Triple L Paediatric Speech Pathology and Audiology, Redlands City

Understanding Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder that predominantly affects reading skills. It can vary greatly in its severity and impact from person to person.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder that predominantly affects reading skills. It involves challenges in accurately and fluently recognizing words, spelling, and decoding written language. Children with Dyslexia may struggle with tasks such as reading comprehension, phonological awareness, and word retrieval.

It is important to note that Dyslexia is a neurobiological condition that can vary in its severity and impact from person to person.

Symptoms of Dyslexia

According to the Australian Dyslexia Association, some common symptoms of Dyslexia include:

  • Problems learning sound-letter and letter-sound matching for reading and spelling.
  • Difficulty in sounding out and quickly recognizing single words.
  • Reading slowly with many mistakes and difficulty recognizing familiar, high-frequency words from one line to the next in a text.
  • Poor spelling, often associated with accompanying Dysgraphia.
  • Poor visual gestalt or coding (orthographic coding).
  • Impeded reading comprehension, often resulting from the above issues or poor language processing development.

The Complexity of Literacy Development

Literacy development is a complex process that requires the integration of visual perceptual and auditory perceptual skills.

Visual Perceptual Skills

Visual perceptual skill is the ability to attach meaning to what we see. This includes:

  • Recognizing that the letter “p” represents a /p/ sound.
  • Distinguishing differences in letters, such as “p” versus “d”.
  • Identifying individual words on a page.
  • Understanding the order in which words appear on a page, from left to right, and sequencing from left to right.
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Occupational therapists can help with difficulties related to visual perception, which are crucial for reading and writing.

Auditory Perceptual Skills

Auditory perceptual skill is the ability to attach meanings to the sounds we hear. This includes:

  • Recognizing that ‘a’ is a vowel sound and not confusing it with other sounds.
  • Detecting subtle differences between sounds, such as /m/ versus /n/.
  • Isolating sounds into words (auditory analysis).
  • Blending sounds to form words (auditory synthesis).
  • Manipulating sounds in words (auditory manipulation).

Underlying Conditions

In addition to Dyslexia, there may be other underlying conditions that can compound the symptoms and challenges associated with Dyslexia. These include:

  • Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) can often be an underlying condition in children with Dyslexia. APD affects how the brain processes auditory information, making it difficult for children to distinguish and interpret sounds correctly. This can impact their ability to decode words and comprehend reading, which are key challenges in Dyslexia.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Children with autism may experience difficulties with communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviours, which can further complicate their reading and writing abilities.
  • Dyspraxia: Also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), Dyspraxia can affect motor skills and coordination. This can lead to challenges with handwriting (Dysgraphia) and other motor-based tasks essential for literacy development.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Children with ADHD may struggle with attention, focus, and impulse control, which can impact their ability to concentrate on reading tasks.

Speech Pathologist vs. Literacy Tutor

There is a common misconception that children with Dyslexia (or Dysgraphia) only need a literacy tutor to address their learning challenges. However, this is far from the truth.

It is crucial for a child suspected of having Dyslexia to see the appropriate specialist to rule out any co-existing conditions.

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While both speech pathologists and literacy tutors play crucial roles in supporting individuals with Dyslexia, they offer distinct expertise and focus areas as shown below:

Speech Pathologist

Assessment and Diagnosis: A speech pathologist can conduct comprehensive assessments to investigate or rule out other underlying conditions such as Auditory Processing Disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Dyspraxia (by referring to an occupational therapist when indicated), and speech or language disorders.

They are trained to evaluate speech, language, auditory processing, auditory perceptual, reading comprehension, and written language skills.

Therapy and Intervention: Based on the assessment outcomes, a speech pathologist provides evidence-based therapy tailored to the specific needs of the individual. They target speech production and language difficulties that may underpin literacy challenges, in addition to addressing literacy-based challenges within the same targeted therapy session.

Speech pathologists also work on receptive and expressive language skills, helping individuals improve their overall communication abilities.

Formal Diagnosis: With additional training or a special interest in literacy skills, speech pathologists can provide a formal diagnosis of specific learning impairments such as Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. They use their expertise in language development and disorders to create effective intervention plans.

Literacy Tutor

Skill Development: A literacy tutor focuses primarily on developing specific literacy skills such as phonics, decoding, sight-word recognition, reading fluency, and reading comprehension. They provide targeted instruction and practice sessions to improve reading and writing abilities.

Support with Literacy Strategies: Tutors help individuals develop effective strategies for reading and writing, such as chunking words, using mnemonic devices, improving vocabulary, and understanding sentence structure. They may also employ multisensory techniques to enhance learning.

Practice and Reinforcement: Tutors offer regular practice opportunities and reinforcement exercises to strengthen literacy skills over time. They often work closely with individuals to address specific areas of difficulty and provide personalised support.

Key Differences

Scope of Practice: Speech pathologists have a broader scope of practice, encompassing assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for various communication and language disorders, including those related to Dyslexia. They address underlying speech and language difficulties that impact literacy.

Professional Training: Speech pathologists undergo extensive education and training in communication sciences and disorders, including coursework and clinical experience in diagnosing and treating language-based learning disorders. They are qualified to diagnose specific learning impairments and develop holistic intervention plans.

Holistic Approach: Speech pathologists take a holistic approach by addressing not only literacy skills but also speech production, language comprehension, and overall communication abilities. They consider the individual’s overall communication needs and tailor interventions accordingly.

In summary, while literacy tutors focus primarily on developing literacy skills through targeted instruction and practice, speech pathologists offer a comprehensive approach that includes assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for a range of communication and language disorders, including Dyslexia. Both professionals play essential roles in supporting individuals with Dyslexia, with speech pathologists having a vast knowledge and experience in communication disorders and literacy tutors offering focused literacy instruction and support.

Triple L Speech Therapy and Audiology both have speech pathologists and tutors who are specifically trained and have years of experience in targeting these skills. We also collaborate with other allied health professionals to ensure a holistic approach for your child.

For more information or to schedule an assessment, please contact us. We are here to support your child’s journey towards improved literacy and overall communication skills.