Friday, April 2, 2010

Dyslexia - Phonemic awareness & Lesson 13

Dyslexia – Phonemic awareness.

On the 1st of April a member from a group I belong to commented on my article about the Australian boy in Japan. I have copied the relevant part of her comments below:

Her comment:
......It is already known there are different types of dyslexia and types that are most prevalent in countries vary by writing system. One type involves phonemic awareness which is very important in written languages that are based on letters representing sounds (most European based languages). Another type of dyslexia involves visual processing of writing. Unfortunately, those with that type of dyslexia have problems reading in most languages. My son is the later. He has normal phonemic awareness, but has little reading ability. He is well spoken and has a large vocabulary, though he also has word recall problems.

As the article points out someone who have phonemic awareness problems might be able to read in character based writing, but not sound based writing. Although the one case is an interesting study, basing conclusions on a study size of 1 is not professional. It should lead to further study, though research will turn up that further studies with larger sample sizes have already been done.
End of comment.

I started writing my articles in my blog based on my own findings. I have been teaching dyslexic children, who read in 2 or 3 languages, for more than 5 years. They don't have a problem reading in Malay and Han Yu Pin Yin (Both using romanised letters) but they have a problem reading in English. I repeat – Malay and Han Yu Pin Yin are not in character based writing but in Roman alphabets. When I observed that they could read in languages other than English (fluently like any other student) I started looking up the internet to see if I could find something similar to my findings. I checked on Japanese, because I know that Japanese is similar to Malay and found the article in "The Independent" dated July 1999.

I continued my search and found many research articles which stated that dyslexic students had no problem reading in Italian and Spanish.

It is my opinion that it is not phonemic awareness that is a problem. If it is phonemic awareness why don't my students have problem reading in Malay and Han Yu Pin Yin? Dyslexic children have a problem with orthographically inconsistent languages like English.
Their mind shuts down when the letters in a word and the sound of the word do not correspond. Like I have pointed out - my students don't have a problem learning the words but and cut. However their minds literally shut off the moment I teach the word 'put'.

I have also seen blank faces when I taught "A fat cat". This I found out was because the sound for 'a' is 'er' and the 'a' in cat has the sound 'air'.

So it is not phoneme awareness that is a problem but phoneme inconsistency in the English language that the dyslexic children cannot accept and therefore do not progress.

I therefore teach my students by telling them not to try and make sense of English like they do with Malay. I tell them to learn the words as it is written. Once they realize that it is not they who are stupid (as suggested by fellow students and sometimes the teacher) but it is the English language that is the problem they begin to learn at a faster pace.

Note : The definition that dyslexics have a problem with phonemes was probably coined by people who speak and read only one language - English. After more than a month of my articles there are a few who are beginning to give serious thought to what I am saying

Reading is not the only problem a dyslexic child encounters. As you will see in my blog, I have addressed this by writing 3 articles on some of the most difficult things a dyslexic child finds. I have also suggested ways to teach a dyslexic child the difficult things without encroaching upon his study time.

For lesson 13 click here:

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