Today’s blog is a guest post about why children can have trouble reading. Thank you so much for your article, Easy Read!
Experts tell us that 1 in 10 people in the English-speaking global population have dyslexia. A diagnosis is usually given in childhood, but many adults are now being diagnosed as well.
But what is dyslexia? It is a loose term which captures a variety of reading difficulties. Dyslexia describes people with strong visual-spatial capacities that lead them down the wrong path in reading and spelling tasks.
Reading is a neurological process that the brain undertakes every time it is presented with text on the page. In order to target the primary cause of reading difficulty to find a solution, we have to look at different areas where that process can break down.
We have found that there are 7 main reasons children struggle with reading. By defining which of these a child struggles with, we can help the child become a fluent reader.
1. Optilexia - The main sign of Optilexia is guessing when reading, particularly with the short words. Sometimes the longer words seem easier and the reader will read a word without a problem on one page, but not the next. It can be very frustrating! Spelling in free writing is atrocious, but the Optilexic can usually perform well on a spelling test. Unfamiliar words and place names will feel very difficult. The underlying cause of Optilexia can be found in how the learner is processing the text visually rather than aurally. Once that has been switched, a steady rate of progress can be gained.
2. Eye-Tracking Weakness - Does your child skip words and lines? Do single words seem easier than sentences and paragraphs of text? Normally a reader’s eyes perform a refined jump from word cluster to word cluster left to right, called a saccade. Some struggling readers have weakness in the neural feedback loops controlling the eye muscles that control this movement. That makes focusing accurately on a word in a sentence very hard. The right simple eye-tracking exercises usually fix this neural weakness in just days.
3. Irlen Syndrome - Has your child ever complained about the words moving around on the page? The human eye has a great visual sensitivity to changes in color and brightness in order to identify patterns. However, some struggling readers have an over-sensitivity to black text on white background, which causes the words to shimmer or move around on the page. This can be alleviated with colored films to soften the level of contrast.
4. Poor Short-Term Memory - Have you seen your child struggling to decode longer words? Is it hard to follow the meaning of sentence? When you learn to read you have to use the short-term memory capacity through the entire reading process. Words are broken into sounds, which then have to be held in memory to be turned into a word, which then have to be held in memory to be placed in a sentence, which then…etc! Some struggling readers have a limited short-term memory capacity (they might find recalling more than 4 numbers of a sequence difficult), which causes low comprehension and great difficulty with decoding longer words. The good news is that if your child is guided through reading practice in a way that makes it easy, then the whole process will eventually drop into the automatic “procedural” zones of the brain. At that point this issue ceases to be a concern.
5. Attention Deficit - Attention problems are common among children and often diagnosed as ADD. No matter what the label, the child has difficulty focusing on tasks that they are not interested in. Learning to read starts as a difficult task, and children with attention issues have great difficulty applying themselves until it becomes easier. This results in a struggle with reading that turns into a reading disorder diagnosis. The key for children with attention issues is to structure the lessons in short, simple ways in order to grab their attention and keep them progressing until reading becomes more automatic and not such a chore. Symptoms of attention deficit include excessive fidgeting, being easily distracted, preferring motion, yet the ability to focus when interested in a task.
6. Fluency Block - Does your child decode words competently, but struggle to read fluently? A conventional reader uses a part of their brain called the letterbox cortex to recognise common letter groupings. Amazgainly you aer able to raed scarblmed txet quite flnuetly, due to this function. Some struggling readers bypass their letterbox cortex when reading, instead using visual memory to store letter groupings. This causes the reader to be able to decode quickly but never really develop any fluency or smoothness. To fix this tricky problem means engaging this very specialist bit of cortex in the decoding process. We do that with anagrams.
7. Stress Spirals - Reading is a higher brain function and is therefore controlled by the frontal cortex. When the brain is under stress, 70% of the frontal cortex energy is diverted to the fight or flight center (amygdala) and the brain loses its capacity to think clearly. A child who struggles with reading is in a state of stress when trying. This sets the child up for inadequate mental resources when attempting to read. The pattern of being under stress and getting more stressed when trying creates a downward stress spiral which often results in meltdowns, tears and finally giving up.
If these patterns seem familiar and you want more information, you can visit the Easyread website or talk to your local dyslexia charity.
Looking for a phonics program to help your struggling learner? Easyread incorporates solutions to these 7 causes and difficulty due to dyslexia, auditory processing disorder or highly visual learning styles. Visit http://www.easyreadsystem.com.