Introduction – the many faces of dyslexia
Many definitions for the learning difficulty dyslexia exist. Many people believe that they understand the nature of dyslexia immediately, however the complexity of this learning difficulty as well as the interventions needed are difficult to describe in a few words. This is the reason why it is useful to reflect on several definitions of dyslexia:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological 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 may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.(Lyon & Shaywitz, 2003)
This definition is approved by the International Dyslexia Association and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.
As a founder member of the French Dyslexia Parent Association and mother of a dyslexic son, I consider appropriate support and accommodation for the dyslexic person of utmost importance, as well as early recognition of “at risk children” and early intervention. This also means appropriate provision and training for teachers and special education teachers in the field of learning disability. The two following definitions emphasize these points.
Cook Moats insists on the fact that
Dyslexia is one kind of language-based learning problem that can fall anywhere on the spectrum of annoyance to severe limitation. It affects more than reading and is usually experienced for life. And, it responds to expert, informed instruction, the provision of which remains our greatest challenge. (2008)
Crombie’s definition also focuses on accommodations:
Dyslexia is a difficulty with literacy which results in a person requiring a set of accommodations to be made to enable them to demonstrate their abilities. Accommodations can be defined as a set of enabling arrangements that are put in place to ensure that the dyslexic person can demonstrate their strengths and abilities and show attainment.(in Clark, 2003)