READING AND SPECIFIC READING DISABILITIES (DYSLEXIA): PROBLEMS AND REMEDIES By Ravi K M

 

Abstract

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2012 indicates that in std III 26.2%, in std IV 17.6% and in std V 12% of students only can read letters but not more. It means huge percentages of children in the Indian classrooms are not able to read most basic level in their mother tongue. Reading is an essential skill required for any student to be an effective learner. Reading includes different component, to have good reading skill one learner has to be good in these components. Children with dyslexia have severe problems in reading, which prevent them from achieving success in school. Most of the children with dyslexia in Indian schools go unidentified, as majority of the teachers are unaware about the signs of the condition and if identified many teachers are not equipped with sufficient knowledge regarding their educational management. So this paper intended to examine the components involved in reading, identification of reading disability, and classroom management of these children.

Keywords: Dyslexia / Reading Disability, Identification, Classroom management.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­INTRODUCTION

Ability to read is the skill which is essential for any person to live independently in the society. In comparison to writing, reading has utmost importance in the life because this help to get information, acquire knowledge, helps to get and maintain job, and also its application in day today life high. It is the pivotal skill that allows children to achieve at high levels and become reflective, lifelong learners (Snow, Burns, and Griffin, 1998). Fluency in reading is essential for academic achievements and vocational success. Reading is the basic skill for all academic subjects, and problems in reading can lead to difficulties in all subject area and further it may lead to failure. At the beginning years in school students learn to read and after that they learn through reading. Furthermore, knowing how to read is related to personal resilience and overcoming social obstacles and, thus, has far-reaching positive effects (Simmons and Kame’enui, 1998).

Reading is the major problem area for most students who have learning disabilities (Kaluger and Kolson, 1978). Dyslexia is the term which is used to categorise the children who have problems in reading. The children with dyslexia have difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and in both encoding and decoding skills which further leads to difficulties in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. These problems persist through adolescence and adulthood, but with timely intervention its effect can be reduced.

In India, learning disability (LD) has not been included in any legislation, so prevalence is not studied at large scale here. Mogasale, Patil, Patil & Mogasale (2011) conducted a prevalence study of LD among primary school children in a south Indian city and result showed that nearly 15.17% of sampled children had LD and in that 11.2 % had dyslexia, 12.5% dysgraphia and 10.5% of them had dyscalculia. Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2012 indicates that in std III 26.2%, in std IV 17.6% and in std V 12% of students only can read letters but not more. It means huge percentage of children in the education system in India is not able to read most basic level in their mother tongue.

In United States of America 2.4 million school going children are identified as having Specific Learning Disability and eligible for support under IDEA (Source: IDEA Part B Child Count, 2010, Students ages 6-21.), it is around 41% of students receiving special education. General belief about the prevalence of dyslexia was that boys out number girls. But longitudinal research shows that as many girls as boys are affected by dyslexia (Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher, & Escobar, 1990).

COMPONENTS OF READING

According to National Reading Panel (2000) (in Lerner and Kline, 2006) effective readers need to be competent in following components of reading

Lerner and Kline (2006) explained these components as given below

  1. Phonemic awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds work in words. They must understand that words are made of speech sounds, or phonemes.  The term phonological awareness is broad and includes the ability to identify and manipulate larger parts of spoken language, such as words syllables, and rhymes as well as phonemes. Phonological awareness focuses on children’s hearing and using sounds of language.

  1. Phonics and word recognition skills

Phonics refers to the relationship between printed letters (graphemes) and the sounds (phonemes). Children must learn to decode printed language and translate print in to sounds through the alphabetic principle of the symbol-sound relationship. This process is known as breaking code.

Reading requires the ability to recognise words. Once reader develops facility in word recognition, they can concentrate on the meaning of the text, without these lower level skills, the higher cognitive skills cannot function (Williams, 1998). Learning word recognition skills is leads to wider reading abilities in school and out of school. Readers use several word recognition skills to identify words such as: phonics, sight words, contextual cues and structural analysis. Research on  neurocognitive basis of dyslexia,   shows word recognition to be the locus of difficulty in dyslexia and the strongest predictor of reading comprehension (Perfetti, 1985; Stanovich, 1980). The primary difficulty with word recognition in students with developmental dyslexia is based in a deficit in their phonological coding-the process of translating subvocal units of print into sound (Van Orden, 1991).

 

  1. Fluency

Reading fluency is the ability to read connected text rapidly, effortlessly and automatically (Hook &Jones, 2004; Meyer, 2002; National Reading Panel, 2000). Readers must develop fluency to make the bridge from word recognition to reading comprehension (Jenkins, Fuchs, Vandern Brock, Espin & Deno , 2003).

Vocabulary         

Vocabulary occupies a central position in learning to read. The student’s vocabulary has a significant effect on reading achievement and is strongly related to reading comprehension( national reading panel 2000).vocabulary knowledge requires the reader to not only know the words, but also to apply it appropriately in context.

  1. Text Comprehension

The sole purpose of reading is comprehension; that is gathering meaning from printed page. All reading instruction should provide for the development of reading comprehension. For many students with reading disabilities, reading comprehension is a major problem. Comprehension skills do not automatically evolve after word recognition skills have been learned. Although most students with reading disabilities eventually learn the basics of word recognition skills, many continue to have difficulty with task that requires comprehension of complex passage. Many researchers have also shown that dyslexic children typically exhibit difficulties in recognizing printed words, and perform poorly on such tasks as nonsense word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension (Lyon, 1995; Rack, Snowling, & Olson, 1992).

Children have trouble comprehending text when they have reading problems with dyslexia. Comprehension relies on mastery of decoding. Children who struggle to decode find it difficult to understand and remember what has been read. Because their efforts to grasp individual words are so exhausting, they have no resources left for understanding. Signs of comprehension difficulty include: confusion about the meaning of words and sentences; inability to connect ideas in a passage; omission of, or glossing over, detail; difficulty distinguishing significant information from minor details; and lack of concentration during reading. Retention requires decoding and comprehending what is written.

IDENTIFICATION OF DYSLEXIA

To determine a person has or do not have reading disability widely used method is to find the discrepancy between Intellectual functioning and his/her actual reading skills. If there is significant difference between these the person is considered as having reading disability. But according to Siegel (2006) no reliable evidence indicates that IQ level plays causative role in the development of reading skills. On the contrary, evidence from a number of sources indicates that reading is not strongly related to intelligence as measured by IQ tests. So what is important is that to know the difficulties child have and plan an educational programme which suit to the need of the child.

It is widely agreed that early identification of dyslexia can help to bring children to the track of success in academic activities. Because at the later stage it leaves a cumulative effect and will become very difficult for a child to cope up with the increasing demands of reading in education. In order to identify reading dyslexia a teacher compares the reading or literacy achievement of students with typically developing peers.

Among preschool children, delay in speech development, difficulty in learning rhymes,  problems in following a rhythm, enjoys when read to them but does not show interest on letters and words, difficulty in throwing, catching and kicking ball due to motor coordination problems.

At the primary level they may substitute, omit, add, reverse, transpose, and/or mispronounce letters or words. So the reading skills of a child with dyslexia will be below to that of typically developing child. Other than this there can be inability to follow directions, difficulty expressing self, discrepancy between receptive and expressive language, difficulty in spelling and memory, prominent difficulty in reading and understanding what is read is also seen.

At secondary stage they still not able to read accurately, understand the content read, persisting difficulty in memorizing, problems in understanding complex instructions etc. By this stage they are strained and tired and they start avoiding activities. It is also known as ‘learned helplessness’.

Signs of Dyslexia at various levels

Pre-school Primary Secondary
·   Delay in speech development

·    Difficulty in learning rhymes

·   Difficulty in following rhythm

·   Do not show interest in letters and words

·   Motor coordination problems such as difficulty in catching, throwing, and kicking balls

 

·    Substitution (e.g., kat for cat), Omission (e.g., iland for island), Addition (e.g., ischool for school) , and Reversal (e.g., doy for boy) of letters or words.

·    Mispronounces letters or words (e.g., excape for escape)

·    Transpose order of words (e.g., fromat for format)

·    Inability to follow directions

·    Difficulty expressing self

·    Discrepancy between expressive and receptive language

·    Difficulty in spelling and memory

·    Difficulty in reading and understanding what is read

·    Not able to read accurately

·    Difficulty to understand the content read

·    Difficulty in understanding complex instruction

·    Persisting difficulty in memorisation

·    Learned Helplessness

 

A teacher needs to have good observation skill to notice these symptoms and send the child for detailed assessment and interventions.  There is no magic age at which you can conduct assessment for dyslexia in a child, but literacy skills are involved in the assessment process. If the child exhibit problem behaviours, face difficulty in rhyming, mispronouncing words, difficulty in identifying similar sounding words you should send him/her for detailed assessment. Usually it is done at 7-8 years of age but studies now show that at the age of 4-5 years also identification is possible.

Diagnostic Test for Reading Disorder (DTRD) developed by Smriti Swarup aand Dharmishta H. Mehta is a tool developed in India to diagnose reading disorders among children. The test identifies and diagnoses the process deficits that cause disorder in both fluency and accuracy of reading.

TEACHING CHILDREN WITH DYSLEXIA

Many children with reading disabilities are in regular schools. Reason for the same is that LD is an invisible disability and their physical, social and cognitive abilities are intact at the same time other disabilities problems are very much visible.

With the support of the teacher children with dyslexia can achieve success in their education. First of all you as teacher efforts need to be directed to improve the self confidence of the students. Because repeated negative experiences or feedbacks from parents, teachers and friends may have an effect on their self concept. So you need to gain confidence of the student and build self confidence in him/her.

Assessment

In order to plan intervention for reading first a teacher need to assess the child to know the current functioning level. This assessment can be done using formal and informal tools. Indigenous formal assessment tools are not easily available in India so teachers’ here has to depend on informal assessment.  It includes examining students’ daily work or administering teacher made tests. In informal assessment teacher can present student a task and record his/her responses. Further analysing errors in reading will help in identifying specific strengths and weakness of the student. Graded word lists, Informal Reading Inventories – contains reading passages from various difficulty levels, and teacher made tests are some examples for informal assessment. Teacher observations are another important component of informal assessment. A teacher gets many opportunities to observe the child during different reading activities. An experienced teacher can obtain information which are helpful for planning an effective intervention programme. Informal assessment helps to pinpoint the errors in the student, and also it require less time to administer.

Teaching Strategies

While teaching, teacher should provide more opportunities for review the work and repeat or practice the content taught to student. Teacher should also emphasise on daily review of the topics taught in the class.  Also should provide extra time to the student with LD for completing the work and always explain the concept with multiple examples, illustrations wherever possible and give reason. Give reading materials which match with their current reading level. If the student has to work hard to read every word he/she will not understand the meaning. Instructions always need to be combined with verbal and visual information so that students will be clear about concepts.

According to National Centre for Learning Disabilities, USA instruction for individuals with learning differences should be

  • Explicit – directly teaches skills for reading, spelling, and writing
  • Systematic and Cumulative – has a definite, logical sequence of concept introduction
  • Structured – has step-by-step procedures for introducing, reviewing, and practicing concepts
  • Multisensory – engages the visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic channels simultaneously or in rapid succession

Peer mediated learning is another effective strategy with children with LD. Teacher can pair students of different abilities for various academic works like review notes, study for a test, do projects etc.

In India awareness regarding dyslexia is mostly confined to metro cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata. Other parts of the country still have large population who are not aware about it. So many a time you have to counsel parents regarding the difficulty child faces and what to expect from child and things they should do for the child.

Assistive Technology

Technological enhancement in the field of assistive technology has been a great help for children with Learning Disabilities. It brought number of computer programmes and tools for children who have difficulties in reading. Now a day’s softwares which targets on improving the phonetic skills and grammatical skills of students are available.   Other widely used softwares are screen readers, and grammar checkers. To facilitate reading eBooks are available, which convert text to speech. Also mobile based applications which allow students to read books and adjust the brightness and contrast on the screen to facilitate reading are also developed..

Evaluation

Conventional evaluation methods followed in India are written tests, but children with dyslexia can have difficulty in expressing through written form. If the ultimate objective of evaluation is to know the understanding level of children in subject area alternative modes of evaluation also can be used to support other forms of evaluation. Oral examination is a method which can be used to evaluate children with dyslexia. In written tests extra time and scribe should be provided. Central Board of Secondary Education provides exemption from examination in the third language and additional one hour time for each paper. While correcting the answer sheets of students with dyslexia look for conceptual understanding than appropriate spelling and grammar. At lower grades you can use test papers which contain questions like select correct answer and underline form choices given, put tick mark, match the right answer etc instead of writing answer.

 

CONCLUSION

Dyslexia is severe difficulties in the ability to read. Children with dyslexia show specific symptoms in the classroom at various levels. A teacher needs to be good observer and identify at the earliest and start providing necessary support to the student. So that he/she will be able to achieve success in the activities in school.  In India dyslexia has not yet received enough attention; one reason could be it is not yet included in any legislation as a disability. We can hope that efforts to include it in the proposed amendment of Persons with Disabilities Act would attain success in future. Further this will lead to get recognition to the field and appropriate education to children.

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[1] Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi