Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. Dyslexia is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material. Dyslexia is impaired reading ability with a competence level below that expected on the basis of the person’s level of intelligence, and in the presence of normal vision, letter recognition, and recognition of the meaning of pictures and objects.
It is important to have some knowledge about the history of dyslexia if you want to go deep inside the roots of the disorder. Many practitioners and therapists choose to deal only with the modern theories and arguments but it should be noted that some of the most fundamental concepts behind the theory come from historical events. If you have an overview of early medical practices and the development of the disorder, it would help you correlate events when you are trying to identify specific cases. If you do decide to turn the pages of the history books, you would see that dyslexia has a relatively short history that can be surmised into a few specific events and developments.
Early Conceptions And Practices:
Once you start looking through the history of dyslexia, you would see that the disorder was relatively unknown till the middle of the nineteenth century. A German neurologist, Adolph Kussmaul, worked with several adults suffering with reading difficulties. He coined the term ‘alexia’ or ‘word blindness’ around 1878 to reflect the nature of the disorder. This term kept on being used in several medical journals. However, no prominent cause was still discovered except for its direct relations with certain forms of neurological impairment. Cases continued to be reported and categorized under the general term of ‘word blindness’ in the history of dyslexia, until further developments were carried out.
The Report Of Dr. Dejerne:
A milestone in the history of dyslexia came about in 1891 as Dr. Dejerne published a report in ‘The Lancet’ medical journal about a patient who had lost powers of reading and language functions after a brain injury. The term ‘dyslexia’ was already coined by Rudolf Berlin in 1887 but this was the first time that the reports attributed the disorder to a cause, a form of brain injury. Cases published in other journals confirmed the connection leading to a major advancement in the history of dyslexia where the theories of reading disabilities being linked to brain dysfunctionality were accepted.
Contribution Of Dr. James Hinshelwood:
The Dejerne report opened up a new phase in the history of dyslexia regarding specific medical evaluation and analysis of the disorder. The British surgeon James Hinshelwood published his works in ‘The Lancet’ in 1895 where he talked about the relation of verbal memory and word blindness. His most significant contribution came in 1917 where he published a book called ‘Congenital Word Blindness’ where he described the visual association of words and images in memory. He also spoke about the reversal of letters and certain other symptoms which are attributed to the disorder today but were unknown considering the history of dyslexia at that time.
Recent Discoveries And Developments:
The history of dyslexia has advanced in leaps and bounds in the recent period because of focused medical research on specific conditions of the disorder. Neuroimaging techniques like PET and fMRI developed in the 1980-1990 period have been able to process neural signals and identify distinct patterns in both normal and affected conditions. Experimental approaches on phonic processing and orthographic typesets have been successful in developing new methods of treatment.
The most recent history of dyslexia deals with alphabetic scripts, cognitive sub groups and innovations in assistive technology to help make the life of people suffering from the disorder a lot easier. It is interesting to see that the growth pattern of knowledge and awareness lay dormant for long periods of time but underwent a large scale activity in the span of a century. Increase in case reports, testing procedures and medical technology can only point to better rates of success where the history of dyslexia would be treated as the guiding path to pave the way for a better future.
TYPES OF DYSLEXIA
There are several types of dyslexia (or learning disabilities) that can affect the child’s ability to spell as well as read. The types are identified by the nature of the problem within the central nervous system or brain. Primary dyslexia is a dysfunction of, rather than damage to, the left side of the brain (cerebral cortex) and does not change with age. Individuals with this type of dyslexia are rarely able to read above a fourth-grade level and may struggle with reading, spelling, and writing as adults. Primary dyslexia is passed in family lines through their genes (hereditary). It is found more often in boys than in girls.
Secondary or developmental types of dyslexia is felt to be caused by hormonal development or malnutrition during the early stages of fetal development. Poor parenting, abuse, neglect, and/or poor nutrition during the developmental years 0 to 5 are also known causes. Developmental dyslexia diminishes as the child matures. It is also more common in boys. This type of dyslexia is most often found in special education classes. It is this category of dyslexia or learning disability that responds best to the classroom accommodations and modifications found in special education classrooms that assist the child with learning while his nervous system continues to develop.
Trauma dyslexia, which is also referred to as acquired dyslexia, is the rarest type of this learning disability. It is not inherited at all. It is caused by a brain injury or a serious illness that has adverse effects on the functions of the brain. The child, before suffering from trauma dyslexia, had the ability to read and comprehend written words. But due to a brain disease or an infarction to parts of the posterior cerebral artery, the ability to make sense of words disappears. In younger children, the frequent cause of trauma dyslexia is called “glue ear.” It is a conductive hearing loss that is due to flu, cold, or other ear infections. The loss of the ability to hear spoken words prevents the child from acquiring phonemic awareness.
Deep Dyslexia, which is also known as primary dyslexia, is the hereditary type of this condition. It runs in families and the identified culprits are in chromosomes 6 and 15. The affected hemisphere of the brain is the left, resulting in what scientists described as an “unusual wiring.” There seems to be a disorganized architecture of the brain with neurons appearing in areas where they don’t usually go. In a deep of primary dyslexia, the left hemisphere could not be utilized efficiently, forcing the child to compensate with the right brain. This is why some of signs of this type of dyslexia include left-handedness, above average athletic and artistic abilities, and intuitive interpersonal skills. Unfortunately, the accompanying dyslexia symptoms include allergies, recurrence of intestinal problems, and various immune disorders.
The first thing that needs to be said is that dyslexia is not brought about by poor parenting. On the contrary, it is the concerned parents of dyslexic children who have taken the initiatives that have brought dyslexia to the forefront of the learning difficulties arena. Individual parents have persisted in pointing out to their children’s schools that something must be wrong when a child of apparently normal intelligence is failing to learn to read and write.
What does cause dyslexia, then?
To be quite honest, nobody quite knows at the moment. There has been a real increase in the amount of research taking place, and a number of possibilities are beginning to emerge, but the waters are still fairly murky. The overall picture is that dyslexia can be caused by inherited factors, and/or hearing problems at an early age.
It is clear that dyslexia is very frequently found in families, and is often accompanied by left-handedness somewhere in the family. This does not mean to say that a dyslexic parent will automatically have a dyslexic child, or that a left-handed child will necessarily be dyslexic. But where dyslexia is identified, between a third and a half of children have a history of learning difficulties in their family, and more than half have a family member who is left-handed. With the technical advances that have come about in brain-scanning in recent years, a lot of research has been carried out examining the brains of dyslexic people. Bunches of cells beneath the surface of the brain have been detected which lie on the surface in the brain of a non-dyslexic person. These groups of cells ought to have moved to the brain’s surface at the time when the brain was developing in the foetus, but failed to make the journey.
They are known as ‘ectopic’ cells (like an ectopic pregnancy, where the egg fails to reach the womb and is fertilized in the Fallopian tube). These ectopic clusters of cells are mainly found in the left and the front of the brain – the areas which are important for reading and writing. Another area of the brain – the magno-cellular system, which deals with our ability to see moving images – is smaller in the brains of dyslexic people. This makes reading harder, where the brain has to quickly interpret the different letters and words which the eyes see as they scan words and sentences. With the use of EEG (electroencephalogram), where small electrodes with wires are temporarily attached to the outside of a person’s head, it has been possible to see increased brain activity on the right side of the brain when a child is beginning to learn to read.
Increased activity is noticeable on the left side in an advanced reader. However, the brains of dyslexic children show an unusual variation in left- and right-side activity. Recent research has found that, whereas non-dyslexic children use the left side of their brain for language work, dyslexic children have to use the right side as well. This is not the side of the brain that is wired for language work, and, as a result, the brains of dyslexic children and adults have to work about six times harder. This may be why dyslexic children and adults become fatigued by language work and dealing with text. Hearing problems at an early age.
If a child suffers frequent colds and throat infections in the first five years, the ears can be blocked from time to time so that hearing is impaired. The parents can easily be unaware of this until a doctor actually looks into the child’s ear. This condition is sometimes known as ‘glue ear’ or ‘conductive hearing loss’. If the difficulty is not noticed at an early stage, then the developing brain does not make the links between the sounds it hears. This early learning of sounds and words is fundamental to the child’s developing ability to handle language and text. If a child cannot hear clearly, it will be unable to hear the difference between words like ‘pin’ and ‘thin’, or ‘fan’ and ‘van’.
The lack of clear hearing will also delay the child’s phonemic awareness – the ability to hear that words are made up of smaller sounds and syllables, like ‘c-a-t’, or ‘in-ter-est-ing’. A delay in phonemic awareness causes lifelong difficulties – dyslexia – if corrective action is not taken at a very early stage. The most common treatment is the insertion of a tiny tube or grommet into the child’s ear. This allows the fluid to drain off so that the child’s hearing is restored. Another treatment is the removal of the tonsils, which are sometimes the cause of the repeated infections.
A combination of both
Sometimes a child has inherited genes which dispose him or her towards difficulties dealing with the printed word, and has also experienced early hearing problems. These children are often found to be quite severely dyslexic, and need a lot of support through their school and college years, as well as in the workplace.
* Difficulty reading unfamiliar words.
* Making lots of errors.
* Slow sound by sound reading.
* Letters appearing to move around or blur on the page.
* Difficulty coordinating eyes (tracking).
* Losing concentration quickly.
* Fixating on parts of the text for longer than average.
* Difficulty spelling unfamiliar words.
* Difficulty dividing words into their smallest units of speech sound (phonemes).
* Forgetting how to spell simple or short words.
* Problems distinguishing all 44 phonemes in the English language
* Speech Symptoms:
* Occasional pronunciation errors.
* Making syntactical errors such as ‘I driv over to your house’, rather than ‘I drove over to your house’.
* Forgetting names of people or objects.
* Instantly forgetting the order of letters in a word when it is spelt out.
* Forgetting instructions.
* Poor ability to recall items on a list.
* Difficulty learning the months of the year and times tables.
* May lose train of thought more often than average.
* Difficulty maintaining concentration.
* Lack of coordination.
* Problems telling right from left as a child.
Several learning disabilities often occur with dyslexia, but it is unclear whether these learning disabilities share underlying neurological causes with dyslexia. These disabilities include: * Dysgraphia – a disorder which expresses itself primarily through writing or typing, although in some cases it may also affect eye–hand coordination, direction- or sequence-oriented processes such as tying knots or carrying out a repetitive task. In dyslexia, dysgraphia is often multifactorial, due to impaired letter writing automaticity, finger motor sequencing challenges, organizational and elaborative difficulties, and impaired visual word form which makes it more difficult to retrieve the visual picture of words required for spelling. Dysgraphia is distinct fromdyspraxia in that dyspraxia is simply related to motor sequence impairment.
* Attention Deficit Disorder – a high degree of co-morbidity has been reported between ADD/ADHD and dyslexia/reading disorders, it occurs in between 12% and 24% of those with dyslexia. * Auditory processing disorder – A condition that affects the ability to process auditory information. Auditory processing disorder is a listening disability. It can lead to problems with auditory memory and auditory sequencing. Many people with dyslexia have auditory processing problems and may develop their own logographic cues to compensate for this type of deficit. Auditory processing disorder is recognized as one of the major causes of dyslexia. * Developmental dyspraxia – A neurological condition characterized by a marked difficulty in carrying out routine tasks involving balance, fine-motor control, kinesthetic coordination, difficulty in the use of speech sounds, problems with short-term memory and organization are typical of dyspraxics.
Questions often asked about Dyslexia
What is dyslexia? The term dyslexia simply means difficulty with words. The term “dyslexia” was coined more than a hundred years ago. Over the years it has been defined in several different ways. As used here, “dyslexia” refers to intelligent children and adults who have no limiting physical or emotional problems but who, despite conventional classroom experience, do not learn to read, write, spell, and comprehend as expected. Such children, unless they receive appropriate instruction, become adults whose reading and related language skills fall significantly below their general intelligence. What are the causes of dyslexia? The causes of dyslexia still escape the researchers but we may be on the verge of some important discoveries. Within the last decade, there has been some stimulating research in this area.
The emerging premise underlying much of the research is one of neurological origin. Neuroscientists have identified that brain cells have developed differently in persons with dyslexia. These differences do not affect their general intelligence, but do make reading and related language processing more difficult. How may dyslexics are there? Estimate of the number of dyslexic persons in the United States vary from 5% to 10% of the total population. Within this range, dyslexia varies in terms of degree of severity. Is it True that dyslexics are often unusually capable in creative activities? Yes. Dyslexics are average or above average in intelligence. They tend to excel in architecture, engineering, science, music, art and sometimes math. They like, and are good at, hands-on activities.
They often have the knack to see the “big picture” with comparative ease. How do you identify dyslexia? Dyslexia is often referred to as “the hidden handicap”. Most visible are reading, spelling, and writing difficulties. Common in oral reading and spelling are reversals, substitutions, omissions, and additions of letters, syllables, or words. Spelling is typically very poor and may be bizarre. There may be blending and sequencing problems: speech sounds cannot be put together; the days of the week or months of the year cannot be presented in order. There may be confusion in directionality (left right, up-down, etc.) and in learning to tell time.
Problems in remembering things are common, especially when it involves written language. The puzzling thing about all these characteristics is that they are found in children of average or above average intelligence with no limiting physical or psychological problems which could explain these difficulties. Are there any famous dyslexics? Yes. Thomas Edison, Hans Christian Anderson, Albert Einstein, Gustave Flaubert, General George Patton, Nelson Rockefeller, Erma Bombeck, athletic champions like Bruce Jenner and Greg Louganis, actors like Susan Hampshire, Tom Cruise, and Cher to name a few.
Courtney from Study Moose
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