Dyslexia is a learning disability that manifest itself as a difficulty with the visual notation of speech or written language, particularly with reading, while dyscalculia is a learning difficulty in which a person has unusual difficulty in solving mathematical problems and grasping mathematical concepts, memory of maths facts, concept of time, money e.t.c. In the Nigerian context, many teachers are ignorant of these learning problems. The aim of this paper is to help teachers at various levels of educational sectors to identify students with dyslexia and dyscalculia and design some strategies that could be used in the classroom to assist students to overcome such problems.
Learning disability is a general term for a diverse of disorders characterized by significant difficulty in the acquisition of knowledge such as listening skills, speaking, reading and writing reasoning and mathematical computation. Other learning disabilities include: visual motor integration, motor planning, dysgraphia, attention deficit disorder, retrieval, short term memory, auditory perception, auditory memory, auditory discrimination, figure ground (visual or auditory), auditory sequencing, inter-sensory, dyslomia, depth perception etc.
However, with seemingly increasing problems associated with learning, it has become imperative that much attention be given to issues regarding learning difficulties with the objective of identifying and resolving them so that children can learn with relative ease. It is important to stress that difficulties may occur in children who are not yet of school age but they cannot be detected or diagnosed for possible remediation until the children are attending school. What effect does it have?
Specific learning difficulties can make lessons, challenging for a child.
They may struggle to keeping up with classmates, and may come to see themselves as stupid, or not good. They may find it difficult to concentrate on lesson and because they may not be able to follow them properly, they may complain of lesson being “boring”. The child may search for other ways to pass the time and succeed.
They may try to avoid doing school work because they find it impossible to do it well. Doing badly in school can undermine their self confidence. This can make it hard to keep friends. Children with specific learning difficulties often become angry and frustrated, so behavioral problems are common. If they don’t get suitable help, the problem may get worst. Older children may become frustrated, fail exams or get into serious trouble, both at school and outside.
A specific learning difficulty is not a mental illness. However, children with specific learning difficulty are more likely than other children to develop mental health problem, for example anxiety, or have additional developmental disorder, such as Autism spectrum disorder and attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Diagnosis is the process of identifying problems encountered by students in learning; it is also Identifying of difficulties encountered by students and use of the information to develop remedial procedures to overcome those difficulties. Likewise diagnosis is seen as the assessment of students in order to establish possible cognitive, emotional, health perceptual, social and other factors that might be impacting on their achievements and school adjustment, such diagnosis can also be sought where dyslexia and dyscalculia learning difficulties, learning disorder or reading disability etc. are suspected. Wikipedia, (2012). . Teachers have always focused on assessment of students learning carefully assessing what student have learned through class work, chapter test, weekly test, monthly test, end of term test, end of course test (WAEC and NECO etc), just among others. The reason for assessment is an important component of a mathematics program.
However, the authors of NCTM’s principle and standards for school mathematics where they recommend that assessment should be more than merely a test at the end of instruction that inform and guide teachers as they make instructional decision. Assessment should not merely be done to students, rather it should also be done for students, to guide and enhance their learning (NCTM, 2000. P.22). Assessment for student learning is only effective if it is diagnostic guiding and supporting teachers in customizing instruction for individual student needs. Yush’u, (2006). With the educational context, diagnosis is a judgment about what a particular problem is identified after conducting an examination or test
Remediation is the intervention or assistance intended to help students who have difficulties in a particular topic or subject to overcome such diagnosed difficulties. A comprehensive system of intervention always prescribes and provides the instructional material teachers needed to address student’s needs. Once students enter a unit or chapter of instruction, periodic, quick and diagnostic assessments that immediately identify learning gaps and that are linked to systematic interventions are essential to keep students on grade level, to ensure mastery of concepts, reading skills and problem solving, to help student meet educational standards, and to help students perform well on periodic assessments.
Encarta Dictionaries (2009) define dyslexia as impaired ability to understand written language: a learner disorder marked by a severe difficulty in recognizing and understanding written language, leading to spelling and writing problems, it is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage. Dyslexia is a neurological disorder that affects language processing function. It manifests in the learning disability of written texts. The condition results in problems with letter sound associations leading to difficulties in reading, writing and spelling (Baddelay, Ellis, Miles & Lewis, 1982).The several signs and symptom of reading difficulty are identified by Strydom, (2009) to include:
Reading slowly and painfully
Experiencing decoding errors especially with the order of letters
Showing wide disparity between listening and reading Comprehension of some text.
Having trouble with spelling
Exhibiting difficulty recalling known words
Having difficulty with written language
Substituting one small sight word for another like a, i, he, the, there, was.
Studies according to learning difficulties centre (LDC) show that individual with dyslexia process information in a different area of brain than non-dyslexics do; people who are dyslexic are of average or above intelligence. Dyslexia affects males and females nearly equally, irrespective of their ethnic and social–economic backgrounds. Yusha’u (2009). The LCD further, listed the following famous people as those diagnosed with learning difficulties: Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Magic Johnson, Winston Churchill, Leonardo Davinci Mozart, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Galileo, Tom Cruise and George Washington. Although dyslexia is as a result of neurological difference, it is not an intellectual disability. It can be diagnosed in people of all levels of intelligence. People having dyslexia problem they may be slow to acquire and process language due to poor short – term memory capacities.
They may have difficulty in remembering isolated sound for words when attempting to write and to spell. Most teachers assume that students with dyslexia are lazy, immature, unintelligent or unmotivated. This is because they are not diagnosed until much later or not at all (as in most Nigerian). Unfortunately even the students are led to believe they are failures, and thus develop low self – esteem (Long & McBlain, 2007). Some theories have been postulated by researchers to the causes of dyslexia. These are the evolutionary hypothesis by Dalby (1986) which state that, reading is an unnatural act which is carried out by humans for as brief in our evolutionary history. That most western society promoted reading by the mass population and therefore the forces that shape our behavior became weak. The phonological deficit theory postulates that people with dyslexia have a specific impairment in the representation, Storage and retrieval of speech sounds.
It explains the reading impairment of dyslexia on the basis that learning to read on alphabetic system requires the learning of grapheme, phoneme, correspondences, the rapid auditory processing theory specifies that the primary deficit lies in the perception of short varying sounds. Suppose for this theory arises from evidence that people with dyslexia show poor performance on a number of auditory tasks, including frequency discrimination. The visual theory reflects a long tradition in the study of dyslexic. This theory considers dyslexia as a visual impairment giving rise to difficulties with the processing of letters and words on a page. Others are cerebella magnocellular theories and the perceptual visual noise exclusion hypothesis which states that subjects experience difficulty in performing visual tasks such as motion detection in the presented of perceptual distraction. Dyslexia symptoms arise because of an impaired ability to distinguish the important sensory data from the irrelevant ones (Habib, 2000). Dyslexia is usually identified during childhood, but it continues to affect individuals through their lives.
CHARACTERISTIC OF DYSLEXIA
Before 1970 most explanation of dyslexia held that the root of the problem lay in visual difficulties. For example many experts believed that dyslexic children saw letters backward or in reverse order since then, however, much research has shown that children with dyslexia are no more prone to reverse letters while reading and writing than are other children.
DIAGONOSIS OF CHILD WITH DYSLEXIA PROBLEM
Common method of diagnosing dyslexia very widely although most experts rule out other common sources of learning difficulty such as lack of intelligence, absence from school, hearing or vision problems and behaviour disorders – before making a diagnosis of dyslexia. Many researchers have called for a shift in method to identify dyslexia. Some argue that a diagnosis of dyslexia should be made only in children who continue to struggle with reading even after having received high quality, intensive tutorial instruction. This diagnostic method consists of two steps. First, expert assesses the intensity and appropriateness of the instruction the child’s has received. If they find no evidence of an appropriate, intensive educational intervention to correct reaching problems, then a diagnosis of dyslexia is primitive.
Experts diagnoses dyslexia only when reliable evidence shows that a child’s reading difficulties do not see correctable through intensive, appropriate instruction. A child may not respond well in group instructional setting and may fall behind classmates in both reading acquisition and phonological procession skills. But these deficits alone would not warrant a diagnosis of dyslexia such diagnosis appropriate only if the deficit remain after the child receives intensive tutorial instruction to correct them. There is need to have the formal training and the correct teaching method or bringing in the services of a professional that could assist with the assessment of students. In many instances teachers assume that the students are not trying hard enough, but in reality they work much harder than their counterparts that are not learn disabled and still fall behind (Henry, 1998).
The dyslexic students find it difficult to distinguish different sounds in words, the sound of letters or associating individual words with their correct meaning sometimes, time keeping or even the concept of time is a problem and there is confusion with word combination. Due to the fear of spelling they become shy, frustrated and even disruptive out their inability to understand social – cues in their environment. During reading and spelling, the difficulty in learning letter sound correspondences make individual with dyslexia to misspell word or leave vowels out of words. They may reverse the order f two letters especially when the final words look similar to the intended word e.g. (dose – does). Homophones are difficult to distinguish by dyslexia, and they spell words inconsistently. Literacy problem can involve slower writing speed than average, it can be characterized by irregular formed letters or in ability to write straight on a blank of paper with on guideline (Goeke, Kristen & Ritchey, 2006).
Empowering dyslexia students:
High quality teaching is vitally important if students with dyslexia are to make progress with their academic learning. Therefore teachers on training school are made aware of the special need of students with dyslexia, their presentation and management students with dyslexia should be indentified through routine psychological assessment at the beginning of secondary education. This is because majority of students especially those in the public schools do not read very well until they are in class six. Partnership should be set up between the students, parents and the school to set realistic target and rewards for students with dyslexia, teachers can enhance students self – confidence by conveying that they care for them in the teaching- learning transaction. It is important that students feel teacher’s concern, as they encourage them to learn. Dyslexia students should be involved in assessing planning and evaluation their learning needs and aspirations.
Teachers should convey empathy and concern; they should empower the students by setting achievable and realistic targets in the process. There is need for mastery learning of the material to be learned, mastery learning increases the altitude and interest of student. Fehlen (1976), ensure that students views and wishes are always given due consideration, this enhances students confidence by acknowledging their strength and rescores as well as publicity celebrating success. Praise student for their effort and show them their work is valued. Provide positive learning experience for dyslexia students to ensure that they fell less isolated and more included. Teacher should use more positive marking to keep motivation and expectation high but reasonable establish support group in schools for students with dyslexia to enable them share experiences in order to promote social inclusion.
Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability affecting the normal acquisition of arithmetic skills, Genetic, neurobiological, and epidemiologic evidence indicates that dyscalculia, and like other learning disabilities is a brain-base disorder. However, poor teaching and environmental deprivation have also been implicated in its etiology. Because the network of both hemispheres comprises the subtractions of normal hemisphere, although, the left perieto temporal area is particular significance. The prevalence of developmental dyscalculia is 5 to 6% in the school- age population and is as common in girls as in boys. Dyscalculia can occur as a consequence of premature and low birth weight and is frequently encountered in a variety of neurologic disorder, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental language disorder, epilepsy and fragile X syndrome. Developmental dyscalculia has proven to be a persisting learning disability at least for the short term in about half of affected preteen pupils. Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that is allied to dyslexia, where the learning problem lie in students understanding and using of mathematical symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.
It has been discovered that a child frequently has average to above average intelligence but has difficulty with number or numbering mathematical facts over a long period of time. Some dyscalculia may have spatial problem such as aligning numbers into proper columns as well as exhibiting difficulty in performing other mathematical operations i.e. multiplication , division, subtraction and addition. Though, there is no universal acceptable definition of the term dyscalculia. These differences in definition reflect the different theoretical and research perspectives of different experts. Some experts define dyscalculia in terms of an underlying presumed genetic, constitutional or neuroanatomical immaturity in specific area of brain (Kosc, 1974).
Supporting Kosc observation Munro, explains that in mathematical learning disability individual display a mathematics disability when his performance on standardized calculation lasts or on numerical reasoning tasks is significantly depressed, given their age, education and intellectual reasoning ability. When this loss of ability to calculate is due to cerebral trauma, the condition is called aciculae or acquired dyscalculia. However, mathematical learning difficulties that share features with acquired dyscalculia but without evidence of cerebral trauma are referred to as developmental dyscalculia (Hughes, Kolstad & Briggs, 1994).
Reviewing developmental dyscalculia (DD) (Gordon, 1992) states that students who show DD have difficulty recalling numbers facts and completing numerical calculation. They also show chronic difficulties with numerical processing skills such as recognizing number symbols, writing numbers or naming written numerals and applying procedures correctly. Gross Turaverbacha, Manor & Shalev, (1996) agreed that students with developmental dyscalculia (DD) may have low self efficacy and selective intentional difficulties. Through of all students who display low mathematics achievement can be due to range of cause, for example, lack of motivation or interest in learning mathematics, low self efficacy, high anxiety and inappropriate earlier teaching or poor school attendance. It can be due to generalized poor learning capacity, immature general ability, severe language disorder or sensory processing.
Basic causes of Dyscalculia:
Visual – spatial difficulties – trouble procession what the eye
Weakness in visual processing of numbers and mathematical
Information processing deficits
Problem with understanding concepts and symbols.
Symptoms or warning signs by young children (dyscalculia)
Difficulty with number sense
Difficulty learning to count
Trouble recognizing printed/ written numbers
Difficulty with connecting the idea of a number with what it represents in the real world.
Poor memory for numbers
Trouble organizing things in a logical way, sorting by shape, size, color, etc.
Trouble recognizing groups and patterns
Trouble learning mathematical facts.
None familiarity with mathematical vocabularies
Difficulty with measuring things
Avoiding games that require strategy.
Visual – spatial difficulties hinder comprehension of written mathematics
Difficulties in reading a clock
Strategies to help students with dyscalculia
First step is to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, understand how a student learns best.
Use tutoring outside the classroom with a one – to – one
Provide a distraction free place to work encourage repeated
reinforcement and specific practice
Use graph paper to organize work ideas.
Use problem solving with divergent question
Use different approaches to memorizing mathematics facts,
formulas, rules etc.
Practice estimating as a first step to solve problem
Encourage verbalizing while problem solving this uses auditory
skills which may be strength
Try to relate problems to real life
Provide uncluttered worksheets preferable lined/ruled
If possible, let the student take test one – on- one in the Instructor’s present
Allow extra time to complete work if need.
Beware of students become panicky, provide reassurance
Use brief, mini-lesson for specific skills
Provide opportunity to work alone and together
Monitor student progress on a frequent basis
Teach important concept to mastery.
If possible, play games
If need, allow calculator use for basis operation to allow focus on problems.
Implication of non – diagnosis of mathematics difficulties.
It is clear from this write up that less able students are likely to need special treatment. If this is not done, the students are likely to become progressively more confused and in the long run they may not survive in post-secondary mathematics programmes The write up makes suggestion as to what may be happening. For instance, Gagne (1970) postulate that, there are four phase of learning: The apprehending phase, the acquisition phase, the storage phase, and the retrieval phase. This might suggest that the more able can reach these four phases but, for the less able, the last phase may be of a problem. Perhaps the mind of the less able is like a flawed computer diskette. Sometime, it will respond well to some mathematics problems (usually the easier ones) and it will ‘blank out’ to more difficult one.
The goals of identifying students with learning difficulties is not for the purpose of labeling which may have adverse effects on the students but to seek for possible coping strategies of helping them achieve optimal result in their academic pursuits. If Nelson Rockefeller who was diagnosed to have so much reading problem (Papalia & Feldman (1999) could rise to the position of the president of the United State of America, therefore there is no reason to lose hope on children with learning difficulties. With a positive attitude and attention from peers, teachers and parent, affected students will learn to cope with their condition without shame or stress. So it is important to understand that students with learning disability such as dyslexia and dyscalculia are willing to learn, given them appropriate accommodations, the impact of their disability can be lessened and a more valid measure of their knowledge and abilities can be obtained.
I strongly recommend for the teacher at all levels of educational sectors to use Yusha’u & Galadima, (2005) (YDGAL) remediation model, which design as follows:
Identify problems through diagnosis :
Individual student is considered to have learning difficulties if achievement is not commensurate with age and ability levels one or more of the following manifestation of an imperfect ability to listen; think, speak, read, write, and spelling or to do mathematical calculations. It also includes directional confusion, sequencing difficulties and short –term memory retention problem. Teachers are expected to identify student’s specific difficulties diagnostically.
Design strategies for remedial instructions. when problems were identified, the teacher is expected to design appropriate strategy to be used for intervention this include development of prerequisite skills, developing key concepts and selecting teaching methods that will match the learning personality of students and their prerequisite skills.
Plan remedial instruction:
After designing the strategy, the teacher is expected to well throughout orderly and sequentially arrange his/her lesson on paper taking into consideration the following essential element of a lesson plan.
Objectives: what students will be able to do as a result of the lesson
Standards: which state content and developmental standards of the lesson.
Procedures: What and what the teacher will do to achieve the objective
Assessment: what the teacher can do to see if the lesson was taught effectively. This include both formal and informal and both formative and summative evaluation
Modifications/ accommodation: for any special needs students in the class room such as dyslexia and dyscalculia students.
Select appropriate instructional materials:
A teacher is expected to select appropriate instructional material according to their importance and for effective usage. Example of such material includes textbooks. Models, audio-visual aids etc.
Lesson presentation plays a vital role in teaching and learning. A teacher is expected to plan and strategize his presentation i.e. inductively or deductively.
Test and evaluation strategies:
A teacher is expected to test and evaluate his/her strategies through assignment and class works using standardized question
Compare past and present result:
A teacher is expected to compare and contrast previous with present results in order to check the level of performance and find out whether or not there is significant difference as a result of remedial instructions received.
Baddeley, A. D; Ellis, N.C: Miles, T.R.& Lewis, V.J. (1982): Developmental and Acquired Dyslexia: A Comparison Cognition. 185-199.
Daiby, J. T. (1986): An Ultimate view of Reading Ability: International
Journal of Neuroscience 30(3). 227-230.
Encarta Dictionaries, (2007).
Fehlen, J. (1976): Mastery Learning Techniques in the Traditional Classroom Setting School Science and Mathematics, 68, 241 – 245.
Gagne, R.M. (1970). The Conditions of Learning, Holt Rinehart and Winton Inc, New York 2nd edition.
Gordon, N. (1992): Children with Developmental Dyscalculia. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 34,( 5), 459 – 463.
Geoke, Jo.; Kristen, D. & Ritchey, I. (2006): Orton- Gillingham and Arton-Gillingham. A- Based Reading Instruction Review of the Literature. journal of Special Education, 35 (1), 171 -174.
Habib, M. (2000): The Neurological basics of Developmental Dyslexia. An Overview and Working Hypothesis. Brain 123(12), 237 3-99.
Henry, M. K. (1998): Structured, Sequential Multi-sensory Teaching. The Perlow legacy. Annals of Dyslexia. 48(1), 1095-1099.
Hughes, S. Kolstad, R. K. & Briggs, L.D. (1994): Dyscalculia and Mathematics Achievement . Journal of Instructional Psychology, 21, 64 – 78.
Kosc, L. (1974): Developmental Dyscalculia. Journal of Learning Disability, 7, 64-59.
James, T. O. & Taiwo, G.O. (2011): Rebranding Nigeria by Improving the Teaching of Mathematics Through Diagnosis Mathematics Learning Difficulties: A case study of Secondary School Students in Sokoto. Proceeding of September 20011 Annual National Conference of (MAN), 138-159.
KOSC, L. (1974): Developmental Dyscalculia. Journal of Learning Disability,7. 46-59. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, (2000): Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, Va: The council.
Papalia, D. E; Olds, S.W & Feldman, R. D. (1999): A Childs Word. Infancy through Adolescence. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Strydom, J. (2009): Learning Difficulties. Retrieved April 10, 2012. Wikipedia, (2012): Learning Disabilities. Retrieved may 14, 2012. Yusha’u, M. A. & Galadima, I. (2005): Teaching Mathematics to Slow Learners: An Alternative Method. A Seminar Paper Presented at the Faculty of Education and Extension Services, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto.
Yusha’u, M.A. (2006): Diagnosis and Remediation in Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in Schools of Sokoto States. A Paper Presented at a 3 – days Mathematics Workshop for Retraining of Mathematics Teachers of Nigeria (MAN), Sokoto State Branch, from 04th – 06th July 2006 held at (AB1QS) Sokoto
Yusha’u, M. A & Galadima, I. (2009). Accommodating the Special Need Students in the Mathematics Classroom proceedings of September 2009 Annual National Conference of (MAN), 297-305.