Dyslexia is one of the most common reading disorders, affecting approximately 1 in 10 people worldwide[i]. It is a lifelong condition where patients have difficulties reading and processing the language. Usually people would have difficulty with recognising words, issues with spelling and struggle to understand the relationship between sounds and letters.
People have varying degrees of dyslexia and no two people would have the same level of difficulties. Some people may find associating words with sounds more difficult whilst others struggle more with spelling. It occurs independently of intelligence and affects patients across the IQ spectrum however people with dyslexia would have learning difficulties. Dyslexia might be present alongside another related condition. Many children with dyslexia will also have ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, anxiety or depression.
What is the current situation?
There is no set treatment for dyslexia and the best way to help is to adjust the way reading is taught. One of these is occupational therapy. Occupational therapy encompasses many activities meant to help people develop reading skills. The most common activity used is multisensory structured language education (MLSE) which is often used with both kids and adults[ii]. Patients can use other senses to help them recognise sounds and syllables. One example of this is using sandpaper letters to learn spelling or learning syllables by tapping with their fingers. As such, they learn the same sound over and over, helping them to remember it better.
An alternative program is the Lindamood-Bell method. This is not often learnt in school but in private centres instead. In a similar way to MLSE, Lindamood-Bell breaks down learning to read in steps. However, instead of just using other senses to learn to read the word, the program also focuses on understanding content. This is often in the form of imagery and associating a certain word or phrase with a mental image.
Speech therapy is usually thought to help articulating words but this is not the case. Speech therapy can be advantageous as it helps the patient develop their vocabulary in addition to helping them develop phonological awareness[iii]. It is a skill that helps kids recognise the sound structure in words and identify specific sounds like syllables. Subsequently, they will improve in reading comprehension.
Often in schools, teachers would seek the help of a speech language pathologist or receive training from them. Helping children with dyslexia is often an issue, especially since teachers have limited capacity to help students one on one. This means that many children are often left to their own devices. In addition, teachers do not always have the necessary training to recognise dyslexia or even support them in the classroom.
Here, there is a chance for healthcare professionals and institutions should come together for the sake of children who are carrying a much heavier burden than they are supposed to. With the necessary tools and training, educators and teachers can be enabled to reach these children and make a difference in their lives.