This week has been Dyslexia Awareness Week in the UK. But what exactly is dyslexia?
What are the signs or symptoms?
WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?
There is still a great deal of uncertainty concerning what dyslexia is and why some students may have it. According to current NHS definitions, Dyslexia is a ‘common learning difficulty’ that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is also a “specific learning difficulty”, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected. In fact something I have learnt in my 25+ years as a teacher, is that dyslexic students are often very intelligent and may be very articulate. Thus there may be a considerable discrepancy between how they communicate and how they put things down on paper.
Dyslexia is still not fully understood. Neuroscience is a fairly recent discovery and there is much more to do and learn before we understand how the brain works differently in some learners and from learner to learner. However, over the past fifty years, more research has been conducted which appears to have destigmatised the label of dyslexia. In truth, many notable celebrities have helped to dispel these myths by speaking out about their own struggles and subsequent triumphs in overcoming their difficulties.
Richard Branson recently spoke about his own dyslexia and how he feels it should be seen as a sign of potential,
“The reason why I think people who are dyslexic seem to do well in life, having struggled at school, is that we tend to simplify things’ He recently explained, “It is time we lost the stigma around dyslexia. It is not a disadvantage; it is merely a different way of thinking. Once freed from archaic schooling practices and preconceptions, my mind opened up. Out in the real world, my dyslexia became my massive advantage: it helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”
Dyslexia is different for everyone. It is therefore not easy to diagnose. An individual will show dyslexia in an individual way. Dyslexia may range from mild to severe; the difficulties may only come to light through challenges in the environment. Dyslexia can change over the years according to environment and the demands being made on a person. The everchanging focus of definitions of dyslexia continues to alert us to the fact that we are dealing with more than a reading, writing and spelling problem. Recent definitions pinpoint difficulties with organisation, memory, word retrieval and speed of processing. This explains why it can be so difficult to diagnose a child in their early years. However, it is encouraging that most recent definitions emphasise the abilities and strengths of dyslexics.