Looking out for Dyslexia

Dyslexic difficulties occur on a continuum from mild to severe and affect
approximately 10% of the population. The Dyslexia Association of Ireland’s
campaigns for mandatory teaching training, equitable access to identification
and supports, and funding support services for children and adults with dyslexia.

THERE are many definitions of dyslexia. A very simple one would be that dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which makes it hard for some people to learn to read, write and spell correctly.
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland defines dyslexia as a specific learning difficulty affecting the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading and spelling skills. This occurs despite access to appropriate learning opportunities.
Dyslexia is characterised by cognitive difficulties in (1) phonological processing, (2) working memory, and (3) speed of retrieval of information from long term memory. Dyslexic difficulties occur on a continuum from mild to severe and affect approximately 10% of the population. People with dyslexia may experience greater stress and frustration as they endeavour to learn, resulting in heightened anxiety, particularly in relation to literacyacquisition. People with dyslexia may also have accompanying learning strengths.
The Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia (2001) suggests the following definition:

 “Dyslexia is manifested in a continuumof specific learning difficulties related to the acquisition of basic skills in reading, spelling and/or writing, such difficulties being unexplained in relation to an individual’s other abilities and educational experiences. Dyslexia can be described at the neurological, cognitive and behavioural levels. It is typically characterised by inefficient information processing, including difficulties in phonological processing, working memory, rapid naming and automaticity of basic
skills. Difficulties in organisation, sequencing and motor skills may also be present.”

The report goes on to say that the learning difficulties arising from dyslexia:
• occur across the lifespan, and may manifest themselves in different ways at different ages;
• may co-exist with difficulties in the area of numbers;
• may be associated with early spoken language difficulties;
• may be alleviated by appropriate intervention;
• increase or reduce in severity depending on environmental factors;
• occur in all socio-economic groups;
• can co-exist with other learning difficulties such as Attention Deficit Disorder, and may or may not represent a primary difficulty.

Causes of dsylexia

A great deal of research has been done in recent years on the cause of dyslexia and it may be that a great deal more needs to be done before we have a definitive answer.
We do know that developmental dyslexia is inherited, only slightly more common in males than females and that one is born with it. While no conclusive research has been carried out in Ireland to determine how prevalent it is, studies in other countries would suggest that approx. 8-10% of the population are likely to be affected. It would seem that people with dyslexia share a cluster of genes, which may, it is believed, account for the variations in the nature and extent of specific learning difficulties.
Experts are not agreed, however, on the underlying causes of dyslexia. The prevalent research considers that a phonological deficit is the root cause of dyslexia. Evidence from
brain imaging suggests that people with dyslexia do not activate the left hemisphere (the language side) in the brain as much when reading as non-dyslexic readers, and that there is less engagement of the areas of the brain which match letters with sounds.
Professor John Stein, Oxford, believes that auditory and visual difficulties are caused by abnormal magnocellular development. Malfunction in the development of sensory nerves happens at the foetal stage and is said to cause eye convergence difficulties and inhibit steady eye fixation.
Yet another view is that the role of the part of the brain which controls balance (the cerebellum) is crucial and that differences in this area make it difficult for children with
dyslexia to acquire automaticity in tasks and may further inhibit the development of language dexterity and motor skills.
Experts do agree that dyslexia describes differences in the way in which the brain processes information, and while there may be differences in the way in which the brain works, this does not imply any abnormality, disease or defect.

Managing dyslexia

Whatever the origins of the difficulty, the truth is that children and adults with dyslexia learn differently. If this difference is not accommodated within the education system, the student may have difficulty in learning to read, write, spell and handle numbers. Some difficulties will be mild and the individual may cope without extra support. Others are severe and the student will require specialist help and tuition.
Early identification and appropriate interventions are necessary to enable people with dyslexia to achieve their true potential. An assessment not only diagnoses the difficulty but also gives a great deal of information about an individual’s learning profile. This
information can be used to develop an education plan, and will enable teachers to identify appropriate teaching strategies which are tailored to individual needs.
Research and practice shows us that multi-sensory methods of learn-ing are beneficial. This means using many sensory channels when learning information such as:
• auditory (listening)
• visual (seeing, using diagrams, colour)
• kinaesthetic (touch, movement, action)
• The more channels used the more effective the learning will be.
Technology has been a boon to people with dyslexia. There is a wide range of technological aids available which can also help people to manage their dyslexia independently.
Dyslexia is a life-long condition. It does not go away. However, with the right supports and aids, an individual can learn to manage their dyslexia and become an independent
self sufficient learner and worker.
Founded in 1972, the Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI) works with and for people affected by dyslexia, by providing information, offering appropriate support services,
engaging in advocacy and raising awareness of dyslexia. The DAI vision is a dyslexia
friendly society where all people with dyslexia are enabled to fulfill their potential.

See www.dyslexia.ie 

Famous people with Dyslexia

The following list of famous people with dyslexia wascompiled mostly from press reports in which people describe their dyslexia. Others, particularly those long-deceased, for example, Leonardo da Vinci, demonstrated classic symptoms of dyslexia.


Tom Cruise. Actor.
Stuart Dunne. Actor.
Noel Gallagher (above).
Susan Hampshire. Actress.
Salma Hayek. Actress.
Anthony Hopkins. Actor.
Eddie Izzard. Comedian, actor.
Keira Knightley. Actress.
Brendan O’Carroll. Comedian, Writer & Actor.
Shane Lynch. Singer from Boyzone.
Aidan Bishop. Comedian.
Kara Tointon. Actor

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