Dyslexia is a learning difficulty characterised by problems in how a person learns and processes which can cause difficulties with development of expressive or receptive, oral or written language. Dyslexia is not a disease.
The word dyslexia is derived from the Greek ‘dys’ (meaning poor or inadequate) and ‘lexis’ (words or language). Most people think of difficulties of dyslexia as merely a reading problem but in fact, there are many other aspects to dyslexia. Problems may emerge in reading, spelling, writing, speaking or listening.
Dyslexia difficulties can include sequencing problems, problems with organisation and managing time, difficulties in following verbal instructions and spelling problems. Many parents will see their child falling behind in reading, writing, spelling and in some cases, in maths. In the adult population a large number of people also suffer from dyslexia to some degree or another. Often an individual’s performance at school, university or work will not match their intellectual capacity.
Some early signs of dyslexia may include lack of crawling, delayed speech and difficulty learning rhymes.
People with dyslexia will often devise ‘strategies’ to cope with their difficulties. Whilst this allows them to cope on a day-to-day basis, the consequence is often that they are even less able to achieve at the level of their true potential. This will then be perceived as failure, which can lead to loss of confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety and in some cases depression.
We know that dyslexia affects the obvious performance skills such as reading, writing and spelling. How much thought is given to the less visible personal effects such as anxiety, loss of confidence and low self-esteem? The effects of dyslexia can express themselves in:
- Low self-esteem
- Poor self-confidence
- Difficulty listening and concentrating with purpose
- Easily distracted
- Tendency to daydream
- Reluctant to seek help or advice
- Very little communication
- Claiming not to ‘understand’
- Poor organisation skills
Dyslexia occurs irrespective of intelligence or background and more often in males. It is often hereditary and there is usually an auditory component such as sound confusion or hypersensitive hearing present, causing distortions in the information transmitted to the brain, which prevents the individual from perceiving and processing information in the normal way.
Poor phonological awareness is a common weakness in those with dyslexia leading to difficulty in identifying, matching, blending, segmenting, substituting, and deleting sounds. Bérard Auditory Integration Training (AIT) helps improve auditory processing, improve phonological awareness and reduce many of the problems associated with dyslexia.
Is Dyslexia a disability?
Dyslexia is recognised as a disability in the Disability Discrimination Act, which defines disability as ‘A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities’. However, the severity varies from one individual to another. For some, long term support is required with strategies to enable them to carry out day to day tasks. For others, the symptoms are less severe.
Although the symptoms of dyslexia are often viewed as limiting, many dyslexics are able to overcome some or most of their difficulties and achieve success in their chosen field when provided with the right intervention and support.
Some people do not regard their dyslexia as a disability at all because the dyslexic difficulties are often accompanied by other gifts, talents and outlook on life that enable them to succeed in other areas.
The most common form of help is skilled specialist teaching using multi-sensory, structured techniques, however most dyslexic children and adults have difficulty with sorting out the relationships between the sounds in words, the way they are written, and with remembering the sequences of letters in words or words in sentences.
It is thought that diagnosis auditory processing difficulties play an important role and may be an underlying cause in dyslexia for many people. For this reason sound therapy such as Bérard Auditory Integration Training (AIT) is often very useful as an intervention that enables individuals to improve auditory processing, to actually reduce the symptoms of dyslexia and thus benefit more from other specialist help they may receive.