Dyslexia and Dysgraphia in Children

Dyslexia and Dysgraphia in Children

A child who suffers from dyslexia and dysgraphia, i.e. insufficient ability to master reading and writing, has great difficulties. If a student reads poorly, it does not mean that he or she suffers from dyslexia. Disabilities in reading and writing can be a side effect of insufficient intellectual development, or are the result of impaired vision or hearing. A child reads poorly even when it attends school irregularly or is wrongfully taught to read. Dyslexia or dysgraphia is when a child has normal eyesight and hearing and average intelligence and regularly attends classes, and yet it does not succeed in keeping up with its peers in mastering reading and writing.

Dyslexia and dysgraphia occur with varying intensity. In milder cases, the child can easily learn to recognize and write individual letters. Troubles occur only when several letters need to be connected into a meaningful whole, when whole words and even strings of words need to be read. In more severe cases, the child cannot distinguish individual letters, especially those among which there is a certain similarity in shape or sound. It then replaces them with each other, more when reading and less when writing.

A dyslexic child actually suffers from a certain weakness of visual and auditory perception, although it has normal vision and hearing. It is uncertain when determining the spatial relations between individual elements of graphic signs, and it does not manage to determine the time sequence of individual parts of a written word. Difficulties in perceiving the spatial and temporal relationship of graphic signs is the essence of any dyslexic and dysgraphic disorder. This is the reason why when reading and writing, the child replaces letters that are similar in sound: t and d, k and g, f and v; or those that are similar in appearance: a and o, u and n, b and p, etc. The child replaces the order of the letters within the word, e.g., instead of “pats” it reads or writes by dictation: “pats.” For harder and longer words, it omits individual letters, even entire syllables; for example, instead of “teacher” it only reads or writes “teach”. When faced with a lesser-known or completely unknown word, a dyslexic child reads or writes something similar instead, and a well-known child reads “care” instead of “race.” Sometimes a dyslexic child cannot read line by line correctly; it is uncertain in left-right and up-down orientation. So from the end of the line it returns to its beginning, or skips the lines, or returns to the line again, and so on.

A dyslexic child therefore finds it very difficult to understand and remember the text it reads or writes by dictation; it is difficult for it to understand the specific position of a word in a sentence and its grammatical and syntactic rules. Its vocabulary remains relatively poor, and sometimes stuttering is grafted onto dyslexic disorders. Such a child reads intermittently, pausing; it spells harder words, or learns a given text by heart and does not read it at school at all, but recites it. It is characteristic of the dyslexic child that it does not notice its errors in reading and writing at all until they are pointed out to it; it does not even see the futility of what it reads or writes; its attention is so obsessed with mastering graphic signs that it does not have enough attention to comprehend the text. That is why such a child reproduces the content of what is read very hard, stingily and inaccurately.

Interestingly enough, reading and writing numbers is not difficult for the dyslexic. This seems to be due to the fact that there are far fewer characters, less similarities between them, especially in the sound sense; for the same reason there are no difficulties in writing and reading musical keys.

In various countries of Europe and North America, dyslexia and dysgraphia occur in 5-10% of school children. It is more common in younger ages, and occurs with less frequency in older ones. The causes of this interference have not yet been fully elucidated. It seems that these are children in whom clear lateralization has not yet occurred, i.e. one side of the body has not gained decisive supremacy over the other side. This is inferred from the fact that a higher percentage of ambidexters can be found among dyslexics, i.e. people who are equally skilled with the left as well as the right hand. Among them are a considerable number of children who suffer from stuttering. It is known that the onset of stuttering is sometimes also associated with certain lateralization disturbances. The function of speech, and with it the function of reading and writing, are related to only one cerebral hemisphere -for the right-handed it is in the left. These functions are easily disrupted if there is a certain functional balance between the cerebral hemispheres. However, this theory does not completely explain the phenomenon of dyslexia and dysgraphia. Namely, there are a number of dyslexics who do not have any obstacles in speech or lateralization. In most cases, dyslexia is an inherited trait with no noticeable organic changes in the brain.

Many teachers and even more parents do not know about dyslexia and dysgraphia. When a child shows that it is smart enough for school with all its behavior, it just fails to read and write, it is usually declared lazy or naughty, so educators with reprimands, threats, beatings and other authoritative actions try to force it to master these skills more successfully. Teachers regularly require from the parents for their child to practice reading and writing persistently, even for a few hours a day, in order for the dyslexic to reach its peers. Parents usually obey the teacher and then the torture begins.

A dyslexic cannot master reading and writing by the usual method of learning these skills. A child without dyslexic problems soon begins to connect individual letters into a meaningful whole, i.e. after a few months it learns to read and write whole words, and does not spell them letter by letter. A dyslexic child progresses in this much more slowly and only on condition that it is taught to read and write by special methods. Any forcing of these skills causes strong mental tension, intense feeling of discomfort, belief in one’s own incompetence, resistance and defiance. The authority of educators and negative grades in school cause irritability, depression and aggression. The child completely loses the will not only to read and write but in general to do any work in school. A misunderstood dyslexic child often turns into a completely bad, disinterested and extremely undisciplined student. Then it happens that it comes to the third and even the fourth grade of primary school without being able to read or write correctly. In severe cases, it begins to stutter if it is constantly harassed by forced reading. Other neuroses can occur, such as night terrors, and at home it becomes defiant and undisciplined.

Despite the disturbances in spatial-temporal perception, a dyslexic child can still master reading and writing, but with a special procedure. For such children should be organized so-called development departments. They gather a small number of children, 10-12, who have specific difficulties in adjusting to school. Since there are few students, the teacher can deal more with each of them individually. If there is no developmental department, the dyslexic can be helped by individual work in additional classes that are performed with individual students after regular classes.

A dyslexic child should first and foremost practice accurate and safe observation of spatial relationships. Using letters made of cardboard or plastic, you first practice what is left and what is right, what is up and what is down. Then it writes and pronounces individual letters at the same time, interpreting the spatial relations of individual parts of the same letter, ex. “p” has a left vertical line, facing downwards, and “d” a right vertical line, facing upwards, etc. Only when the child has gained complete confidence in recognizing and writing at the dictation of individual letters, it moves slowly, patiently and without any forcing to connect the letters into syllables and short simple words. By inserting helpful rhythmic exercises, the child learns to more accurately perceive the temporal relations between graphic signs. In the beginning, the letters in the word are not written together, but separately, the child slowly spells them in a certain rhythm and at the same time again interprets which letter appeared earlier, and which later and the like.

A special pedagogue should find various helpful actions that will make it easier to quickly and automatically notice the space-time relations between the letters. In order to reach its peers in reading and writing in the foreseeable future and to be able to return to its “original” class, a dyslexic child needs to practice reading and writing in the described way on average three times a week, one hour a day. Parents should also take part in this, to whom the special pedagogue will give instructions. It is important that the child is treated calmly, cheerfully and patiently, with constant encouragement and recognition of every success.