Dyslexia is consistently found to be associated with academic difficulties. As a result, many of these learners require additional help at school or in their community by a qualified professional. Alternative reading instruction is a common approach, but many of these struggling learners require a more comprehensive method. Remedial help needs to focus on strengthening areas of weaknesses, while nurturing abilities and developing compensatory learning strategies. What's more, many of these learners possess both physical and emotional concerns that also require attention.
There are a number of common cognitive processing areas that require remediation:
- Visual processing: Dyslexia symptoms can be caused by visual processing problems residing in the brain. These are not problems with vision, rather they are problems with how the brain makes sense of visual stimuli. Therapies for visual processing disorders include cognitive remedial therapy, and some individuals also report that the use of colored paper, tinted lenses and colored overlays as well as vision therapy can help.
- Auditory processing: Students with auditory processing deficits can hear normally but struggle to recognize slight differences between sounds in words. In short, their hearing is normal but their brain struggles to process the information accurately.
- Language processing: Language processing is the way people process words to extract information, ideas and feelings.
- Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN): Rapid automatized naming (RAN) or rapid naming is the ability to quickly verbalize a series of familiar items including letters, numbers, colors or objects. Experts agree that RAN tests suggest a lot about one’s reading abilities.
- Memory: Many students with dyslexia find that their learning disability as well as anxiety can block recall. Like finding a favorite shirt in a messy room, a lot of time can be wasted searching for the right word, or even worse, individuals with dyslexia may not be able to demonstrate their knowledge when called upon in class or when recording answers on a test.
- Executive functioning/Attention: When individuals with dyslexia struggle with executive functioning, tasks that require planning, organization, memory, time management, attention and flexible thinking become challenging. Executive functioning is like a mental workspace that encodes, retrieves and manipulates information.
The repeated association of academics with stress and frustration as well as negative comments from peers, parents or teachers can result in adverse emotional states:
- Learned helplessness: When students feel that repeated efforts result in failure, many give up and avoid learning altogether.
- Fear: When academic struggles become associated with adversity, students can experience the 3 Fs. 1) Fight - They will refuse to learn. 2) Flight - They will avoid or even hide their books. 3) Freeze - They seem unable to process what they are learning.
- Feelings of Inadequacy: When students compare themselves unfavorably to their peers. This can lead to withdrawal, feelings of inadequacy, and a poor academic self-concept.
- Anger/Frustration: Many individuals with dyslexia feel angry and frustrated when they are misunderstood, bullied or made to feel stupid by their peers or adults.
- Shame: Some dyslexics feel humiliation or distress caused by poor academic performance.
For some struggling learners physical problems can result:
- Exhaustion: When students with dyslexia use great mental effort to process what they are learning, they often struggle to maintain effort throughout the day and may complain of mental fatigue.
- Discomfort: With the emotional and cognitive strain and stress that many students with dyslexia feel, their body may tense up and they may experience shortness of breath.
- Headaches or body pain: Daily strain and distress at school can also manifest in the body as headaches and digestive distress.
How Can I Help?
It is important to assess and address all the areas of difficulty that each student with dyslexia faces. Here are a few ideas:
- Cognitive: As no two students with dyslexia are alike, be sure to use a tailored approach that can meet the unique needs of each individual student. If you are looking for cognitive remedial tools for dyslexia, there is a great selection of options at Good Sensory Learning.
- Emotional: Work with students on coping strategies and help to build self-esteem and resilience through discussion and support. We now have a growing number of social emotional products at Good Sensory Learning.
- Physical: Help students manage stress through mindfulness training and meditation. Also consider using kinesthetic breaks or "brain breaks" to fuel and feed the brain and body with oxygenated blood. Finally, contemplate using methods like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) that can be used to address past, negative learning experiences.
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY. To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz