Gain insights into the major reading disabilities affecting students with learning differences, including dyslexia and its subtypes. Explore the characteristics and impact of these disabilities and learn how to provide targeted interventions to promote reading success.
Understanding the various reading disabilities is crucial for teachers who work with students facing learning differences. In this blog, we will delve into the major reading disabilities and their impact on students' reading abilities. By gaining insights into these disabilities, you can better support students and empower them on their reading journey.
The Importance of Fluent Word Reading and Comprehension
Reading is the act of processing text in order to make meaning. Students experiencing reading difficulties, or at risk of future difficulties, typically have trouble with fluent word reading and/or with comprehension. Problems with fluent word reading also contribute to comprehension difficulties.
To comprehend the major reading disabilities, it's essential to recognize that reading involves fluent word reading and comprehension. Many struggling readers face challenges in both areas, impacting their overall reading proficiency.
To learn to read, students must develop fluent word reading and language comprehension. However, at least 70 to 80 percent of English-speaking struggling readers have trouble with accuracy and fluent word recognition. This often relates to weaknesses in phonological processing. However, up to 25 percent of those students can segment and blend orally (Dehaene, 2009). And another 10 to 15 percent of all struggling readers appear to decode and read individual words better than they can obtain meaning from text.
This chart can help teachers determine what type of reader a student is!
Genetic, biological, environmental, and instructional factors all contribute to the development of reading skills for students. Some students struggle in reading due to neurologically based learning disabilities.
Dyslexia is one of those neurologically based learning disabilities.
Dyslexia is a prominent neurologically based learning disability that affects a significant number of students.
The most widely accepted definition created in 2002 by the National Institute Of Child Health and Development:
"Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge."
So, now that we have the formalities out of the way - let's unpack that!
Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading. What I mean by unexpected is that Dyslexia is unexpected in relation to the student's cognitive ability, motivation, and exposure to reasonably effective reading instruction.
It is highly hereditary in nature. Research actually shows us that there is a 50% chance of diagnosis when a parent or sibling has it.
The core weakness in Dyslexia is related to students' accurate and efficient pairing between the sounds in words (phonological processing) and their corresponding letter or letter patterns. This often results in lagging skills in sight word recognition, decoding, overall reading fluency, and can also impact spelling. And then as a result of word reading difficulties, students with dyslexia are exposed to a significantly smaller volume of expository and narrative texts, thereby limiting their development of vocabulary and background knowledge. This is referred to as the Matthew Effect. Students with Dyslexia can also have lagging skills in spoken language and struggle to express themselves clearly or comprehend what others mean when they speak.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, dyslexia is not a visual disability but rather a language-based one. We used to think it was more visual in nature, meaning that the disability could be seen in things like letter reversals, seeing or reading words backwards, or letter confusions, but...
Research now shows us that it is not a visual disability, but rather, it is a language-based disability. The "visual" issues that we observe are actually indicative of difficulties with recalling letter symbols for sounds and letter patterns in words.
Understanding Dyslexia Subtypes
Distinct groups or subtypes of Dyslexic readers have emerged in a series of research studies conducted over the last twenty years. Despite some overlap, researchers have attempted to group commonly observed behaviors into different categories. Understanding these subtypes is crucial for targeted intervention and support.
The most common subtypes include a Phonological Deficit and a Naming Speed Deficit.
Phonological Deficit: This subtype implicates a core problem in the phonological processing system of oral language. It affects the ability to process and manipulate sounds, impacting reading skills.
The phonological subtype impacts phonological awareness and decoding, sight word and passage accuracy.
This subtype is characterized as below average performance on standardized measures of phonemic awareness and assessments of decoding, sight word and/or passage accuracy. These weaknesses impact accuracy of reading single words and connected text.
Naming Speed: This subtype is characterized by processing speed and orthographic processing deficits, affecting the speed and accuracy of recognizing printed words. It's also known as a naming speed problem or fluency problem.
The Naming Speed Subtype impacts Rapid Automatized Naming, Decoding Efficiency, Sight Word Efficiency, and Passage Fluency.
Naming speed deficits are characterized by below average performance on standardized measures of rapid automatized naming, particularly subtests involving letter naming, and measures of decoding word reading efficiency (i.e. timed measures of sight word recognition and decoding).
These weaknesses impact fluency in reading sentences and passages.
Click HERE to learn more about Rapid Automatized Naming on my blog!
When a student has a prominent and specific weakness in either Phonological Deficit or a Naming Speed Deficit, this is considered to be a single deficit.
The combination of both deficits in some students results in a reading impairment that is more severe than in students with a single deficit.
The Double Deficit Subtype includes impairments in both phonological and naming speed subtypes.
Students with a double deficit demonstrate below average performance in both areas.
These weaknesses impact accuracy of reading single words and connected text and fluency in reading sentences and passages.
Another single deficit is a Comprehension deficit.
Comprehension Deficit: This subtype can be the result of deficits in the first two subtypes.
It's specifically found in students with social-linguistic disabilities like autism, vocabulary weaknesses, generalized language learning disorders, and difficulties in abstract reasoning and logical thinking.
Click HERE to read more about these subtypes on my blog!
The Impact of Dyslexia
The impact of dyslexia varies from person to person due to its unique neurological profile.
Regardless of the subtype, Dyslexia is a neurological disability, but the exact cause is still unclear. Despite this, brain imaging shows differences in the way a Dyslexic brain develops and functions. Specifically, Dyslexic brains have been found to have difficulties in identifying separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds
Dyslexia is not the result of the daily struggle of learning to read, but rather the result of a unique neurological profile. And as a result, the impact of Dyslexia is different for each person.
Students with dyslexia may exhibit a single deficit in word recognition if they have a prominent and specific weakness in either phonological, naming speed or comprehension.
On the other hand, if they demonstrate deficits in both phonological and naming-speed abilities, they are considered to have a double deficit.
Double-deficit students are more common and present the most significant challenges in remediation. Their weaknesses impact the accuracy of reading words, fluency in reading sentences and passages, and overall reading comprehension.
It's crucial to identify and understand these subtypes to provide targeted support and interventions that address the specific needs of each individual.
By understanding the major reading disabilities, specifically dyslexia and its subtypes, teachers can provide targeted interventions and support that address the specific needs of students with learning differences. Empowering students with the necessary tools and strategies will pave the way for their reading success.
Remember, every student is unique, and personalized support plays a vital role in their academic growth. With the right strategies and interventions, we can create a supportive learning environment that enables all students to thrive in their reading skills.
Happy & Healthy Teaching!
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