Dyslexia and Reading Problems

Dyslexia is a complex language problem. Children with dyslexia are not able to break words down into individual sounds. These children often have difficulty with writing and thinking about the sounds that make up words. Children with dyslexia have brains that work differently to process language. They have problems translating language to thought (in listening or reading) and thought to language (in writing or speaking). Dyslexia is the most common learning disability (LD). Dyslexia affects 80 percent of students with learning disabilities. Dyslexia affects more boys than girls.

Some Signs of a reading problem

Preschool children exhibiting signs of reading problems (a) often do not know how to hold a book, (b) can't tell the difference between letters and squiggles, (c) can not recognize own name, (d) can only say a small number of words, (e) do not like rhyming games, and(f) can not fill in the rhyming word in familiar nursery rhymes

Kindergarten children exhibiting signs of reading problems (a) can not tell the difference between the sounds that make up words, (b) are slow to name familiar objects and colors, (c) can not remember the names and sounds of letters, and (d) can not write most consonant sounds in a word by the end of kindergarten.

Children exhibiting reading problems in 1st and 2nd grades (a) have trouble pronouncing new words and remembering them, (b) have trouble blending sounds together to say words, (c) say that reading is easier for their classmates, (d) fall way behind their classmates, (e) can not figure out unknown words, (f) avoid reading, and (g) resist reading aloud.

Children exhibiting reading problems in 2nd and 3rd grades (a) start to withdraw, (b) have some behavioral concerns, (c) seem to guess at unknown words, and (d) do not get meaning from reading.


How SLD Manifests in Reading

Subtype 1
Dysphonic Dyslexia

Difficulty sounding out words in a phonological manner.


Unable to bridge letters and sounds (phonics)
Overreliance on visual and orthographic cues to identify words in print
Tend to guess frequently on words based on the initial letter observed
Tend to memorize whole words as an approach to reading
Often are inaccurate oral readers


-Teach metacognitive strategies.
Teach children similarities and differences
between speech sounds and visual patterns across words.
- Provide direct instruction in language analysis and the alphabetic code. Give explicit instruction in segmenting and blending speech sounds.
-Teach children to process progressively larger chunks of words.
- Use techniques that make phonemes more concrete.

For example, phonemes and syllables can be represented with blocks where children can be taught how to add, omit, substitute, and rearrange phonemes in words.

Subtype 2
Surface Dyslexia

Difficulty with the rapid and automatic recognition of words in print. (Opposite of Dysphonic Dyslexia)


Children are readily able to sound out words
Lack the ability to recognize words in print automatically
Letter-by-letter and sound-by-sound readers
Read very slowly and laboriously
Phonological processing skills remain in tact.
Difficulty recognizing word pairs having similar orthography but different phonology


Focus on automaticity and fluency goals

Subtype 3
Mixed Dyslexia

Multiple reading deficits characterized by impaired phonological and orthographic processing skills.  The most severe form of dyslexia.


Most severe type of reading disability
Characterized by a combination of poor phonological skills
Slower rapid and automatic word recognition
Inconsistent language comprehension skills
Bizarre error pattern in reading
Deficits integrating both the phonological representation and orthographical representation of words


Focus on a Balanced Literacy approach that targets multiple aspects of the reading process
Modeled Reading/Writing
Shared Reading/Writing
Interactive Reading/Writing
Guided Reading/Writing
Independent Reading/Writing

Subtype 4
Comprehension Deficits

The mechanical side of reading is fine but difficulty persists deriving meaning from print.


Readers struggle to derive meaning from print
Often display good reading mechanics.


Language Development
Utilize skills that draw on background knowledge
Draw inferences from the text

Flanagan, D. & Alfonso, V. (2011). The essentials of specific learning disability identification. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.