Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects reading, writing, and language processing. While there is a common understanding of dyslexia, some experts categorise it into different types, based on the specific challenges faced by those with this condition. However, it's important to note that these distinctions might not be universally agreed upon, and some researchers prefer a more unified view of dyslexia.
In this article, we’ll explore the different types of dyslexia, as well as provide some insight into how students can manage this condition.
Is Dyslexia a Disability?
Yes, dyslexia is generally considered a learning disability. The condition is believed to have a genetic basis and is thought to be related to differences in brain structure and function. It affects the way the brain processes phonological information, which involves understanding the sounds of spoken language and connecting them to written symbols.
While this neurological condition does affect a student’s ability to acquire and process language, this does not mean that the student lacks intelligence.
Many individuals with dyslexia are highly intelligent and have unique strengths in areas other than reading and writing. With the right interventions, strategies, and support, students with dyslexia can learn to navigate their challenges and achieve academic and personal success.
How to Diagnose Dyslexia
There are a multitude of characteristics that are indicative of dyslexia. However, if you as a parent suspect that your child has this condition, you should consult an educational psychologist who can properly diagnose it.
Some of the characteristics of dyslexia can include the following.
- Difficulty with phonological awareness: those with dyslexia might struggle to identify and manipulate the individual sounds within words, such as rhyming, segmenting, and blending sounds.
- Reading challenges: dyslexic children often have difficulty decoding words, recognising sight words, and achieving reading fluency. This can impact reading comprehension and the ability to understand written text.
- Spelling difficulties: spelling can be challenging for those with dyslexia due to their difficulty in connecting sounds to corresponding letters or letter combinations.
- Writing challenges: expressing thoughts in writing might be difficult, as children with dyslexia can struggle with organising their ideas, using proper grammar, and spelling accurately.
- Slow reading speed: children with dyslexia might read more slowly and struggle to keep up with peers in terms of reading speed.
- Word reversals and substitutions: reversing or substituting letters, numbers, or words while reading or writing is common in dyslexia.
- Difficulty with directional awareness: spatial orientation and left-right confusion can be challenging for some children with dyslexia.
It’s important to note that dyslexia varies in its severity; some individuals might experience mild difficulties, while others might face more significant challenges. Therefore, the above is not a finite list, but simply a jumping off point to a proper diagnosis.
Types of Dyslexia
As previously mentioned, there are many different types of dyslexia, each with its unique challenges and characteristics.
This is the most common type of dyslexia. Those with phonological dyslexia struggle with phonological processing, which involves recognising and manipulating the sounds of spoken language. They may have difficulty connecting letters to their corresponding sounds (phonemes) and, thus, encounter challenges in decoding words and spelling.
Those with surface dyslexia have difficulty recognising irregularly spelt words by sight. They might rely heavily on phonetic decoding, struggling with words that don't follow regular phonetic patterns. This can lead to errors when reading words with irregular spellings, even if their phonetic skills are strong.
This type of dyslexia is associated with visual processing difficulties. Therefore, those with visual dyslexia might struggle with accurately perceiving and distinguishing between letters, words, or in extreme cases, entire lines of text. They might experience ‘visual crowding’, where letters seem to blend together.
Rapid Naming Deficit Dyslexia
In this type of dyslexia, individuals have trouble quickly and accurately retrieving the names of familiar objects or colours. This can affect their reading speed and fluency because they also typically struggle with word recognition.
Double Deficit Dyslexia
This type of dyslexia involves difficulties in both phonological processing and rapid naming. Individuals with double deficit dyslexia face challenges in both decoding words and reading fluently.
Deep dyslexia is a more complex condition that is characterised by semantic errors in reading. It’s typical for those with deep dyslexia to substitute words with similar meanings and often have difficulty recognising function words (like ‘the’ or ‘and’).
This type often occurs as a result of brain injury and is less common than other types of dyslexia.
Attentional dyslexia is a specific type of dyslexia that revolves around challenges in directing and sustaining attention on the individual letters that constitute a word during the reading process.
In individuals with attentional dyslexia, the act of focusing on the sequence of letters within words can be particularly challenging, leading to various reading difficulties.
This type of dyslexia involves challenges in processing auditory information. This is particularly visible when those with this condition try to distinguish between and manipulate speech sounds. Therefore, those with auditory dyslexia might have difficulty understanding the sounds that make up words.
Adapting to and Managing Dyslexia
Adapting to and managing dyslexia involves a combination of strategies, techniques, and support systems that can help individuals overcome the challenges associated with the condition. Here are some approaches that can be effective:
- Educational support: if their children are not coping with their current educational journey, it’s advisable for parents to seek out specialised education programmes that are tailored to individuals with dyslexia. These programmes often focus on phonics, decoding, and reading comprehension skills. It can also be useful to work with teachers and educational professionals to develop an individualised education plan that outlines specific accommodations and support needed in the classroom.
- Multi-sensory learning: it’ll be helpful to engage in multi-sensory teaching methods that combine visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning experiences. This can reinforce memory and understanding of concepts.
- Assistive technology: try to utilise assistive technologies such as text-to-speech software, speech-to-text tools, and dyslexia-friendly fonts that can make reading and writing more accessible.
- Phonological awareness training: dyslexic children can benefit from participating in structured phonological awareness training that focuses on recognising and manipulating the sounds of language, which will improve decoding skills.
- Reading aloud: it’s important to practise reading aloud to improve fluency, comprehension, and pronunciation. This can also help these children to catch and correct errors as they read.
- Breaking tasks into smaller steps: as these challenges can be overwhelming, it’ll be helpful to break down reading and writing tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Focus on one task at a time to reduce feelings of intimidation.
- Visual aids and colour coding: it’ll be beneficial to utilise colour coding, highlighters, and visual aids to emphasise key information and organise thoughts.
- Practice and repetition: consistent practice and repetition of reading and writing exercises can help reinforce skills over time. This will also help to build confidence in a child’s ability to succeed.
- Build vocabulary: it’s important for dyslexic children to expand their vocabulary. They can do this by engaging in regular reading and exposure to new words. Contextual learning can also help improve their word recognition.
- Self-advocacy: it’s essential to teach dyslexic children to advocate for themselves by explaining their needs and seeking support when necessary. This will help them to more easily overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
- Mindfulness and stress management: struggling with dyslexia can often be stressful, as these children feel as if they can’t keep up with their peers. It can, therefore, be beneficial for them to learn relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices to manage anxiety or frustration that may arise from the challenges they face.
- Positive mindset and self-esteem: it’s advisable for parents to encourage a positive attitude and self-esteem. We suggest focusing on strengths and achievements rather than dwelling on challenges. This will help these children stay focused on their goals.
If a child is struggling with dyslexia, it’s advisable to seek the help of an educational psychologist as they’ll be able to offer insight into which management techniques would be best suited to the child. They’ll also be able to recommend the best school and potentially tutors who specialise in helping those with dyslexia.