Why Dyslexic Children Struggle to Read

Written by David Morgan, a Clonlara School guest blogger affiliated with Easyread.com (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

It is estimated that up to 10% of the general population struggles with dyslexia. Some studies call that a conservative estimate, with many more people struggling to read and spell.

What’s going on in the brain that causes this difficulty?

First we have to understand what we mean by dyslexia. Dyslexia is a term that defines a type of brain. The dyslexic brain has a combination of strengths and weaknesses, just like a conventional brain. This specific brain type often gives the dyslexic great visual-spatial abilities, but also tends to lead towards reading and spelling difficulty.

The neurology of the reading process can reveal areas of weakness for dyslexics. By understanding the neurological processes at work, it is easier to find a solution to the difficulties, even for severe dyslexics.

There are seven main causes of reading and spelling difficulty that we have found to date. If you or someone you know is dyslexic, see if any of them match up with what you experience:

Optilexia – The main sign of Optilexia is guessing when reading, particularly with the short words. Sometimes the longer words seem easier and the reader will read a word without a problem on one page, but not the next. It can be very frustrating! Spelling in free writing is atrocious, but the Optilexic can usually perform well on a spelling test. Unfamiliar words and place names will feel very difficult. The underlying cause of Optilexia can be found in how the learner is processing the text visually rather than aurally. Once that has been switched, a steady rate of progress can be gained.

Eye-Tracking Weakness – If there is an eye-tracking weakness, the reader will skip words and lines. Reading single words on flash cards will seem easier than a page of text. Reading accuracy can vary substantially based on levels of fatigue. This is all caused by a neurological weakness in the functioning of the cerebellum in the brain. There are many feedback loops in operation as you focus your eyes on a spot and move them from point to point. This movement is critical for the reading process, and if it is weak then struggle is inevitable. It can usually be fixed in a week or two with the right exercise.

Irlen Syndrome – Irlen Syndrome exhibits as difficulty reading anything less than very large fonts, words “moving around”, sensitivity to bright sunlight and fluorescent lights and headaches when reading. Helen Irlen discovered this pattern in the 1980s. It is caused by sensitivity to the black-on-white contrast of most pages of text. The right tinted overlay or lenses can normally repair this.

Stress Spirals – With a lot of children especially – though adults struggle as well – frustration rises when deciphering thorny English spelling. The stress in and of itself can lead to a worsening performance and more stress, in a spiral that ends in a tantrum or an unresponsive sullen silence. Those are both natural neurological responses to rising adrenaline and cortisol levels in the blood. Changing this entails making the reading experience more structured, contained and most of all… fun!

Short-Term Memory Weakness – This cause is pronounced when a reader really struggles to decode longer words and cannot follow the meaning of a sentence. If short-term memory capacity is low, the whole decoding process can feel impossible. The solution is to make the decoding process easier by breaking down sentences into parts and providing clues. Eventually, practice results in the reading process moving into the subconscious automatic or “procedural” memory.

Attention Deficit –If a learner is struggling to focus mental energy on a task, learning to read becomes far harder. You may have noticed, however, that people with low attention spans can focus when they are interested in something. So the solution is to make reading more interesting! Finding fun reading material through games and jokes goes a long way.

Fluency Block – Occasionally you will see a learner decoding more accurately and quickly over time, but never learning to read fluently. This is because there is a very specific bit of cortex that must be engaged in the process to make it automatic. Any pattern recognition game will help shift this.

Perhaps you or someone you know shows one or more of these patterns. If you want to see more information on any of the above, then please visit:  www.easyreadsystem.com

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4 responses to “Why Dyslexic Children Struggle to Read

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