Some people find some skills are harder to learn than for their peers. Some people, find driving difficult because they are worriers, over thinking the consequences of what could go wrong. In this case the barrier is from learned behaviour. In other cases, such as learning to play an instrument where playing the correct pitch is the skill, the reason is more determined by heredity. Some forms of hearing loss are genetically determined and so hearing the note at the right pitch is impossible.
Throughout evolution, mutations in genetic code have either helped improve or reduce the chances of survival. Mutations which increase chances of survival will help an organism flourish and will become embedded as a characteristic of their DNA. In human development most changes will take tens of thousands of years to have a significant impact. The human brain has been developing for hundreds of thousands of years. Although understanding symbolisation has been around for thousands of years, reading using phonetics has only been around for hundreds of years and, until recent times, was not widespread. It is not surprising that the human brain has not evolved for reading. It can learn to read, but there are some genetic configurations within some brains that make it harder than in others.
What does it feel like to be dyslexic? Here a young man describes his life:
Dyslexia is an umbrella term for a family of related conditions, all with a common trait of slower decoding of written information than would be expected. The neurological explanations suggests that reading is a function carried out in the left side of the brain. This is the logical part of the brain. In people with dyslexia the brain uses the right hand side of the brain, which is associated with creativity and visualisation. Information still goes to the left side, but it is then moved to the right hand side, processed and sent back to the left hand side. There is so much more work for the brain to do. Dyslexia is genetic, and is often passed down through families.
Having a more dominant right hand side of the brain has its advantages. These individuals are likely to be more creative, artistic and think outside of the box. Many people with dyslexia are high achievers, once they have managed to overcome their difficulty with reading. Once an individual has learned to read it becomes second nature and takes little effort. An individual with dyslexia, most probably, will always find reading slow and tiring as there is so much more brain effort involved.
To make matters worse, people with dyslexia often have a related condition, Irlen Syndrome, which is where text becomes distorted. There are a range of common distortions, making reading very difficult. The continual movement or distortion of text leads individuals to have a greater number of headaches or stress related stomach aches than would be typical. The distortions are not caused within the structure of the eye, but in the way in which the brain visualises the information.
Some people with Dyslexia find that coloured glasses, or tinted papers help with reading. However, as Dyslexia is a term that covers a range of conditions, they do not work for everyone. Indeed, where these do help, the specific colour necessary for the glasses and the most appropriate tint of the paper varies from person to person. Although greens and yellows are most common, for others the most effective hue could be any colour from rose through violets to blue.
To get a feel of how it feels to write when you have dyslexia is to try to take dictation notes using your non-dominant hand. That is, with your left hand if you are right handed. Then try copying a diagram from the board or from a book. By then end of either of these activities your progress will be slow and tiring. The chances will be that your handwriting will be untidy and get more so as the speed of dictation increases and your diagram will not accurately depict the original image. Think about the effort and energy that goes towards writing a whole page of text, and then how demoralising it will be to be asked to write it all out again because it looks too untidy.
Pupisl with dyslexia may need specialist support in order to learn to read. In the classroom the teacher doesn’t need any specific training. The best way to help these children is the same as all pupils with a specific learning need require, which is to give a big picture, break the work down, give time to process and think and use visualisation rather than text wherever possible.
If there is an important diagram that pupils need to be able to reproduce then rather than copy from the board give them a copy to stick in their book on the left hand page and get them to copy this on to the right hand side. In this way they will get to practice the skill of drawing the diagram and still have an accurate version for revision.
Here are some strategies for helping pupils with writing, spelling and revision techniques:
Here are some strategies when teaching: