Dyslexia. Symptoms, Causes and effective Treatment in the early EFL- Classroom

Term Paper, 2017
19 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Phonological Awareness

3. The Reading Process: Dual- Route- Model

4. Symptoms of Dyslexia

5. Causes of Dyslexia

6. Treatment Approach: Training Program Hören, Lauschen, Lernen

7. Dyslexic Children in the EFL- Classroom: General Principles

8. Practice- Oriented Activities for Dyslexic Children in the EFL- Classroom
8.1 Training Pronunciation
8.2 Training Vocabulary
8.3 Training Listening and Listening Comprehension
8.4 Training Reading and Reading Comprehension

9. Discussion

10. Conclusion

11. References


Especially in the context of inclusion, teachers might be confronted with a heterogeneous student body. This means that students may have different levels of education and bring distinctive preconditions into school.

It may also be the case that some children are suffering from one of the most frequent developmental disorder: dyslexia.

This phenomenon hampers the successful literacy acquisition primarily due to neurobiological maldevelopment and may have a significant impact on the children’s academic evolution and their future life opportunities.

Disregarding this disorder or improper handling would lead to future deficits in reading and understanding written material as well as issues with correct spelling and writing. Also, the successful learning of a foreign language such as English would nearly be impossible as the neurobiological deficits prevent the child from processing language properly.

But because English is embedded in most of the school curriculums in Germany, the dyslexic child needs to be equipped with necessary prerequisites for learning languages.

For this reason, early intervention needs to be implemented. Various (pre-) school training programs are particularly useful for approaching written language. Once the child has internalized necessary language structures in their mother tongue, the way for learning another language is paved.

Methods teachers use in their EFL- classroom significantly influence the learning outcome of the (dyslexic) students. Therefore, respective teachers should intensively familiarize themselves with the dyslexia disorder.

1. Introduction

This term-paper refers to German students suffering from dyslexia and aims at providing possibilities to optimally support them with learning English.

As phonological awareness is a fundamental factor for the development of successful reading skill acquisition, this term will be specified more detailed initially. To get a better insight into dyslexia and to create a comprehension for the difficulties and its effects on affected children, characteristics of the actual reading process and typical dyslexic symptoms will be highlighted in greater detail afterwards. In addition to that possible causes will be explained.

The subsequent chapters all contain practical ideas which can be implemented in the classroom. Initially, it will be referred to one successfully tried and tested concept preparing children for literacy acquisition. Inspired by this program, some of its ideas will be taken up for the school setting. Also, additional applicable methods for the foreign language classes will be added.

Finally, a discussion and conclusion complete this term-paper.

2. Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness can be defined as the ability to understand that words are consisting of a variety of sound units and the ability to focus on these sound units rather than on the meaning of the written material. These units can, on the one hand, be syllables, which in turn consist of an onset and a rime. On the other hand, these units can be segmented into phonemes.

If a person wants to become a competent reader, he[1] has to have a number of sound related skills. These skills encompass e.g. to detect and manipulate sounds within speech. More specifically, a strong phonological awareness allows the children to identify, analyse, discriminate, and manipulate sounds in either sentences or words, syllables and phonemes (cf. K12 Reader, 2016).

It has to be mentioned that this meta-cognitive skill is an important determiner of the successful development of the child’s reading ability. Keeping this in mind, it makes sense that if a child is incapable of discriminating or identifying specific sounds, combining graphemes with the corresponding sounds, or spelling words the right way, reading (comprehension) is almost impossible.

It is important to know that interventions aiming at the improvement of phonological awareness have significant effects on the reading ability. Thus, if any kind of issues regarding phonological awareness occurs, it should be trained and improved with the help of experts (e.g. teachers, speech therapists).

Therefore, it is crucial that teachers are able to provide a training which is explicitly targeted at phonological awareness (cf. Parkinson, 2017).

However, it has to be discussed how teachers in school can support and train the children’s phonological awareness during school lessons. This is described more precisely later.

3. The Reading Process : Dual- Route- Model

In order to create an understanding for an unaffected reading process, the Dual-Route- Model of reading will be described in the following section.

To read and understand written language, visual symbols have to be converted into spoken language. In other words, printed letters, so called graphemes, should be turned into sounds.

According to Coltheard et al. (2001), reading can be defined as a process in which two major routes can be involved. Both routes lead to the phonological output (reading), through a series of stages. At best, reading written material results in comprehension.

Every reading process starts with detecting and analysing a visual feature. If the reader (unconsciously) concludes that the visual input is unfamiliar, he will read through the Nonlexical Route (see Fig. 1). This route implies that every letter will be analysed by considering the Grapheme-Phoneme- Correspondance[2] (GPC). The phoneme which is associated with the printed grapheme thereupon gets finally articulated. Thus, even pseudo words could be read with this strategy, which accordingly means that comprehending the words is of secondary importance (cf. Coltheard et. al., 2001, 152; Mayer, 2016, 28).

It should be noted, however, that letters which shouldn’t be pronounced are more likely to be articulated by using this route. Also, the way of pronouncing could differentiate from regular pronunciation.

To initially pronounce words correctly and to activate the Lexical Route (see Fig. 1) the reader needs to have knowledge about the word so that the meaning gets activated as soon as its spelling is grasped. Having a connection between the orthographic form and an actual picture of the respective term in mind, a link to the Phonological Lexicon (see Fig. 1) can be created and phonological information can be retrieved so that the reader knows how to articulate the word.

Consequently, this route can only be activated when the visual material is familiar and its written and spoken form is stored in the reader's mental lexicon.

Storage of orthographic and phonological information, as well as the meaning of a word, can be achieved by dealing with these words repeatedly.

Main advantages of this route are that by perceiving the words as a whole, the reader spends little time in actually reading the words and gets fluent. Furthermore, working memory capacities are released so that reading comprehension of a sentence or text gets easier.

Accordingly, it can be said that both routes are one possibility of activating the meaning of the reading material, whereas by using the Lexical Route bigger letter units (syllables, morphemes or whole words ) can be grasped holistically and reading gets more fluent (cf. Coltheard, 2001; Mayer, 2016, 27ff.).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 1: Dual-Route-Model[3]

4. Symptoms of Dyslexia

Characteristically, despite normal intelligence, unaffected cognitive skills, and an appropriate teaching, dyslexic children may show deficits in specific language skills such as reading and pronouncing words, spelling and writing.

More precisely, children suffering from dyslexia can have weaknesses in e.g. recognising sounds in words, arranging the sounds and the letters in the correct order, keeping the right line when reading or having issues in fluent reading or pronouncing multi-syllabic words. All these characteristics lead to an impaired reading comprehension, which means that content-related questions couldn’t be answered appropriately. Logically, drawing connections or conclusions of sentences or texts is almost impossible for these children.

With respect to spelling, typical difficulties that may occur are for example remembering spelling rules, making phonological errors or confusing letters with similar sounds such as s and z.

Due to writing skills, dyslexic children are more likely to have an inconsistent writing style and an irregular use of capital and small letters as well as a slow writing speed and reluctance to write (cf. Reid, 2008, 9; Mayer, 2016, 48).

According to Coltheard (2001), three different types of dyslexia can be diagnosed. When the reader is affected by the so called surface dyslexia he is able to apply the principle of the Lexical Route (see Fig. 1). This means, once they have internalized the GPC, they can read nearly every word (even character sequences they haven’t read before). However, this implies that word meanings aren’t always familiar and reading speed can be slow. Even though dyslexic children take more time to internalize the Lexical Route in comparison to unaffected children, they exhibit similar reading accuracy skills.

What seems to be the basic problem is that children with surface dyslexia are largely unable to overcome this route. This indicates that although they have read the same word numerous times, they keep on reading it letter by letter. Thus, they are unable to recognize same words automatically only by looking at the sequence of letters. This, in turn, impairs reading speed and affects reading comprehension.

Also, studies conducted in this area revealed that automatic reading processes are strongly influenced by the rate of word recognition. Accordingly, having a naming-speed-deficit leads to problems with automatic retrieval of phonological information. In other words: Dyslexic children demonstrably have a slower reading rate compared to unaffected children (cf. Mayer, 2013, 59ff..; Mayer, 2016, 28ff.; Coltheard, 2001, 204ff.).

Another type of dyslexia, which occurs with up to 80 % of dyslexic children is the so called phonological dyslexia, which is manifested through deficits in acquiring the Nonlexical Route (see Fig. 1) . More specifically, affected readers show issues in their phonological awareness. Thus, tasks in which they should identify, discriminate or manipulate sounds, would usually not be feasible (cf. Nessy Learning Ltd., 2017; Coltheard, 2001, 204ff.).

In this context, Wolf and Bowers (1999) developed the Double Deficit Hypothesis, which suggests that children can also be affected by phonological dyslexia combined with a rapid naming deficit. According to this type, children have difficulties with their phonological awareness and also a poor speed rate when naming letters or numbers. In the view of the authors, this version of dyslexia involves the most severe reading impairment as it prevents the child from recognizing words quickly and effortlessly. Also, because the majority of the reader’s cognitive capacity is used for decoding the written material, the readers will most likely fail to understand (cf. Bowers & Wolf, 1991, 77ff.).

5. Causes of Dyslexia

As Reid (2009) points out there is no clear and universally accepted explanation of what exactly constitutes dyslexia (cf. 13). However, as twin studies have revealed, genetic conditions have an essential influence on the emergence. Thus, children whose parents are affected are at greater risk to also develop this impairment. The reason is that they inherit certain genes which are responsible for an impaired literacy acquisition.

What most experts have in common is the opinion that the way in which the brain of a dyslexic person processes information is different from the processing of an unaffected person.

For instance, a neurobiological deficit which causes problems in processing phonological information can be regarded as a factor which interferes the unimpaired literacy acquisition. As graphemes and their corresponding phonemes couldn’t be stored in mind sufficiently, their retrieval becomes more difficult. Though, this process can be regarded as a substantial prerequisite for learning how to read and write.

Based on experiences, some authors also assume that dyslexic children have deficits in their auditory processing. As they have issues in distinguishing sounds the right way their phonological awareness, which is related to differentiating and remembering sounds and identifying them in words, cannot be adequately developed.

Also, a problem in the visual perception could be a reason for dyslexia because printed material cannot be recognized good enough. This means that while reading words may become blurred and/or merge so that omissions can occur.

However, it is assumed that auditory and visual difficulties are caused by abnormal magnocellular development and that dyslexia does not result from vision or hearing problems but from the impairment in the brain's processing ability (cf. Perlstein, 2015; Reid, 2009, 13).

As a result, it can be stated that causes of dyslexia are neither universal applicable nor clearly definable. Rather, it is a multifactorial disorder with different personal manifestations and multiple possible causes which mutually influence each other. Furthermore, it should be noted that the degree of dyslexia can differ individually and can also depend on the age of the child. Here, because one or two of the mentioned symptoms can be observed doesn’t necessarily mean that the child has dyslexia, but if various signs can be recognized, a diagnostic test should be considered.

It needs to be emphasised that dyslexia never results from a low intelligence, lack of motivation or bad parenting (cf. Reid, 2006, 8).


[1] In the whole [...] text the masculine form is used for both genders in order to facilitate readability.

[2] the relationship between sounds and the letters which represent those sounds; also known as 'letter-sound correspondences' (National Literacy Trust, 2017)

[3] http://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S001002770700251X-gr1.jpg

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Dyslexia. Symptoms, Causes and effective Treatment in the early EFL- Classroom
University of Cologne
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Anonymous, 2017, Dyslexia. Symptoms, Causes and effective Treatment in the early EFL- Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/429740


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