Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dyslexia- A convenient term for reading difficulties in general

Following from my last article I would say that there is no reason why most dyslexics cannot read well with the right instruction.
People often accept dyslexia as some sort of incurable disease. From my experience of teaching dyslexic students I have found that all my dyslexic students can be taught to read if taught in a way suitable for them.

The more I read the more I find that there are no two matching definitions of dyslexia. I would like to define dyslexia as “difficulty in learning to read at a level that would be expected of children with average or above average intelligence.” Dyslexics also have problems with sequencing and abstract words which I have dealt with in my blog. In this article I am discussing only about reading.

Many articles in the internet make dyslexia sound more complicated than it really is.  Look at the person behind the article and you would see that most often it is written for some medical journal or organisations selling their wares. The more complicated they can make dyslexia to be the more chance they can sell their medicine, therapy , tuition material, dyslexia tests  and so on. In their definition of dyslexia they include symptoms that are specific to Irlen syndrome, Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder, Dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD and many other conditions. It follows therefore as no surprise that “dyslexia” has become a convenient term for reading difficulties in general.

A majority of the dyslexics simply have a reading problem because of their learning preference. Anything more complex than this is dangerous as it will link to the other conditions I have mentioned above.

When you understand why a child is struggling to read it becomes easy to overcome the difficulty. To this end I keep asking you and many of the ‘experts’ who write on dyslexia as to why my dyslexic students do not have a problem reading in Malay and Romanized Mandarin and I have not received any answer from most of them. Most of these ‘experts’ speak and read only in English and therefore do not understand that dyslexics only have a problem with orthographically inconsistent languages such as English.

There are some ‘experts’ who have replied and said that Asian languages are ‘pictorial’ and that is different from English. Leaving out the other Asian countries and just taking India alone we have 29 languages spoken in India by more than one million people and this does not include the other 100 over languages and more than 100 dialects spoken in India. None of the 29 main languages in India are pictorial.

The experts do not respond when I tell them that Malay and Romanized Mandarin are in Roman alphabets just like English.

Now let us see how reading happens:
1.    You need to understand the way speech sounds make up words.
2.    You have to focus on printed letters and words.
3.    You have to connect speech sounds to letters.
4.    You have to blend letter sounds smoothly into words.

The above list can be extended but for our immediate purpose the above is enough.
As I have mentioned in many of my articles the problems faced by dyslexics are number 3 and 4 above. How do you blend letter sounds smoothly into words in the following words?

Know, island, was, their, quay and thousands of other words.

Unless and until the ‘experts’ from countries speaking only English, or only English as the main language, accept the fact that the problem is the English language and not the dyslexic child, illiteracy rate in the world will not be able to be reduced.

I ask myself as to why is it that with all kinds of technological advance the illiteracy rate in the advanced countries is still as high as it is. The simple answer seems to be the ignorance of the experts on languages spoken by people in other countries including Asian languages. It is also their ego which seems to block their view/understanding of numerous reports by various countries stating that dyslexics don’t have a problem reading in many of the languages.

English, as I have mentioned many times, is orthographically inconsistent and this is the main reason why dyslexics find it difficult to read in English. Added to this is the fact that one set of educators are so stubborn in saying that only phonics works while another set insist only on using ‘whole word system’. Their ego is what is standing in their way. I like to take Buddha’s way – the middle way – use both the methods as I have used them in my lessons in my blog. Dyslexics learn at a fast rate when taught with a combination of phonics and whole-word method.


Anonymous said...

Nice article!

I would just like to add that #5 should be: It is important that they match meaning to the written word. Just knowing how a word is pronounced is not enough. Reading is all about comprehension, afterall.

Luqman Michel said...

Yes, I do agree with you completely. We read to comprehend what we read, otherwise reading is of no use.
Thank you for your comment.

Stephanie said...

Kids need the direction of teachers in order to make sure that the comprehend what they are reading. If a kid has dyslexia the teaching needs to be tailored for that.

Luqman Michel said...

Yes Stephanie, teachers play a very important role and should learn how to teach a dyslexic child.

Dyslexia test for teenagers said...

Dyslexia is not a disease, it is a disorder. People with dyslexia have learning disorder. They are not able learn with ease just like other people. They like mirror writing and get distracted from background noise. But it doesn't mean that there is no solution for this. With the help of therapies, a person can live life with better conditions.

Luqman Michel said...

Sorry, I cannot agree with you when you say dyslexics like mirror writing.
You may read articles on this in my blog.

Dyslexics I have taught need no therapist. They just need to be taught how to read.

Linda m said...

It is my understanding the research (MRI) has shown that dyslexia in "picture" languages versus letter-based languages involves different areas of the brain. Treatment may be different based on these findings for children learning/using different types of languages.

Luqman Michel said...

Hi Linda, Thank you for your comment. I regret this late response as I was on a long vacation and had not seen your comment until now.
I have read about what you have said.
I really don't know if these MRI's do show what these people say it shows. I have written articles in my blog and many articles in many websites saying that my dyslexic students can read fluently in Malay and Romanised Mandarin and yet are dyslexic in English. Both Malay and Romanised Mandarin use the same 26 alphabets as does the English language.
Linda, please continue with your line of questioning.I have written why dyslexics have a problem with English and not Malay and Romanised Mandarin. Please read those articles and continue with your questioning.