. Over the years since the condition was first recognized - more than a century ago - there have been countless suggestions put forward. Some have been discounted but many remain neither proved nor disproved. However, research continues year in, year and consequently as each decade passes, the basic stock of knowledge relating to the general nature of dyslexia and the factors that affect it grows considerably.

Christo, Davis and Brock point out that:

Contemporary research suggests it is a neurobiological disorder that best fits a dimensional model, which is that dyslexia occurs along a continuum based on the number and the severity of symptoms. Currently, the phonological core deficit is the most supported model for understanding dyslexia, but the more recent multiple subtype models consisting of at least phonological processing, rapid naming, and orthographic processing will likely receive much more attention in the near future. Since estimates are that around 80% of students who are identified as learning disabled are likely to have a linguistic processing disorder such as dyslexia, it is incumbent on school professionals to understand the etiology of this disorder.[34]

The first part of the hypothesis covers the parts of the brain and how the brain functions in relation to language, vision and hearing. It also involves the eyes and the visual system generally. It is best described as the biological bases of reading and reading difficulties.

The second part of the research on a possible causes of dyslexia refers to the word ‘phonology’ which means the study of the speech sounds of a language, but in relation to dyslexia, it is usually used somewhat more loosely and refers to just the speech sounds themselves.

Apart from the above mentioned, we can distinguish also the factor of dyslexia inheritance which will be discussed as the last possible cause of dyslexia. It is clear that dyslexia is very frequently found in families, and is often accompanied by left-handedness somewhere in the family. This does not mean to say that a dyslexic parent will automatically have a dyslexic child, or that a left-handed child will necessarily be dyslexic. But where dyslexia is identified, between a third and a half of children have a history of learning difficulties in their family, and more than half have a family member who is left-handed.

According to Reid, there are three main factors that can help in the understanding of dyslexia occurance. These relate to:

- Neurological/brain
- Cognitive/learning
- Educational/environment/learning experiences.[35]

1.3.1. Neurological/Brain Causes

There is now considerable evidence that there is a neurological basis to dyslexia. This means that the brain structure and the neural connections needed for processing information may develop differently in dyslexic children.

Accordingly, several sub-aspects should be taken into consideration: The Hemispheres

Reid claims that children and adults with dyslexia usually have a right-hemisphere processing preference or style. Moreover, some neuropsychologists, such as Dirk Bakker in Holland, have related this to reading and have suggested that right-hemisphere individuals can become ‘sloppy’ readers, but may have good comprehension skills.[36] Phonological Skills

While children with dyslexia can often show skills in right-hemisphere processing, they may have difficulty in processing information using the left hemisphere. The skills necessary for accurate reading tend to be left-hemisphere skills, such as the skills needed to discriminate different sounds in words. These skills are called ‘phonological skills’ and are essential for identifying the cluster of letters that make certain sounds. Visual Aspects

There is also evidence to suggest that some children with dyslexia may, in fact, have a visual processing difficulty or, indeed, can have both visual and phonological difficulties. As Reid explains: “The encouraging point is that visual-processing difficulties can be made less problematic with various interventions and accommodations such as the use of colored overlays and colored paper as well as tracking magnifiers that cover up all the words on a page except those that are to be read”.[37] Motor Control

This refers to coordination, movement and balance. Difficulties with motor development itself can be placed on a continuum from mild to severe, and there may be different causes for the difficulties experienced within this continuum.

1.3.2. Cognitive/ Learning Causes

There is considerable evidence that children and adults with dyslexia do not use their cognitive processes efficiently, and this cannot only result in poor memory and slow processing speed but they may also take longer to learn some types of information and skill.

1.3.3. Educational/Environment Learning Experiences

Educational factors that are important include the learning environment and an acknowledgement of the child’s particular learning style. The learning environment means the size of school, class size, type of classroom layout and the quality of the learning experiences provided to the child. According to Reid, there is no right or wrong method in relation to the learning environment as children with dyslexia may have different preferences from each other.[38]

1.4. Different Types of Dyslexia

According to Brock, there is one differentiation made among individuals with dyslexia and it refers to acquired and developmental dyslexia.[39] Acquired involves the situation that occurs after a person has learned how to read. Such dyslexia is usually the result of brain trauma impacting a particular aspect of reading.

Developmental dyslexia, in contrast, refers to reading problems that arise during the development of reading skills. In addition to these two types of dyslexia, there are two primary subtypes of acquired dyslexia, which are distinguished by problems with reading different kinds of words.

As Christo and Brock state: “Surface dyslexia refers to those individuals who are able to decode and read nonsense words accurately, but who read irregularly spelled words incorrectly using learned phonics rules to sound them out (e.g., reading ‘island’ as ‘is land’). The other subtype of acquired dyslexia is phonological dyslexia, which is manifest as the ability to read real words, but an inability to decode nonsense words”.[40]

The word ‘dyslexia’ is, strictly speaking, a general term and refers to two distinct types:

- acquired dyslexia - which is sometimes called alexia
- developmental dyslexia - which is the type we are concerned with in this book, as it applies to children. It is sometimes referred to as congenital dyslexia and at other times as specific developmental dyslexia.[41]

1.4.1. Acquired Dyslexia

This is sometimes called ‘alexia’ and also ‘traumatic dyslexia’ and was first identified more than a century ago. It is a condition found in medical patients (usually adults) and refers to the loss of the ability to read, which had previously been fully developed. This acquired condition results from some form of brain damage and is usually caused by accidents, tumors, strokes, drugs, psychiatric disorders or ageing. As it was mentioned above, the term ‘word-blindness’ was also used to describe this condition.

According to Doyle, there are six subtypes of acquired dyslexia that we can distinguish between.[42] These are consequently: Surface Dyslexia

Surface dyslexics are described as reading silently ‘by ear’, recognizing words by sounds and not by their written appearance. There is nothing wrong with their phonological skills and they are able to read nonsense words.

However, they are likely to be caught out by homophones - similar sounding words, e.g. sail/sale; where/wear; hole/whole.[43] Often, they attempt to read these words phonologically and in doing so turn them into nonsense words (e.g. ‘broad’ read as ‘brode’). They have difficulty in remembering what words look like. Deep Dyslexia

Deep dyslexics are described as being unable to use phonics because they are unable to connect what they see on the page with the sound of the word. Deep dyslexics look at a word and are likely to read it as an entirely different one, but with a related meaning (e.g. ‘city’ could be read as ‘Liverpool’, ‘rose’ read as ‘daffodil’, ‘pixie’ read as ‘gnome’).[44]

Moreover, deep dyslexics cannot read nonsense words (e.g. nate/toge/borm) and deep dyslexia itself is considered to be the most serious subtype of acquired dyslexia because the symptoms suggest that several components of the reading system are damaged, as Doyle assumes.[45] Phonological Dyslexia

Phonological dyslexia is described as being a similar, but less drastic, form of deep dyslexia, involving difficulties with the analysis of sounds as well as the inability to read irregular or nonsense words.

What is striking about phonological dyslexics is that they rely heavily on the visual appearance of a word and tend to make derivational errors, e.g. ‘weigh’ may be read as ‘weight’, ‘wise’ as ‘wisdom’ and ‘camp’ as ‘cape’. A phonological dyslexic cannot analyze a word into its phonological segments and has a tendency to add to, remove from, or change the beginning or end of a word (e.g. ‘thinking’ may be read as ‘think’). Phonological dyslexia has been described as the ‘mirror image’ of surface dyslexia.[46] Direct Dyslexia

According to Doyle, direct dyslexia is often called hyperlexia.[47] Those adults affected are accurate in terms of the actual oral skills of reading but show poor comprehension of what they have read.

1.4.2. Developmental Dyslexia

Developmental dyslexia is the type found mostly in children. It is referred to by a variety of names and this tends to produce some confusion. Various researchers have attempted to distinguish subtypes of development al dyslexia. Doyle, in an attempt to systematize the sub-groups of developmental dyslexia, quotes the findings of The 10 editors, writers and researchers whose work describe a number of similarities in developmental dyslexia:

- The Johnson and Mykelbust classification (made in 1967) is divided into two subtypes: visual dyslexics and auditory dyslexics
- The Boder classification (made in 1973) is into three subtypes: dysphonetic dyslexics, dyseidetic dyslexics and mixed dyslexics.


[1] Turner, M., Rack, J., The Study of Dyslexia, (New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.). 2005. p. 42

[2] Smythe, I., Everatt, J., Salter, R., International Book of Dyslexia - A Guide to Practice and Resources. (Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd). 2004. p. 3

[3] Richards, J. C., Schmidt, R. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. (Edinburg, London: Pearson Education Limited). 2002. p. 172

[4] Turner, M., Rack, J., The Study of Dyslexia, (New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.). 2005. p. vii

[5] Doyle, J., Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. (London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers). 2005. p. 82

[6] Malmkjær, K., (ed.), The Linguistics Encyclopedia. (London-New York: Routledge Ltd.). 1995. p. 154

[7] Doyle, J., Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. (London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers). 2005.p. 233

[8] Ibid.

[9] Malmkjær, K., (ed.), The Linguistics Encyclopedia. (London-New York: Routledge Ltd.). 1995. p. 154

[10] Doyle, J., Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. (London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers). 2005. p. 234

[11] Turner, M., Rack, J., The Study of Dyslexia, (New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.). 2005. p. 42

[12] Malmkjær, K., (ed.), The Linguistics Encyclopedia. (London-New York: Routledge Ltd.). 1995. p. 154

[13] Doyle, J., Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. (London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers). 2005. p. 234

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid. 153

[17] Ott, P., Teaching Children with Dyslexia. (London-New York: Routlege Ltd.). 2007. p. 3.

[18] Doyle, J., Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. (London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers). 2005. p. 235.

[19] Miles, Tim, Fifty Years In Dyslexia Research. (Chichester, West Sussex: Whurr Publishers Limited). 2006, p. 73.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid. p . 74.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Reid, G., Wearmouth, J. (eds.). Dyslexia And Literacy. Theory and Practice. (Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.) 2002. p. 34

[24] Ibid.

[25] Malmkjær, K., (ed.), 1995. The Linguistics Encyclopedia. London-New York: Routledge Ltd., p. 155

[26] Turner, M., Rack, J., 2005. The Study of Dyslexia, New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. p. 141

[27] Ibid.

[28] Turner, M., Rack, J., 2005. The Study of Dyslexia, New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. p. 91

[29] Reid, Gavin, Wearmouth, Janice (eds.). Dyslexia And Literacy. Theory and Practice. (Chichester,

West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.) 2002. p. 91

[30] Ibid. p. 34

[31] Ibid. p. 324

[32] Christo, C., Davis, J., Brock, S.E., Identifying, Assessing, and Treating Dyslexia at School (New York: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC). 2009. p. 5

[33] Doyle, J., 2005. Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers. p. 141

[34] Christo, C., Davis, J., Brock, S., Identifying, Assessing, and Treating Dyslexia at School. (New York: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC). 2009. pp. 23-24

[35] Reid, G., Dyslexia-A Complete Guide for Parents. (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.). 2005. p. 9

[36] Ibid. p. 10

[37] Ibid. p. 11

[38] Ibid. p. 15

[39] Christo, C., Davis, J., Brock, S.E., Identifying, Assessing, and Treating Dyslexia at School (New York: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC). 2009. p. 9

[40] Ibid.

[41] Doyle, J., 2005. Dyslexia. An Introduction Guide. London-Philadelphia: Whurr Publishers. p. 93

[42] Ibid. p. 87

[43] Ibid. p. 88

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid. p. 89

Excerpt out of 89 pages


Teaching English to Children with Dyslexia
Dyslexia Research
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dyslexia, English, teaching, research, problems, help, diagnosis, testing
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MA Marta Zapała-Kraj (Author), 2009, Teaching English to Children with Dyslexia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/275846


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