Critical Thinking Thesis: Learning Disabilities, specifically dyslexia
This topic interests me because I am familiar with people who suffer from learning disabilities. This made me want to explore in detail, the learning disability called dyslexia. I have a younger sibling who has not yet been definitively diagnosed with a learning disability however, specialists say that he has a 25% delay. I also have a nephew that was diagnosed with autism. This is why studying about learning challenges and disabilities interests me. Dyslexia is a very known learning disability but not many people know how it is diagnosed, or the extent of the challenges that someone with dyslexia may face. In this paper, I will describe what dyslexia is, by providing a specified definition and I will be differentiating between the different forms to provide additional knowledge of the disability. I will also analyze the variety of tests that Psychologists use to diagnose dyslexia and I will explore dyslexia through the lens of another country to compare the norms and understanding of this learning disability to the U.S.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects skills such as language, reading, and comprehension. According to Hudson and colleagues, “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neuro-biological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.” (Hudson et al., 2007).
People with dyslexia often has differences in the way that their brains are structured. Which in turn may affect their reading skills, phonological skills, and overall language abilities. Some of the differences in brain structure include:
“people with dyslexia have less gray matter in the left parietotemporal area (Area A in Figure 2) than non-dyslexic individuals. Having less gray matter in this region of the brain could lead to problems processing the sound structure of language (phonological awareness). Many people with dyslexia also have less white matter in this same area than average readers, which is important because more white matter is correlated with increased reading skills (Deutsch, Dougherty, Bammer, Siok, Gabrieli, & Wandell, 2005). Having less white matter could lessen the ability or efficiency of the regions of the brain to communicate with one another. (Hudson et al., 2007)”
These differences in brain structure cause people with dyslexia to face difficulties, especially in areas that require reading.
Psychologists use an array of tests to help them definitively diagnose someone with a learning disability. In this case, for dyslexia, they examine areas such as oral and written language, reading, achievement, intelligence, articulation, social skills, and motor skills. Testing in all of these areas helps provide specialists with thorough knowledge of capacities where dyslexic people may be suffering in. Depending on the age of the person, specialists may use different tests to diagnose them. As given by the University of Michigan, separated by age groups, some examples of these tests are:
For ages 0-5 years old some of tests are:
- Assessing Linguistic Behaviors Communication Intentions Scale- known as ALB is a test that examines language development, cognitive, and social skills
- Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing- a test that examines the processing skills of a child and their phonological skills (Reading)
- Wechsler-Individual Achievement Test- a test that examines achievements in mathematics, oral & written language, and reading (Achievement)
- Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales- a test that is taken by a child’s caregiver to examine their skills used in day-to-day situations (Social)
For ages 6-8 years old some of the tests are:
- Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals- a test that examines difficulties in language (Oral and Written Language)
- Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing- a test that examines processing skills of a child and their phonological skills (Reading)
- Woodcock Johnson-III Tests of Achievement- a test that examines achievement in language, mathematics, and reading (Achievement)
- McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities- a test that examines a child’s intelligence in areas such as memory, cognitive abilities, verbal skills, etc. (Intelligence)
For ages 9-11 years old some tests are:
- Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test- measures vocabulary- a test that examines how a child’s vocabulary is developing by have having them analyze photographs (Oral and Written Language)
- Arizona Articulation Proficiency Scale- a test that examines how well children pronounce and articulate vowels and consonants (Articulation)
- Test of Problem Solving- a test that examines how a child goes through their reasoning process (Social)
- The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration- is a test that examines how well a child’s motor and visual abilities correspond (Motor Skills)
For ages 12-14 years old some tests are:
- Receptive One-Word Vocabulary Test- is a test that examines how a child equates concepts and objects to a name (Oral and Written Language)
- Gray Oral Reading Tests- is a test that examines aspects of reading (comprehension & fluency) (Reading)
- Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation- a test that examines how well children pronounce and articulate vowels and consonants for each word position (Articulation)
- The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration- is a test that examines how well a child’s motor and visual abilities correspond (Motor Skills)
For ages 14-18 years old some tests are:
- Test of Auditory Processing Skills- is a test that examines how a person reacts once they hear a sound (Oral and Written Language)
- Qualitative Reading Inventory- is a test that examines how well a person reads on a high school level (Reading)
- Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children- is a test that examines the cognitive skills and how a pprocessesrocess information (Intelligence)
- Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale- a test that is taken by a child’s caregiver to examine their social abilities used in day-to-day situations (Social)
For ages 18-25 years old some tests are:
- Oral and Written Language Scale: Written Expression- is a test that examines areas such as spelling, listening comprehension, handwriting, etc. (Written and Oral Language)
- Wechsler Individual Achievement Test- a test that examines achievements in mathematics, oral & written language, and reading, etc. (Achievement)
- Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities- is a test that examines achievements in areas such as cognitive skills, processing sk, and visual-spatial thinking, etc. (Intelligence)
- Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales- a test that is taken by a child’s caregiver to examine their social abilities used in day-to-day situations (Social)
These examples are not inclusive of all of the forms of tests that are available to help diagnose people with dyslexia and learning disabilities, these are only a select few. There are many more tests that professionals could use to diagnose someone depending on what the areas that they need to examine.
Many people assume that dyslexia is just a condition that is limited to seeing letters backward. However, many people are unaware that there are several forms of dyslexia. Depending on the type, dyslexic people may be affected in different and various ways. Some of the different forms of dyslexia include:
- Phonological Dyslexia- difficulties in forming single sounds from larger words
- Surface Dyslexia- requires people to take more time during the processing period.
- Visual Dyslexia- Difficulty connecting what image the brain receives compared to what the eyes see. Difficulty with visual processing, spelling, etc.
- Primary Dyslexia- dyslexia is the outcome of genetics receive from parents most likely
- Secondary/Developmental Dyslexia- brain development problems that can lead to neurological damage
- Trauma Dyslexia/Acquired Dyslexia- Trauma or disease that causes a brain injury that leads to difficulties in language processing
Dyslexia is a complex learning disability that not only involves difficulties with reading. There are so many factors as those listed above, that can make it challenging to learn with this disability.
With this background information explaining what dyslexia is, how it is diagnosed, and the different types of the disability. I will explore how this learning disability is observed by teachers in Kuwait. This will provide a point of comparison for how dyslexia is viewed in the United States versus other countries. There was a study conducted on teachers of primary school in Kuwait to assess their understanding of dyslexia. Researchers wanted to see if teachers in Kuwait could recognize the early signs and symptoms of the disability and to analyze how prepared they are to help students that have dyslexia. 75 primary school teachers were given a survey that included questions of their demographic such as gender, degree held, experience with teaching, and nationality. This survey also asked questions to analyze their knowledge of dyslexia, how much experience they’ve had with the disability, how equipped they are to handle students that have it, and if they can recognize some early signs and symptoms of the disability. Results of this investigation showed that of the primary school teachers in Kuwait that were surveyed, they were not equipped to teach a student with dyslexia, showing that teachers did very little research on dyslexia or they held very little knowledge of the disability and how it could affect their students. “13.3% of teachers never attended a workshop on dyslexia and 21.9% of them never only attended one workshop held by the Kuwaiti Dyslexia Society.” This means that teachers in Kuwait do not have much training on how to aid students with dyslexia. Kuwaiti primary school teachers also could not recognize the early signs and symptoms of the disability. “Only 6.9% of the teachers that were tested held a lot of know about dyslexia and only 14% held a satisfactory level of knowledge regarding the disability.” (Aladwani & Shaye, 2012) This study concluded that teachers were unable to diagnose, recognize, and to help treat students that have dyslexia in Kuwait. It is important to compare dyslexia within global areas because it shows how in America, learning disabilities have become a very well-known idea and children are frequently diagnosed with them, compared to Kuwait, where teachers are not even prepared to help students with the disability progress in school. From this study, one can gather that learning disabilities are not as usual and common in other areas as they are in America. While it may be a problem that students face, it is not relevant to the education of teachers.
From a philosophical perspective, people with learning disabilities are often enabled regarding academics and this causes them to face issues with thinking independently for themselves and critically. The philosophers of difference which is a group of French philosophers is comprised of Foucault, Derrida, Guattari, and Deleuze. They believe that people affected with learning disabilities should be using different ways of thinking and theories such as transgression and the rhizome to promote independence and individualized thinking for people that have learning disabilities. Transgression describes thinking that challenges limitations and constrictions. Foucault believed that transgression will encourage people with learning disabilities to “shape their own identities by subverting the norms that compel them to repeatedly perform as marginal.” (Allan, 2011) This will allow them to focus more on themselves and go through life guided by their own ways of thinking and avoid them from feeling enabled and controlled by others. Deleuze and Guattari explained a theory called the rhizome which describes how learning should not have a distinct foundation or connectivity to other ideas in order to master a topic. They describe how binarism causes people who has trouble memorizing information and repeating or regurgitating facts to fall behind in the education system. Breaking the idea of binarism in education allows people to create new practices of knowledge without the necessity of building upon an already existing knowledge. Deconstruction is the idea of how we can critically think about and interpret readings and texts. It states that we should not only focus on the main interpretation of a text, but we should find other discourses that are important to the reading outside of the obvious interpretation. Deconstruction will help people who have learning disabilities with undecidability and subjectivity. It will allow them to provide more information about this marginalized group of people. It lets people to understand learning disabilities from a different perspective.
While taking in the suggested theories from philosophers, some treatments of dyslexia include both physical and occupational therapy if they are having difficulties with motor skills and abilities. Speech therapist are a good tool to help them if they have language difficulties. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good treatment plan for people suffering from dyslexia will include “The critical elements for effective intervention include individualization, feedback and guidance, ongoing assessment, and regular ongoing practice.” (Handler, 2011) One-on-one instruction by a professional trained to assist students with dyslexia is also a good treatment option. This allows students to practice and become more exposed to language and phonological difficulties that they may be facing and be able to work through them with someone who will work on their educational weaknesses with them.
In summation, dyslexia is a complex learning disability that entails many issues such as phonological disorders, reading, spelling, comprehension, information processing time, etc. Due to the numerous forms of tests that can be utilized by professionals and psychologists, I think that it is not as difficult to diagnose someone with learning disabilities and dyslexia in today’s time. I believe that it’s important to study issues such as learning disabilities because it can impact someone’s ability to learn and may make it challenging for them. Philosophers believe that educators may be supporting and enabling students with a learning disability in a way that does not encourage their individuality and freedom to think how and as they want to. By applying the recommended theories of the philosophers to educating people with learning disabilities, it could make learning more fulfilling for them and make them feel as if they are in control of their education. It could also allow them to practice and exercise skills and abilities that may be affected by the learning disability. From writing this paper, I learned that the United States is much more aware, familiar, and well informed about all the things concerning learning disabilities such as diagnosing, having, and treating them. Here, a disability such as dyslexia is not uncommon for a teacher to see in an education setting. There is no cure for this disability but there are some treatments that can help people progress and make reading and language less difficult.
Works Cited Page
- Aladwani, Amel M., and Shaye S. Al Shaye. “Primary School Teachers’ Knowledge and Awareness of Dyslexia in Kuwaiti Students.” Education, vol. 132, no. 3, Jan. 2012, pp. 499-516. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ991102&site=eds-live.
- Allan, Julie. “Complicating, Not Explicating: Taking up Philosophy in Learning Disability Research.” Learning Disability Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, Jan 2011, pp. 153-161. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ931426&site=eds-live.
- Cicerchia, Meredith. “6 Different Types of Dyslexia and How to Help.” Touch-Type Read and Spell (TTRS), 7 Apr. 2019, www.readandspell.com/us/different-types-of-dyslexia.
- Roxanne F. Hudson, et al. “Dyslexia and the Brain: What Does Current Research Tell Us?” The Reading Teacher, vol. 60, no. 6. 207, p. 506. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.20204497&site=eds-live.
- Sheryl M. Handler, Walter M. Fierson, the Section on Ophthalmology and Council on Children with Disabilities, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and American Association of Certified Orthoptists
- Pediatrics Mar 2011, 127 (3) e818-e856; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-3670
- “Tests for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities.” Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan, dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/dyslexics/learn-about-dyslexia/dyslexia-testing/tests#9.