Since it was first identified in 1881, Dyslexia has become the most common learning disability worldwide, affecting between 3 and 7% of the population. Intelligence is mainly unaffected although it is often associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The first symptoms are usually observed once a child starts school when parents and teachers begin to notice the child’s struggle with reading, writing and spelling, although specialists don’t usually test children for the disorder before the age of 7 years.
As a very young child, symptoms can show as delayed onset of speech and lack of phonological awareness. As the child grows older, other recognisable symptoms include difficulties in understanding verbal instruction, word retrieval and the organisation of basic daily tasks.
On a positive note however, children with dyslexia can be very adept at problem solving and creative thinking and these skills should be developed according to the child’s strength to increase self-confidence.
For severe dyslexics, a specialist school is often the best environment in which children with such a diagnosis will thrive under the trained eye of a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). A SENCo will encourage confidence by allowing the child to work at their own pace in a safe and nurturing space. This is vital as many dyslexic children can suffer from low self-esteem, poor motivation and concentration.
Factors which are thought to cause dyslexia range from genetic to environmental, although Acquired Dyslexia develops specifically as a result of brain injury or a stroke. Diagnosis is usually made through a series of tests by an educational psychologist which include memory, vision, spelling and reading skills.
Treatments vary according to the severity of the dyslexia and may include The Orton-Gillingham approach or Multisensory instruction which are beneficial in helping with the absorption of new information.
In 1877 the common reading and writing symptoms of dyslexia were first identified by German neurologist Adolph Kussmaul who described the condition as ‘complete text blindness.’ It wasn’t until a decade later in 1887 the term ‘Dyslexia’ was first used by German Physician Rudolph Berlin and in 1963 it was eventually recognised as a learning disability.
Many adults today who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s describe their experiences with dyslexia at school as ‘humiliating’ – many felt like a ‘stranger in a foreign land who didn’t fit in with society.’ These negative experiences would largely arise from teachers who had not been taught to recognise dyslexia as a learning difficulty and would tell the children they were ‘stupid’ in front of the class. Thankfully, we have moved on into much more knowledgeable and supportive territory where Dyslexia is now discussed and recognised as a learning disability which requires specific individual management to enable the child to flourish.
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