What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, in a proper definition, “is a developmental disability in reading or spelling, generally becoming evident in early schooling” (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004). Dyslexia therefore is a learning disability with specific problem in reading and spelling. A dyslexic has a different way of reading letters and words. A dyslexic child may be able to read a mirror image of a word than reading it in a normal way; or a dyslexic child may spell a word backwards rather than the traditional way of spelling from the beginning.

There are also accounts of a child having difficulty with Mathematics but, this difficulty is not as grave as reading and spelling. Since reading is one of the main components of learning, a difficulty in this area would result in slow, retarded development and learning incapability that can not be corrected unless properly spotted. Dyslexia came from the Greek word /Dys/ and /lexis/ which literally means impair word, or impaired word (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004). The term dyslexia was first used in 1872 by a German Physician R.

Berlin, on an adult patient who has acquired dyslexia, or a deficit in reading ability caused by a brain lesion (Gayan,2001). However, it was in 1896 when an article published in the British Medical Journal written by a general doctor, W. Pringle Morgan, about intelligent fourteen-year old boys who could not learn how to read. It was considered as one of the first reports about congenital blindness. With this article, Morgan is recognized as the father of developmental dyslexia (Gayan, 2001). It was believed during those times that the inability to read has something to do with the visual pathway of the brain.

However, later researches spearheaded by Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a neurologist who studied the symptoms of a boy similar to those adults who had a stroke, paved the way about a series of events that lead to difficulty to reading but is unrelated to brain damage. He concluded that the inability of the individual to read does not have anything to do with visual deficit, but rather a delayed and twisted interpretation of the symbols due to lack of hemispheric dominance. He called this twisted signs or “strephosymbolia” that focuses on reversal errors (cited in Orton, 1928).

Advance research studies supplemented Orton’s conclusion through magnetic resonance imaging proving that the part of the brain responsible for language processing or the left planum temporale is larger than the corresponding right area for non-dyslexic patients, while in dyslexic individuals these parts of the brain is symmetrical or the right side is slightly larger than the left (cited in Galaburda, Menard, Rosen, 1994). Thus stating, dyslexia was divided into subtypes. 1) Dysphonetic or Auditory Dyslexia-most predominant type that is associated with difficulty of connecting sounds to symbols.

2) Dyseidetic or Visual Dyslexia- inability to develop a sight word vocabulary, slow and laborious reading. 3) Rapid Automatic Naming or Double Deficit – impaired mental timing system. During those times, dyslexia was only exclusively treated by the medical field. It was only in recent times that dyslexia was addressed properly in reference to education and learning disability. Dyslexia is not only a neurological problem but also encompasses the learning field and must be also addressed accordingly on how to improve the quality of education for dyslexic individuals.