What is the difference between a Learning Disability and Dyslexia?
The term “learning disability” is not a specific term; it is a category containing many specific disabilities, all of which cause learning to be difficult. It can refer to any one or more types of disorders in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language. Learning disability is not a definition of dyslexia, which is one specific type of learning disability.
According to the National Institutes of Health, dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological 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 of dyslexia may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Simply put, dyslexia is a neurologically based condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language—despite at least average intelligence.
Signs of Dyslexia
At the preschool level, some common signs include delayed speech, stuttering, constant confusion about left versus right, and an inability to create words that rhyme. In addition to these and other early symptoms, dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read) is common at the elementary level. By high school and into adulthood, difficulty with reading and spelling lead to a limited vocabulary limited ability to obtain knowledge. At all stages, the challenges of dyslexia are frequently found in consort with attention and focusing problems, poor grades, and a high rate of dropout from school and job responsibilities. If a child exhibits three or more warning signs of dyslexia, that child’s parents and teachers should be encouraged to learn more about dyslexia as early as possible.
Testing for Dyslexia
Testing should be done by a professional who is an expert in dyslexia, and who has also received intense, specialized training in how to accurately give and score the tests and to interpret the results. Genesis Counseling Center has multiple psychologists that conduct testing for dyslexia. There is no single test that can prove or disprove dyslexia, which can vary from mild to severe. A Genesis Counseling Center psychologist will use a combination of ten to twelve tests to investigate every area that could be impacted by dyslexia:
- Tests for Memory
- Tests for Auditory Processing
- Tests for sound/symbol relationships
- Tests for Reading Individual Words
- Tests for Reading Fluency
- Tests for Dysgraphia
- Use of Writing Samples
Reading with Dyslexia
Much private and federal research has shown that 95% of reading failure is preventable by using appropriate reading systems and well-trained teachers. Independent, scientific, replicated research supports the use of a reading system that is simultaneously multisensory, systematic, and cumulative, with direct and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness followed by synthetic and analytic phonics with intense practice. The method sanctioned by the International Multisensory Structured Learning Education Council – the certifying body for dyslexia programs – is called Orton-Gillingham. It is a sequential system that builds on itself in a 3-dimensional way. Orton-Gillingham approved programs must show how sounds and letters are related and how they act in words; how to attack a word and break it into smaller pieces; and must incorporate a multisensory (visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic) approach into all aspects of learning.
Tutors should have training that is certified by the International Multisensory Structured Learning Education Council. You should not hesitate to ask questions about the prospective tutor’s background, training and experience, as well as how you or your child will be trained and what fees will be charged.
Other helpful resources:
LDA America Special Education Services
Resources for Students with Disabilities
By Judith Austin
Edited 2017 by Sarah Warner, M.S.