Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia?

Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia?

  • What is dyslexia?

    Students who struggle with reading and spelling and who often puzzle teachers and parents could have dyslexia. These students receive the same classroom instruction as other students but continue to struggle with some or all of the facets of reading and spelling. This student may have dyslexia.


  • What are the primary symptoms of dyslexia?

    The primary symptoms are:


    Problems learning the letter sounds for reading and spelling
    Difficulty in reading single words, such as on flash cards and in lists (decoding)
    Lack of accuracy
    Lack of fluency
    Reading slowly with many mistakes
    Poor spelling
    Poor visual gestalt / coding (orthographic coding)
    Reading comprehension can be impeded as a result of the above


    Understanding dyslexia:


    Dyslexia is not a disease! The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means difficulty with words. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble with aspects of reading, spelling and writing.


    Dyslexia and reading difficulties are on a Continuum:


    Dyslexia occurs on a continuum from mild to severe and no two are alike. There is no cure for dyslexia since it is neurobiological, however with appropriate evidenced based instruction aimed towards their learning needs they can learn to read, spell and write.


    Central Difficulty:


    A student with dyslexia will have a particular difficulty with single word reading networks that are brain based (neurological). Individuals with dyslexia often are able to access higher level language skills to support their reading of connected text (stories) and this ability to 'compensate' may mask their underlying difficulties with single word reading (decoding).The central difficulty for a student with dyslexia is to convert letter symbols to their correct sound (decode) and convert sounds to their correct written symbol (encode/spell). Research into dyslexia subtypes indicates that poor visual (i.e., orthographic) coding can also be part of the difficulty.

  • What causes dyslexia?

    Dyslexia is:


    Highly hereditary.
    A difference in the way the brain processes
    Challenges in the development of phonological awareness


    Prevalence of dyslexia in Australia:


    It would be fair to say that figures of 2-6% are conservative for Australia since we do less identification then our English language counterparts (UK, Canada, USA). The ADA believe that 10-20% is an estimated figure that may in fact be closer to the figures that Canada produces. ADA were involved in an International project a few years back called 1 in 5. The awareness project stated with confidence that 1 in 5 people have dyslexia.

  • Strengths of dyslexia:

    "Paying attention to empowerment, emotional intelligence and self esteem is vital when it comes to dyslexia and associated reading challenges" Jodi Clements


    Research has indicated that we should be wary about automatically assuming that language processing difficulties/differences associated with dyslexia are deficits. Some of the differences that individuals with dyslexia display may actually confer advantages for some kinds of thinking or encourage them to find different paths to learning (Singleton)


    The following are some of the strengths that individuals with dyslexia may display:


    Inquiring mind
    Problem Solving
    Comprehending new ideas
    Generating ideas
    Analytic thinking
    Creative thinking
    3-D construction
    Finding different strategies
    Seeing the big picture
    Insightful thinking
    Stronger verbal capabilities then written


    Research findings on dyslexia and IQ tests (Psychometric assessment):


    In the past an intelligence test (psychometric assessment) was considered to be a necessary part of the dyslexia evaluation because the diagnosis of a learning disability including dyslexia was based on the findings that a significant difference was present between IQ and reading skill. Poor achievement despite average or better intelligence was considered in the past a key indicator. Current regulations based on peer reviewed research no longer require that such a method of discrepancy be present when making a diagnosis. This change in regulations (and the DSM-5) came about because many studies have shown that intelligence is not the best predictor of how easily a student will develop written language (reading and spelling) skills. Instead, oral language abilities (listening and speaking) are considered the best predictors of reading and spelling.


    The Australian Dyslexia Association agrees that all children who struggle with written language require identification and evidence based teaching regardless of the underlying cause. The ADA believe that whole school training is a valuable asset in assisting teachers, all teachers on how to identify struggling readers inducing those with dyslexia and how to assist them.


    "The earlier a school initiates specialist training in dyslexia and associated knowledge and skills the better. Research has stated that the decline in a student's self-esteem is rapid when students are left unidentified and unassisted" ADA Advisory Team


    ADA Support the scientific findings from Yale University: http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/brain.shtml


    Page References: International Dyslexia Association, Singleton, Dyslexic Advantage, Kelly Sandman- Hurley, Riddick, Passe.

  • What is dysgraphia? What is dyscalculia?

    Dysgraphia is a condition that causes trouble with written expression. The term comes from the Greek words dys (“difficulty”) and graphia (“making letter forms by hand”). Dysgraphia is a brain-based issue. It’s not the result of an individual being lazy.




    For many individuals with dysgraphia, just holding a pencil and organising letters on a line is difficult. Their handwriting tends to be messy. Many struggle with spelling and putting thoughts on paper. These and other writing tasks like putting ideas into language that is organised, stored and then retrieved from memory—may all add to struggles with written expression.


    Whatever definition is used, it’s important to understand that slow or sloppy writing isn’t necessarily a sign that your child isn’t trying hard enough. Writing requires a complex set of fine motor and language processing skills. For individuals with dysgraphia, the writing process is harder and slower. Without help, a student with dysgraphia will have a difficult time in school. School demands accuracy and fluency of all skills required to write, particularly in the upper year levels of primary and high school.


    What causes dysgraphia?


    Experts aren’t sure what causes dysgraphia and other issues of written expression. Normally, the brain takes in information through the senses and stores it for later use. Before a person starts writing, they retrieve information from their short or long-term memory and then this information gets organised to begin the writing process. In a person with dysgraphia, experts believe one or both of the next steps in the writing process go off track:


    1. Planning and organising information to paper
    2. Physical letting words onto paper by handwriting or typing them


    This results in a written product that’s more difficult to read and filled with errors. And most important, it does not convey what the student knows and what they intended to write. Working memory has been implicated to also play a role in dysgraphia.


    An individual may have trouble with what’s called “orthographic coding.” This is the ability to store written words, pre cursor, letter and symbols. As a result, they may have a hard time remembering how to print or write a letter or a word. There may also be a genetic link, with dysgraphia running in families.


    Keep in mind:


    "Dysgraphia is NOT linked to ability, many highly capable individuals have dysgraphia. You can have dysgraphia and have many strengths in other areas. Dysgraphia can be exceedingly frustrating in a school and academic environment where the written word becomes the way you are continually assessed for what you know". ADA Advisory Team




    There are many interpretations of dyscalculia, however respected authorities in this field such as Butterworth, Sharma, Miles and Chinn agree that the nature of dyscalculia rests with the inability to see, handle and understand numbers. The inability occurs at the concrete level but especially at the abstract level.

    Many learners have difficulty learning mathematics for a variety of reasons. Not all of these learners have dyscalculia. However, there are some basic areas of mathematical activity in everyday life that may indicate a dyscalculia tendencies. Dyscalculia makes mathematics learning persistently difficult and frustrating for the individual that has it.




    Dyscalculia impacts an individual’s ability to do mathematics.


    Dyscalculia can affect children and youths at school and adults in their daily lives where mathematical skills are required.


    The more you know about your challenges the sooner understanding, guidance and assistance can begin.


    Dyscalculia is a lifelong condition that makes it hard for individuals to perform math-related tasks. It’s not as well known or understood as dyslexia. But some experts believe it’s just as common.


    Experts don’t yet know for sure if dyscalculia is more common in girls or in boys. But most agree it’s unlikely that there’s any significant difference.


    Individuals with a dyscalculia profile will have trouble with many aspects of mathematics.

    They often don’t understand quantities or concepts like biggest verse smallest. They may not understand that the numeral 5 is the same as the word five. (These skills are sometimes called number sense.)


    Individuals with dyscalculia also have trouble with the mechanics of doing mathematics, such as being able to recall basic mathematics facts. They may understand the logic behind maths, but not know how or when to apply what they know to solve math problems.


    They also often struggle with working memory. For example, they may have a hard time holding numbers in mind while doing math problems with multiple steps.


    Dyscalculia can cause different types of mathematical difficulties. Symptoms may vary from individual to individual.


    Dyscalculia can be quantitative, which is a difficulty in calculating; or qualitative, which is a difficulty in conceptualising mathematics processes; or mixed, which is the inability to integrate quantity and space.


    Dyscalculia often looks different at different ages. It tends to become more apparent as children get older. Symptoms can appear as early as preschool.


    What to look for:


    Early Schooling


    Has trouble learning to count and skips over numbers long after kids the same age can remember numbers in the right order.
    Struggles to recognise patterns, such as smallest to largest or tallest to shortest.
    Has trouble recognising number symbols (knowing that “7” means seven).
    Doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of counting. For example, when asked for five blocks, she just hands you an armful, rather than counting them out.


    Infants Schooling


    Has difficulty learning and recalling basic math facts, such as 2 + 4 = 6.
    Struggles to identify +, ‒ and other signs, and to use them correctly.
    May still use fingers to count instead of using more advanced strategies, like mental maths.
    Struggles to understand words related to maths, such as greater than and less than.
    Has trouble with visual-spatial representations of numbers, such as number lines.


    Primary Schooling


    Has difficulty understanding place value.
    Has trouble writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column.
    Has trouble with fractions and with measuring things, like ingredients in a simple recipe.
    Struggles to keep score in sports games.


    High Schooling


    Struggles to apply math concepts to money, including estimating the total cost, making exact change and figuring out a tip.
    Has a hard time grasping information shown on graphs or charts.
    Has difficulty measuring things like ingredients in a simple recipe or liquids in a bottle.
    Has trouble finding different approaches to the same mathematical problem.


    Dyscalculia impacts an individual’s ability to do mathematics.


    Dyscalculia can affect children and youths at school and adults in their daily lives where mathematical skills are required.


    The more you know about your challenges the sooner understanding, guidance and assistance can begin.


    If you require further advice on the ADA pre assessment of dyslexia, dysgraphia and or dyscalculia please email: ada.preassessments@gmail.com


    References ADA adapted: Understood.org, Chinn, Butterworth


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