Research Paper: Dyslexia and Its Effects on Learning

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¶ … dyslexia has on a child's ability to acquire reading skills. Approximately 20% of the student population has some type of reading disability. Behavioral manifestations of dyslexia are word-level difficulties on tasks of word decoding, word recognition, and spelling and text-level difficulties for both word reading accuracy and fluency when reading aloud. Dyslexia may be the result of a genetic altercation in the brain of a specific gene associated with the migration of neurons in the reading centers of the brain. Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that reading begins primarily as a phonological process and phonology-based interventions enhance a dyslexic child's ability to read.

The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The difficulty manifests itself in word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing deficits. Some dyslexics manage to acquire early reading and spelling skills, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays.

Dyslexia and its Effects on Learning

Introduction

Over the past thirty years there has been an enormous growth in the understanding of early reading development. The way that early growth in phonemic awareness and knowledge of letter -- sound correspondences support growth in the ability to read text accurately is now well understood and the connections between early growth of phonemic decoding skills and later development of reading fluency, as well as the relationships between fluency of reading text and growth of reading comprehension are also firmly established.

Over this same period of time, new knowledge about the factors that make it difficult for many students to learn to read well in first and second grade has also been developed. Research over the past three decades has documented that certain poor readers experience problems in reading because of early difficulties in acquiring accurate and fluent phonemic decoding skills. These difficulties, in turn, have a serious impact on the development of reading fluency and reading comprehension. Students with these types of primary reading difficulties are currently labeled dyslexic (Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Herron, & Lindamood, 2010).

Dyslexia

Approximately one-fifth of the population in the United States presents with one or more symptoms of dyslexia. This means that 20% of the students in any given elementary school class have some type of reading disability. This may a serious problem for many elementary school teachers who do not have the training or skills to address this situation (Washburn, Joshi & Binks-Cantrell, 2011).

The International Dyslexia Association (2002) describes dyslexia as being 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. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Developmental dyslexia is a specific reading disability that has a neurobiological origin and is associated with deficits in the phonological component of language. Phonological deficits may impact the individual's ability to store, manipulate, and retrieve the phonemic and written sounds and symbols of one's language. Wiseheart, Altmann, Park and Lombardino (2009) report that the key behavioral manifestations of dyslexia are word-level difficulties on tasks of word decoding, word recognition, and spelling and text-level difficulties for both word reading accuracy and fluency when reading aloud. While reading deficits of this nature occur in spite of relative strengths in overall cognition and spoken language, syntactic deficits in both spoken and written language have been reported in the literature of dyslexia studies. Deficits in the comprehension of syntax may be a secondary consequence of reduced reading experience, may reflect specific underlying weaknesses in language processing, or may arise from weaknesses in more basic cognitive skills that are essential to language comprehension, such as verbal memory.

Discussion

Until recently it was believed that visual processing was core to individual differences in the acquisition of reading. In the 1970s the concept of 'Phonecian' verses 'Chinese' reading strategies was examined extensively. The assumption was that children who were learning to read charter-based orthographies like Chinese required excellent visual memory skills in order to distinguish between the visually complex characters that represent spoken words. Children who were learning to read languages which were alphabetic, that is each letter corresponding to one sound, appeared to require code breaking skills. It was assumed that once the brain had learned the symbol -- sound code, reading should be largely a process of phonological assembly. Many experiments were conducted with children learning to read in English, to compare the contribution of 'Chinese' versus 'Phonecian' acquisition strategies. Dual -- route models of reading, originally developed using data from adults, were applied to children who were learning to read. The common belief was that, developmentally, children could choose to learn to read by either Chinese or Phonecian strategies (Goswami, 2008).

However, brain imaging studies have demonstrated that reading begins primarily as a phonological process. . In the early phases of learning to read, it is the neural structures for spoken language that are particularly active. As reading expertise develops, an area in the visual cortex originally named the 'visual word form area' (VWFA) becomes increasingly active. This area is not a logographic system, even though it is very close to the visual areas that are active during picture naming. The VWFA is also active during nonsense word reading, and as nonsense words do not have word forms in the mental lexicon, the VWFA is thought to store orthography -- phonology connections at different grain sizes. Children with developmental dyslexia show selective under -- activation of key phonological areas of the brain. Research shows phonology -- based interventions improve levels of activation in these areas and normalize neural activity (Goswami, 2008).

Genetic Factors

Recent research indicates that about 20% of the cases of dyslexia are due to the altercation of a specific gene, DCDC2. This gene is associated with the migration of neurons in the reading centers of the brain. The effect of this condition is that the brains architecture does not allow normal stages of learning as it pertains to reading. This defect affects the logographic phase with the instantaneous recognition of familiar words, the alphabetic phase which allows an individual to read new words and non-words based on recognition of the word in its units, and finally the phonological lexical phase which concerns the construction of a warehouse of written vocabulary that allows rapid detection of known words (Corona, Perrotta, Polcini & Cozzarelli, 2012).

Implications and Strategies

Reading fluency may be defined as the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with appropriate expression. According to Meisinger, Bloom, and Hynd (2009) the development of fluent reading skills is essential to student's academic success. Currently, students are expected to develop into fluent readers during second and third grades. In the fourth grade students begin the transition from learning how to read to reading to learn new information. Oral reading fluency has been connected to comprehension. Students who fail to sufficiently develop fluency skills, readers for whom reading is laborious and slow, have difficulty in learning content area knowledge and may experience general frustration and even avoid reading. Furthermore, children who read less because of poor fluency do not improve their skills at the same rate as their more fluent peers, thus as their academic careers progress poor readers fall further behind. Consequently, it is essential to evaluate reading fluency when assessing children referred for reading difficulties, as failure to do so may result in the under-identification of children with reading disabilities.

Conclusion

The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The nucleus of the difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing. Some dyslexics manage to acquire early reading and spelling skills, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays.

Unfortunately individuals with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, despite exposure to good language models in their homes and excellent language instruction in school. The effects of dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom. Many dyslexics find self-expression difficult and have problems fully understanding what others mean when they speak. These problems with language often go unrecognized by others and they may lead to major problems in school, in the workplace, and in relationships.

Understandably, dyslexia can also affect a person's self-image. Students with dyslexia often end up feeling inadequate and less capable than they actually are. After experiencing a great deal of stress due to academic problems, many student's with this disability become discouraged about continuing in school and drop out. Early diagnoses and intervention is critical… [END OF PREVIEW]

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