Dyslexia: Reading and Spelling Difficulties

Dyslexia is viewed as a difficulty in processing language or words affecting up to 10% of the population. It is seen predominantly as a difficulty in processing information and phonological awareness which impacts upon reading, writing and spelling. Standardised assessments are used to diagnose specific areas of need which provide an insight into the strengths and difficulties being experienced.

The main features are: 
  • Poor phonological (sounds) discrimination skills  (confuses similar sounds easily, difficulty with homophones and homonyms)
  • Poor sequencing skills 
  • Poor auditory processing skills (ability to process sounds and verbal information efficiently and quickly)
  • Poor auditory short-term and/or working memory (ability to hold several units of aural information simultaneously)
Contrary to popular belief, a diagnosis of dyslexia is not needed to apply for extra help in the form of access arrangements/exam concessions or in-class support; the profile of strengths and weaknesses is the important feature when applying for additional help. 

Some individuals experience visual processing difficulties which impact their ability to read fluently. This is not viewed as classic dyslexia, and should be identified through a thorough analysis of the individual's strengths and needs.

Dyslexia is a highly inherited developmental condition and has its aetiology in early speech and language difficulties. Any concerns within the Early Years and KS1 regarding language development, may be indicative of a development disorder such as dyslexia. 

Early Years: 
  • Delayed or problematic speech 
  • Poor expressive language- may be delayed in ability to speak short sentences or may muddle up words in a sentence
  • Poor understanding of prepositions and instructions 
  • Reduced vocabulary 
  • Difficulty in rhyming 
  • Reduced interest in the alphabet and letters/numbers 
  • Misuses pronouns 
  • difficulty remembering the sequence of the alphabet
Primary Years: 
  • Slow or reluctant to begin to read 
  • Often mis-reads text or misses out words 
  • May lose place when reading 
  • Appears to struggle with syntax - sentence structures and inferring what comes next when reading
  • Passive reading leads to weak reading comprehension - focus of attention is on decoding and not reading for meaning
  • May confuse visually similar words such as saw/was; on/no 
  • Difficulty spelling homonyms
  • Difficulty in learning alphabetical sounds (phoneme) and corresponding written representation (grapheme) 
  • Difficulty in spelling 
  • Slow reading and writing 
  • Difficulty in rhyme and alliteration 
  • Marked discrepancy between spoken and written language 
  • Difficulty in generalising 
Secondary Years: 
  • Reading fluency (rate and accuracy) will be poor compared to peers 
  • May avoid reading altogether
  • Writing and reading speed may be slow 
  • Poor spelling will persist 
  • Often imaginative ideas are not expressed in writing 
  • Discrepancy between verbal and written performance
  • Problems with copying from the board
  • Poor organisational skills, associated with working memory difficulties
  • Problems with following multiple instructions given aurally
  • Problems with subject-specific vocabulary
  • Problems with word retrieval; knows what to say but can't find the right words to say it
  • Struggles with structuring written work: has lots of ideas but very disorganised
  • Continues to struggle with reading accuracy, leading to mis-interpretation of questions and information
  • May continue to miss out words, letters, lines
  • Difficulty in sequencing in other subjects, such as maths
  • Difficulty in inference and deductive reasoning
  • May continue to experience syntactical difficulties resulting in disfluent reading

Beyond Secondary: 

  • Slow reading speed impacting upon further study 
  • Disorganisation impacting upon employment 
  • Difficulties in processing verbal instructions impacting upon concentrating and keeping pace in higher education lectures and in specific employment situations 
  • Poor time concept 
  • Difficulties in remembering telephone numbers and mental arithmetic 
  • May avoid writing preferring to use a wordprocessor

Possible Access Arrangements:

·         Extra time:  processing difficulties, slow reading, slow writing, reading comprehension difficulties

·         Scribe/wordprocessor/voice activated systems: students with illegible handwriting or spelling

·         Reader/computer reader students with exceptionally slow reading, poor reading accuracy (may mis-read visually similar words) or poor comprehension

·         Prompter: students with distractibility/poor concentration or poor time concepts

·         Rest breaks: students who experience visual stress, test anxiety, poor concentration

·         Coloured overlays or modified papers: students who experience visual stress

-         Separate invigilation to - read aloud aiding understanding