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Dyslexia and dysorthography

Dyslexia is a specific reading disorder, either congenital or acquired through brain damage. It is the most common form of specific developmental learning disorder (LD), which manifests as difficulties in learning to read.


The term was first used in 1887 by German ophthalmologist Dr. Rudolf Berlin. Dyslexia also affects children with above-average intelligence. It is characterized by difficulties in proper and/or fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding skills. These difficulties are a typical consequence of a deficit in the phonological (sound) component of language. The child reads slowly or, conversely, reads quickly and hastily with many errors, guesses at words, confuses letters, especially those that are visually similar (b-d-p). The child silently repeats letters and then pronounces the word aloud. Sometimes the child is unable to follow a line of text with their eyes or transition smoothly from one line to the next. Comprehension of the text is difficult as the child is so focused on the reading process that the meaning of the text escapes them.


Some experts believe that dyslexia is a problem with recognizing and understanding any symbols that we use. This is why people with dyslexia often have difficulties with math, reading maps, and (traffic) signs. Many scientific studies have shown that some children with dyslexia have disorders in multiple areas of the visual system (Stein, Walsh, 1997) and that the processing of auditory signals in the temporal area of the brain may be disrupted (Witton et al., 1998).


In addition, we often see poorer motor skills and balance in children with dyslexia, which would indicate dysfunction of the cerebellum (Fawcett, Nicolson, Dean, 1996). MRI examinations have shown abnormal activity and morphology (shape) in several areas of the brain, including the cerebellum, in adults with dyslexia.


Symptoms of dyslexia in preschool

  • Confusing sounds (s-l, r-l, p-b), omitting sounds or parts of words

  • Using words in the wrong meaning

  • Poor memory for common words

  • Poor rhyme creation

  • Inability to identify the first and last sound in a word

  • Inability to memorize a nursery rhyme

  • Difficulties with copying or tracing

  • Disorders of short-term memory, attention, skill, clumsiness when dressing, tying shoelaces

  • Inability to distinguish left from right

  • Difficulty repeating rhythms

Symptoms of dyslexia in primary school

  • Excessive expenditure of energy and time on schoolwork

  • Frequent and rapid fatigue

  • Slow performance

  • Making a lot of mistakes

  • Skipping words and lines

  • Letter (p-b-d, g-q, e-a) and sound confusion

  • Difficulties in learning the alphabet, tables, days of the week, months

  • Often confusing left and right

  • Expression problems (poor vocabulary)

  • Difficulties in grammar

  • Difficulties in learning a foreign language

  • Attention and concentration problems

  • Psychological problems - depression, aggression

Source: Navrátilová D., 2009



Dysorthography is a specific disorder of spelling and often occurs in conjunction with dyslexia. This disorder does not affect the entire grammar of the language, but rather concerns specific dysorthographic phenomena: omissions, substitutions of visually similar letters in written form, misspellings, errors due to articulation difficulties, incorrect placement or omission of vowel lengths, and errors in softening (in czech language). It also negatively affects the application of grammatical knowledge. Even after remediation, a student with dysorthography still makes mistakes but requires more time than other students. In time-limited tasks such as dictations and written tests in any subject, dysorthographic errors may reappear and there may be more errors in phenomena that the student has learned orally without difficulty and can explain correctly (Bartoňová, 2018).



Symptoms of dysorthography in elementary school:

  • Difficulty with short, time-limited tasks, especially dictations and ten-minute writing exercises.

  • Difficulties are also manifested in the teaching of a foreign language.

  • The student has much greater difficulty distinguishing certain graphic symbols.

  • When writing letters, the student often confuses their order.

Source: Bartošová M. 2018 Specifické poruchy učení


Primary reflexes and dyslexia

Persistent primary reflexes can cause symptoms of dyslexia and dysorthography, especially Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex, and Moro Reflex.


Persistent Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):

  • Inhibits the development of smooth eye movements that are necessary for reading. Children with persistent ATNR reflex can read the first (left) part of the page, but often cannot "move" their eyes across the middle line to read the right part of the page (usually they have to turn their head instead of just moving their eyes).

  • Inhibits eye coordination, so the child may see everything blurred or double. Children usually do not perceive this as a problem because they are used to poor vision, and for them, it is normal.

  • Inhibits the proper development of connections between both hemispheres of the brain, so both dominance and specialization of brain centers cannot develop optimally. The connection between both hemispheres, called corpus callosum, develops until the child is six or seven and a half years old. Therefore, it is normal for younger children to reverse letters and numbers. Only after the age of 8, reversing letters and numbers is considered a symptom of dyslexia.

  • If ATNR persists, the balance system is often less developed, and if ATNR persists, the child often has poorer balance and coordination of movements, especially hand-eye coordination.


In 2006, McPhillips studied 739 children aged seven to nine in Northern Ireland. The results of the study showed that children with reading difficulties (either with a diagnosis of dyslexia or without) had persistent ATNR more often than other children.


Persistent Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR):

  • It worsens spatial perception, causing a child to misjudge distances. Poor spatial orientation often causes a child to stand in the "private" space of other children (e.g., walking too close to other children's feet, standing too close).

  • It causes a worse sense of right and left, leading to clumsiness, and the child misunderstands three-dimensional images and "mirrored" images.

Moro Reflex:

  • causes problems with focusing attention and visual stress.


Article Author: Marja Volemanová


Sources:

  • FAWCETT, Angela J.; NICOLSON, Roderick I.; DEAN, Paul. Impaired performance of children with dyslexia on a range of cerebellar tasks. Annals of Dyslexia, 1996, 46.1: 259-283.

  • NAVRÁTILOVÁ D., 2009, Obecné projevy dyslexie v mateřské, základní a střední škole

  • STEIN, John; WALSH, Vincent. To see but not to read; the magnocellular theory of dyslexia. Trends in neurosciences, 1997, 20.4: 147-152.

  • VOLEMANOVÁ, Marja. 2019. Primární reflexy, opomíjený faktor problémů učení a chování u dětí. 2. rozšířené vydání. Statenice : INVTS, 2019. 978-80-907369-0-0

  • WITTON, C., et al. Sensitivity to dynamic auditory and visual stimuli predicts nonword reading ability in both dyslexic and normal readers. Current biology, 1998, 8.14: 791-797.

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