Dyslexia is a disorder with many myths attached. People tend to think that dyslexia is merely a matter of reading, writing or saying words backwards. Although this sometimes happens as a result of the disorder, there are complex reasons for why this does occur. It is not a matter of a visual deficiency or a speech impediment, but of an auditory processing problem that has far-reaching consequences.
In Australia, dyslexia is frequently referred to as a ‘specific learning difficulty’ with an emphasis on language problems. Dyslexia is not, as many people mistakenly believe, a matter of visual dysfunction. People with Dysexia do not see whole words reversed and the condition does not necessarily manifest in writing letters backwards. The condition is best explained as a language-based disorder. People who have dyslexia often experience difficulties in the areas of reading, spelling, writing, and mathematics.
It is important to know that people who have dyslexia do not make random mistakes. Rather, they will have very consistent problems with certain sets of letters and this will be apparent in reading, writing and spelling of relevant words.
The types of mistakes made with letters comprise three main categories:
Reading the back-to-front mirror image of the letter – pairs include d/b and q/p – the individual may mistake ‘bad’ for ‘dad’
Reading the upside-down mirror image of the letter – pairs include w/m – the individual may mistake ‘wake’ for ‘make’
Swapping two adjacent letters in a word – the individual may mistake ‘far’ for ‘fra’, or ‘sits’ for ‘stis’
Sound is made up of many frequencies (high and low pitch tones). The auditory processing problems associated with dyslexia most often involve a difficulty in perceiving certain frequencies of sounds. The implications for communication are considerable. Some of the most common of these sounds are the high frequency sounds like ‘t’, ‘f’ ‘s’, ‘k’, ‘p’ and the blended sounds of ‘th’ and ‘sh’. Children with dyslexia may have perceptual difficulties with some of these sounds, meaning that words that contain these sounds, may be misheard and subsequently mispronounced, leading to compromised communication. Many of these symptoms are more obvious when in a busy environment and the individual may be experiencing sensory overload. On the other hand, some sounds may also be processed at different speeds leading to confusion when a spoken message is received.