Our focus is entirely on what is actually stopping each child progress with their reading and spelling. And over the past ten years of testing and researching, we have found that there are seven main causes of reading difficulty, which are listed below. With the spelling we have found just one problem; the children are sight reading the words, rather than decoding them.
We do not worry about whether someone has dyslexia or not, the solution to the problem is the same. The key to making progress easy for someone is to understand exactly why it has been difficult:
Activation of the "letterbox" to improve decoding fluency.
A Truly Massive Problem
Globally around 20% of English-speaking children reach the age of 11 unable to read confidently. Depending on who you talk to, the amount of dyslexia in the population varies from 5-15%.
Even after ten years of familiarity with that figure, I still find it amazing; one in five children unable to read the blackboard after 5 years at school. If it is the first time you have seen it, you will probably be struggling to believe it. However, as you walk down the street of an average town in England, America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, every seventh person you pass will be unable to read properly. Imagine doing 10 years at school unable to read the board.
It is a massive problem and there is a lot of confusion as to what the reasons are. For instance, it is difficult to find two definitions of dyslexia that are the same.
Some non-readers are "diagnosed" as dyslexic while others are not. Frankly I still cannot tell you why, even though I am an expert in this field. So don't be surprised if you are confused too. The definition of dyslexia is not something that is agreed on. Generally the people who have to pay for the support of dyslexics have a tighter definition than the people who are supporting and lobbying on behalf of dyslexics.
What is Going On?
I first got into literacy through my work in The Shannon Trust (www.shannontrust.org.uk). We developed a system to get literate prison inmates helping their non-reading peers to learn. 67% of prisoners could not read at that time. But we found that they could learn to read in just a few months with the right guidance.
So, there was no underlying reason why most of them had not learnt in the first place. Many of them cracked it in just 4-5 months even though they had thought themselves dyslexic. That is as fast as you or I did. In fact it is a lot faster than I did!
As a result of this revelation, I have spent the last few years investigating the nature of reading difficulties, why people are labelled dyslexic and what the real causes of difficulty are. That is the basis to finding solutions.
There are so many myths and misunderstandings surrounding Dyslexia, that it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees. Being dyslexic is also often viewed as an "untreatable" condition. Some people even say that it is even "unprofessional" to suggest that dyslexia is something that can be treated or helped. Our experience is that most dyslexics can become excellent readers, even if they are still viewed as dyslexic.
The Truth About Dyslexia
The word dyslexia means " to have more difficulty learning to read and dealing with text than would be expected for a given cognitive ability ". So it is a specific difficulty with reading and words relative to the person's general intelligence.
Anything more complex than that can be very dangerous (in my view...!), because it often begins to link dyslexia to one or more of the personality traits often seen in children who happen to also have difficulty with reading. That is a distraction from the actual underlying reasons for the difficulty.
For instance, high creativity is often cited as part of dyslexia. The reality is that many dyslexics are dyslexic because they are very strong visual learners. Visual learners are often very artistic and creative. However, being creative has nothing directly to do with reading difficulty.
The truth is this:
There is no single dyslexia cause or condition. There are several possible reasons why a child might struggle with reading. It is, after all, a very complex brain process.
When you understand in detail why an individual child is struggling to read it is usually easy to work out how to overcome the difficulty. It then does not really matter whether they have dyslexia or not.
There are a lot of dyslexia organisations that can give you support as a dyslexic, although they are not so strong on helping people learn to read. They are also the voice of dyslexics in the media and with governments:
Getting children to read is our passion. Don't hesitate to call us with any question. But before you do, take the time to have a look around the site. There is a lot of information on literacy, dyslexia, the causes of dyslexia and ways to help with each type of dyslexia.