dys·lex·i·a [dis-lek-see-uh] noun Pathology .
Any of various reading disorders associated with impairment of the ability to interpret spatial relationships or to integrate auditory and visual information.
Much of my professional life is spent trying to explain dyslexia to parents. It is hard to shake the hypnotic messages that have been hardwired into their belief system – you know the usual ones about “upside down and backward reading.”
I spend much of the time showing examples of how the reading process breaks down.
“Dyslexia is a reading disability,” I will start to explain, “But to call it a reading disability is really not accurate. In some ways it's a misnomer.”
At this point the parents start looking at me like I have completely lost them.
“No, dyslexia really isn’t a reading problem,” I continue. “It’s a reading, spelling and writing problem. You see, 99.99% of the time when a child has a reading disability (dyslexia) he has the package deal. It is never as simple as a reading problem. Even if the child can spell well on the spelling test there are always spelling and writing problems that go along with the reading issues.”
Open ended writing is particularly rough for dyslexic style children (and adults). There are too many interacting variables pressing in on the already compromised active working memory. Asking a child to “just write about what you feel” relative to any situation or experience (e.g.., summer vacation) is a painstaking and laborious process. In many ways “open-ended writing” needs to be avoided altogether until the child has mastered how to write basic sentences.
The importance of emphasizing the “reading, spelling, writing” aspect of dyslexia is to understand that even if the reading is improved through sensible remediation, there is still a lot of heavy lifting to do.
Targeting spelling with structured approaches and focusing on writing with very specific scaffolded methods, with one skill being taught followed by the next is the next phase after the reading is improved.
Dyslexia is more than you think it is – it is always a reading, spelling and writing problem.