Impact of Dyslexia on Learning: Analytical Essay
According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, (LDA) learning disabilities affect more than three million people a year. Thirty-five percent of those 3 million people receive services for their specific learning disabilities. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability (SLD). About 5-10 percent of Americans have some types of symptoms of dyslexia (LDA,2019).
Dyslexia is often mistaken for just a reading problem. According to Hudson et al., dyslexia is actually more of an effect on a person’s spelling and decoding abilities (2007). Children with dyslexia often have two clear difficulties when reading. First, children cannot read as many words they see as average readers in their grade level (Hudson et al.,2007). Second, they will show decoding trouble. They will not be accurate in reading and identifying words (Hudson et al.,2007).
People with dyslexia have less gray matter in the left part of their brain. The left side of the brain is responsible for reading skills. According to Hudson et al., having less gray matter can lead to problems with processing the sound structure of language (2007). People with dyslexia also have less white area in the same part of the brain than average readers (Hudson et al.,2007). This can cause problems when the brain is trying to communicate to other parts.
Dyslexia is an ongoing learning disability in the current classroom. This paper will focus on the impact dyslexia has on learning, how teachers can apply their knowledge of dyslexia to the classroom, and different applications educators can use to support their students.
Dyslexia and the brain have an intricate relationship. MRI studies have found that the brains of people with dyslexia are structurally different than nondyslexic brains (Sousa, 2013). People with dyslexia have less gray matter in the left part of their brain (Hudson et al.,2007). The left side of the brain is responsible for reading skills. According to Hudson et al., having less gray matter can lead to problems with processing the sound structure of language (2007). People with dyslexia also have less white area in the same part of the brain than average readers (Hudson et al.,2007). This can cause problems when the brain is trying to communicate to other parts. The visual analysis and phonological decoding regions of a child’s brain with dyslexia can be inactive or dysfunctional (Sousa, 2017). For example, a student with dyslexia could have trouble recognizing/ differentiating individual letters such as P or B. They also have difficulty sounding out or blending words to read a sentence.
Another relationship between dyslexic readers and the brain can be the cerebellum. The cerebellum, which is below the occipital lobe, is responsible for coordinating learned motor skills (Sousa, 2017). This can affect and show problems with someone’s reading, writing, spelling.
It is important to remember that people with dyslexia are all different. They can have strengths and weaknesses in different learning areas. The International Dyslexia Association, emphasizes that dyslexia can impact people differently depending on the severity of the condition and the timeliness and effectiveness of intervention (2017). People with dyslexia can also have trouble with their spoken language. They might have a difficult time expressing themselves clearly and comprehending another person’s meaning when they speak (IDA, 2017). Educators must remember that all students with dyslexia might not fit into the same category.
One major impact dyslexia can have on student learning is fluency. Phonological awareness can eventually be trained by intervention and explicit instruction. Fluency is harder for students to keep up with when the reading gets more complex (D’Mello & Gabrieli, 2018). It is important for educators to be aware of this fact because it can help them understand why their students with dyslexia might struggle with their fluency.
Another important impact is the difference between genders when identifying and understanding dyslexia. A study done by Arnett et al. analyzed why males were diagnosed more than females. The results discovered that males can have a slower process speed when males are diagnosed with dyslexia (Arnett et al, 2017). This is an important result to analyze. Typically, males tend to “act up” in class more than females. This result causes more educators to focus testing and investigations on the male students. This can impact the other students (females) from being observed for dyslexia and other reading disabilities. It is important to remember to focus on the student’s ability to read and comprehend more than the behavior that is being shown in class.
Educators also need to realize the effect dyslexia might have on a student’s mental health. Studies shows that stress and anxiety are both linked to dyslexia in the classroom. According to the International Dyslexia Association, people with dyslexia create self-doubt and low self-esteem issues because they do not fully understand the nature of their learning disability (Schultz, 2013). It is important for teachers to create a safe place for students with dyslexia to learn. Students with dyslexia are already dealing with so many factors, educators can make their load easier by creating that safe space.
Being aware about dyslexia is the first step in understanding how to support students with dyslexia. Many researchers find have stated that teachers without the knowledge of learning disabilities can create a harmful environment. Different methods and materials can help students with dyslexia. Researchers Siti Sahari and Aiza Johari, suggest using different materials such as clay/Play-Doh or color can help dyslexic students see and remember words (2012). Using different colors for letters or syllables can help the student distinguish letters and syllables (Sahari& Johari, 2012).
Another recommendation for teachers is to make sure the student has explicit, intense, systematic instruction in the sound structure of phonemic awareness and phonics (Hudson et al.,2007). Educators can also use multisensory strategies to support their dyslexic students. According to Jeremy Mills (2018), students with dyslexia cannot just learn solely on sight and sound. Students need to use multiple senses simultaneously to have an effective education. Mills explains, the two ways educators can support students multi senses which include, phonological relationship and visual representation strategies. Teachers can show students phonological relationships by hearing each letter and blending. This can help students with dyslexia learn how to pronounce a word and improve their spelling skills (Mills, 2018).
Using non-words can also support their understanding of sounds. Teaching them the non-words can teach students with dyslexia properly interpret blends in words and use them to apply spelling rules (Mills, 2018). Eventually this strategy can support students when they are learning multisyllabic words. Using kinesthetic approaches to learning words can also be effective for students with dyslexia. One option can be teaching students to finger spell. Students with dyslexia can spelling by touching each individual finger with their thumb for each sound they hear in the word (Wells, 2018).
Another way to support with dyslexia is using visual representation. This is an important application because it can support sight words that sometimes cannot be physically separated. Visual representation can help students with dyslexia use visual recall for abstract words. One suggestion educators can implement in their classroom of visual representation, is to have students with dyslexia write a word on a notecard and then draw a picture that coincides with the word (Mills, 2018). The student creates their own connection to the word. This can increase the memory recall with words that might not be easy for the student with dyslexia to make a connection. Frequent practice with the words can also help the students remember the words. When the student becomes confident with the word, the teacher can gradually “erase” the image from the notecard (Mills, 2019). Another visual technique that could be effective for students with dyslexia is using technology. The word can be displayed on a computer, tablet, or whiteboard for only seconds. The student then will remove the word and write it down immediately (Mills, 2019). This technique is repeated until the students with dyslexia can write the word only using their visual memory. These simple applications can support students with dyslexia and even students who are struggling.
The International Dyslexia Association provides small applications that every teacher can do to insure the best learning experiences for their students with dyslexia. The materials that students with dyslexia use can affect their ability to learn. One way to improve learning is simplifying written directions for students. Having too much text can overwhelm students with dyslexia (IDA, 2017). Having short directions or even underlining and highlighting important parts can be very effective. Another material that can be helpful to students with dyslexia is technology. Using technology such as iPads, readers, dictionaries, and audio books can be effective (IDA, 2017). These little adjustments in material can make a huge difference for students with dyslexia.
Interactive instruction can also support students with dyslexia. According to the IDA, having a daily routine can help students know what to expect (2017). Providing students samples, copy of notes, and graphic organizers will help students keep up with lessons. This can help students with dyslexia stay on task during lessons. Another quick way to help students is using different media during lessons (IDA, 2017). Switching from presentations, to activities, to small group can help students with dyslexia get the maximum support.
The most important factor that can help educators understand their students with dyslexia better, is communication with their parents. Hudson et al. suggests keeping open communication with parents and teaching them different ways to support their students with dyslexia (2007).
These methods can be applied to any classroom to benefit students with dyslexia. Educators need to constantly be adjusting and learning about their students. Researchers all agree that there is no quick fix when working with students with dyslexia. However, there are ways to help educators be more active and supportive of their students
The most pressed question trying to understand dyslexia is can it be cured? The short answer is, no. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that affects people their whole lives. It is important to remember that a student’s dyslexia does not define them. They are “students with dyslexia” not a “dyslexic students”. Educators need to take it upon themselves to support students with dyslexia. Teachers must be able to learn and understand the effects it has on their students. Educators can help students with dyslexia by using early intervention techniques and skills. This will help students avoid struggling when they go to higher education. If more teachers see dyslexia as an opportunity to teach students to learn differently than a disability, more students will succeed in their academic journey.
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