More Than a Language Problem.

Dyslexic GirlThis week is Dyslexia Advocacy Week in NZ. Dyslexia is defined as a developmental reading disorder which is characterized by difficulty with learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal intelligence. There is also a growing awareness of other factors that can affect dyslexics which do not depend on language at all – in particular problems with their visual, auditory and motor skills.

Most academic learning begins with visual or auditory input which requires good eyesight and hearing. The next step however is to manage the visual and auditory information acquired through ours senses, referred to as “sensory processing”.  An example of auditory processing is whether we can tell the difference between a high sound and a low sound. That is to say, a student may have perfect hearing but still fail to process this information accurately.

As we are not born with these skills they must be learned and in most cases they do not fully mature until well into the teenage years. For this reason we refer to them as ”developmental skills”. In the case of dyslexia however these skills may never reach age expected levels without extra help.

Because sensory processing skills are quite removed from academic tasks such as reading and writing the impact that they’re having on learning may not be so obvious. Furthermore, students will often find ways of compensating for any weaknesses in their development which can make it even more difficult to detect if there’s a problem. This may enable a student to get by at school but it is unlikely they will be using the most efficient strategy for learning.

A growing number of researchers such as those from the Dyslexia Research Trust at Oxford University have shown that these skills can be treated through daily training or tinted lenses. Although not a cure for dyslexia such treatments can be very helpful at removing some of the critical barriers to learning – and what works for dyslexic students usually works for students with general learning problems as well!


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