|Problems with reading? Could it be Dyslexia?|
Some people find reading very difficult, if not nigh on impossible.
For many of these it isn't a matter of intelligence or having not received adequate schooling - it is because they are dyslexic.
However getting diagnosed as dyslexic can be difficult, and at the moment it is a far from an exact science.
The tests for dyslexia involve judging whether a person's reading ability compares with their other abilities for their age and intelligence.
Once intellectual, emotional and cultural causes have been ruled out, those facing reading difficulties are often thought of as having dyslexia.
Some experts now believe it might be possible to develop a physical test to diagnose dyslexia more positively.
|Steve Walkden believes eye tracking could help diagnose dyslexia|
Steve Walkden, a student at Plymouth University, is aiming to see if tracking eye movements will show discrepancies between the way dyslexics and non-dyslexics view a page.
It is known that dyslexics have problems controlling their eye movements.
This is thought to indicate that they process visual information in a very different way from non-dyslexics.
Steve is hoping that his research will uncover unique patterns of eye movement in dyslexics.
These patterns can then be compared to the eye movements of others who have difficulty reading to see if their problems are a result of dyslexia.
Being able to use such a tool to give a firm diagnosis at an early age could help thousands of children.
Reading with dyslexia
- Dyslexics seem to process written and spoken language differently.
- They are usually not aware of separate sounds in words (lack of phonological awareness) and may not perceive the symbols (letters) that make up words on a page as real or meaningful (visual processing difficulty).
- Even dyslexics who are good at reading may have difficulty with small confusable words.
- Dyslexics are often visual thinkers and need to link words to images to make them memorable.
- Dyslexics may have problems tracking print and reading black print off a white page.
Source: BBC Skillswise
Dyslexics can largely learn to read, write and study effectively when they use methods geared to their unique learning style.
It is therefore important to diagnose dyslexia early in a child's school life so they can receive appropriate help with their learning.
The earlier teachers can address a dyslexic's needs the better the outcome, in terms of reading skills.
If children who are dyslexic get effective phonological training by the age of six, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read than children who are not identified or helped until they are eight.
Almost three-quarters of those eight year-olds will still be having problems reading when they are 14 or 15.
The multi-sensory approach
|"Some people get lost in the system and don't realise their potential".|
|Joanna Jeffery, teacher |
Dyslexics benefit from a different approach to learning. They tend to be visual thinkers and respond well to multi-sensory teaching methods.
This means that children are taught the links between what they see and what they hear and feel.
So when they are taught to recognise new letters, they need this to be reinforced by being taught the phonetic sounds associated with it, and learning and tracing its shape accurately, at the same time.
Failure to recognise dyslexia early enough, and tailor learning to the condition can lead to children not realising their full intellectual potential.
A reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
|Tom Harris is now working hard to master reading |
Nine-year-old Tom Harris used to find school a struggle. He found reading extremely difficult and because of this he felt he couldn't play an active part in school. His mother says;
"He used to get really upset ... I got cross with him because he couldn't do it [read] ..."
Tom's parents thought his problems might be caused by dyslexia.
This wasn't confirmed until last June when specialist teacher Joanna Jeffery diagnosed him as dyslexic.
Now, with his needs recognised, he is finding school a more inviting place. He is now one of a handful of children helping with Steve Walkden's research.
Steve is comparing Tom's eye-movements to those of his non-dyslexic peers.
The new test
|Eye tracking could hold the key to diagnosing dyslexia accurately|
Steve's eye-tracking test works by looking at how well a person can track a point of light across a screen.
Shown a light on the screen, a child's normal reaction would be to follow the light.
The children are told however to ignore the light and focus on another part of the screen.
Dyslexic children find it more difficult not to look at the light, and so Steve is trying to isolate this characteristic through his research, and use it as a diagnostic tool.
Steve's research is still at a very early stage, but he has high hopes for it;
"The potential is tremendous - if it works out it's a whole new ball game. But it's early days yet ... just a toe in the water".
If the results are significant, Steve is looking at conducting a far larger study.
His aspirations are to see the test incorporated into the standard assessments every school age child goes through.
This way, dyslexia can be recognised at an early stage, and children can recede help with reading early on in their school lives.