Dyslexia - the problem of proper reading

Term Paper, 2006

30 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 Introduction

2 Relevance

3 Overview on reading and the disorder of ‘dyslexia’

4 Basic data for my analysis

5 Method of analysis

6 General information about the students and the test circumstances
a Proband 1 – Christian S.
b Proband 2 – Martin Z.

7 The reading passage
a Proband 1 – Christian S.
b Proband 2 – Martin Z.

8 Working on the text
a Proband 1 – Christian S.
b Proband 2 – Martin Z.

9 Conclusion

10 Bibliography:

11 Appendix:

1 Introduction

Reading is not considered a natural skill but has to be acquired. Many people consider this proficiency ‘world class’ (Nicolson/Fawcett, 2001: 146). However, a lot of people have problems with acquiring this skill due to several difficulties, mostly subsumed under the term of ‘dyslexia’.

Developmental dyslexia is seen as the most common developmental disorder in Western school populations and affects four times as many boys as girls (Fawcett, 2002: 265). Originally, the term ‘dyslexia’ referred solely to an impairment in the processing of written language, as defined by the World Federation of Neurology in 1968: “a disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experience, fail to attain the language skills of reading, writing and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities” (World Federation of Neurology. (1968), Report of research group dyslexia and world illiteracy. Dallas:WFN. p.26).

It was not until the 1970’s that dyslexia has been recognized as a specific learning difficulty. Rutter et al. (1970) and Yule et al. (1974) established specific reading difficulties and contributed to the acceptance of dyslexia. The problems were seen either extrinsic to the child, e.g. to do with society and school teaching, or intrinsic, i.e. within the child, which were to do with intelligence and gross neurological problems. The fact that children of a lower socioeconomic status background had more difficulties in reading and spelling was seen to be the result of factors such as linguistic background, perceptual experience or attitudes from home towards school (Thomson, 2001: 1). By 1989 the International Dyslexia Association provided an expanded and clearer definition that highlights the range of difficulties dyslexic students may experience:

“Specific Learning Difficulties can be defined as organizing or learning deficiencies which restrict the students’ competencies in information processing, in motor skills and working memory, so causing limitations in some or all of the skills of speech, reading, spelling, writing, essay writing, numeracy and behavior.” (Dyslexia, 1989 )

However, this is still a ‘deficit’ definition. Nowadays, dyslexia is seen as an individual difference in learning style.

It is important for teachers to understand the nature of the reading and spelling process, as well as how it develops in children. Surprisingly, there is little of this in teacher training. It is fundamental to look at the processes that are involved in what we are going to teach, not only to provide us with an understanding of what is required but also to examine the areas where some children might find certain skills particularly difficult (ibid: 91). Common features of these skills are: language related components, visual components, need for rapid cognitive processing, for attention, for motor skill and so on. Cognitive theories of learning propose that these are learned skills and that they have no special innate status, are all important school attainments, and all take hundreds of hours to acquire. The key difficulty is that of learning to read (Nicolson/Fawcett, 2001: 142).

In my paper I will focus on the reading abilities of two of my private students who are both dyslexics. I try to find out whether the theoretical features of dyslexia made by researchers can be applied to these students. The aim of this paper is to draw a conclusion on whether the two students have difficulties in reading and how this is reflected in the prepared data.

2 Relevance

Reading is a very important skill everybody needs for daily life. However, for some people it is harder to acquire this feature for several reasons, so-called difficulties in learning, e.g. dyslexia. In order to give support to these, in some way handicapped people, it is necessary to understand the causes and consequences of such learning difficulties. The more research is done the more complete will the picture of this ‘difficulty’ be and can be remediated at an early age in order to protect children from none or hard acquisition of this skill.

3 Overview on reading and the disorder of ‘dyslexia’

Written language is essentially a form of representation of ideas. There are indirect and direct ways of assessing an idea that needs to be communicated. In a picture, the representation can be observed directly, the idea is manifest, depending on the observer's world knowledge, semantic memory or cognitive process. In speech, direct representation by auditory input is to be found. This representation is non-durable and open to later interpretation as a result of our relatively weak memory systems. Considering written language, very indirect representation is ostensible; the reader has to make a connection between how the speech is represented and how the reading system actually works (Thomson, 2001: 91).

Frith proposed a model for the phases of reading development, which is quite helpful for the analysis of reading abilities in dyslexics. Reading starts off with the development of spelling skills but it is not until the alphabetical stage that the child starts to recognize new words, generalize and begin to develop implicit knowledge of letter-sound combinations. In the following alphabetical stage, children will start to break down letter sounds into longer units, identify units within words and develop grapheme-phoneme translation route skills. Then they will be able to recognize individual letters in combinations when they are given the appropriate sounds. Researchers implicated that phonemic awareness and phonological skills are required.

Choosing the correct orthography to represent a given sound becomes quite a problem for children with dyslexia. The next stage is the orthographic stage where the recognition of graphemic clusters becomes much more automatic. Also the access to lexical representations, i.e. word dictionaries, by relating to letter sequences augments as well as comparing words analogously. Finally, reading skills develop, i.e. children begin to recognize and internalize common spelling patterns (ibid: 105).

The important implication here is that the phonological coding, short-term memory and phonemic awareness skills are all linked, and that there is a difference between recognition, i.e. reading, and recall, i.e. spelling. Some dyslexic children may not reach the alphabetical stage until they are 13 or 14, a stage that some five and six-year-olds will have reached. Following these decoding skills, we have a storage of sight words and the more contextually meaning oriented aspects of written language, which come at a later stage, namely the development of a mental lexicon or internal dictionary, understanding words and also the development of orthographic skills (ibid: 108).

The dyslexic student fails to read and spell at the level of his intellectual and social group, which is quite unexpected considering his ability. He does not pick up literacy skills ‘naturally’, by the teaching methods that are adequate for the majority of his peers and is rather taxed by the synchronization of skills required for reading and spelling. He is, by definition, hard to teach (Walker, 2000: 93).

The difficulties that are associated with dyslexia can be divided into two types: first, day-to-day organizational problems linked with unreliable memory or organizational skills and, second, ddifficulties associated with the processing of symbols, whether letters or numbers. A lot of dyslexic people will have difficulties with any types of situation that involve memory, sequencing, concepts of time, orientation, left-right confusion, or managing simultaneous activities (Mortimore, 2003: 62). “In reading and writing he or she is struggling with the sequence of the order of the letters of the alphabet, is having problems with distinguishing between the different letter sounds and remembering the letter patterns that can represent them, cannot retain the visual images of words in his or her long-term memory and at best is guessing from the first letter.” (ibid: 66). Dyslexics also show lapses in concentration and tire more easily when they perform a skill.

The main weak features[1] of dyslexia lie in the following areas. The first important weakness concerns attention and listening. The dyslexic has trouble understanding an array of symbols and has difficulty in linking sounds to those symbols correctly. His attention may wander because he receives little reward from his efforts to concentrate (Walker, 2000: 95). For his poor organizational skills, he often gets shouted by teachers or told off for not having the right materials or equipment at any given time. This is due to the weaknesses in short-term memory and therefore the forgetting is inevitable (Thomson, 2001: 4).

The next feature is the phonological awareness that causes problems for the dyslexic student. He is particularly vulnerable to difficulties in phonological processing and short-term memory; used to fuzzy representations of words in his own lexicon so that words which are similar in sound may become confused (“specific” and “pacific” sound the same). This phonemic awareness is not only needed in initial reading, but also when acquiring new, more complex vocabulary (Walker, 2000: 95). However, this phonological skills are teachable (cf. Townend, 2000: 6) and also direct instruction is effective, both as an end in itself and in the improvement of reading and spelling.

The third issue deals with the use of analogy. With poor phonological awareness, the dyslexic learner has very little sense for patterns in words and does not use analogy as a reading or spelling strategy (Walker, 2000: 96). Dyslexic children also may have some problem with grasping the language of time, sequence and number. Word-finding (word retrieval/verbal naming) problems were often reported; the student ‘knows’ the word; he or she has heard it and learned its meaning, but when the student needs it to use in a sentence it is inaccessible. This word retrieval system depends on a reliable phonological storage system, which a dyslexic does not have.


[1] Overview of the features in the appendix, figure 1

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Dyslexia - the problem of proper reading
University of Erfurt  (Philosophische Fakultät)
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Dyslexia, Zweitsprachenerwerb
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Claudia Wipprecht (Author), 2006, Dyslexia - the problem of proper reading, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/75518


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