Wow, that's a question and a half... So it's time to get comfy, grab a cup of tea and we'll get straight to it!
The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) adopted a definition of dyslexia in 2007 which goes like this:
“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual's other cognitive abilities.
It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effect can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counseling." (BDA, n.d.)
When you're being diagnosed with dyslexia chances are you'll undergo a series of psychometric assessments, and these are based on the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual (probably the 4th edition, but some use the new 5th edition which came out in 2014), so regardless of what anyone else says dyslexia is unless you're clued up on what these guys think then you're unlikely to get the official label so ... According to the DSM5 (APA, 2014) dyslexia is a 'specific learning disorder' (SpLD) and here's the 'important bits':
"Difficulties learning and using academic skills, as indicated by the presence of at least one of the following symptoms that have persisted for at least 6 months, despite and provision of interventions that target those difficulties:
1.Inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading
2.Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read
3.Difficulties with spelling
4.Difficulties with written expression
5.Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts or calculation
6.Difficulties with Mathematical reasoning
The affected academic skills are substantially and quantifiably below those expected for the individuals chronological age, and cause significant interference with academic or occupational performance or with activities of daily living…
The learning difficulties begun in school age years…
The learning difficulties are not better accounted for by intellectual disabilities, uncorrected visual or auditory acuity other mental or neurological disorders, psychosocial adversity, lack of proficiency in the language of academic instruction, or inadequate educational instruction…"
I've tried to keep it as simple as possible and just take the key pointers. What is really important to realise - the BDA hasn't moved forward with their diagnosis, while the rest of the world has. The BDA's definition is almost 10 years out of date... By just limiting dyslexia difficulties to 'literacy and language related skills' you're in effect missing out on many children who also have number difficulties.
While it may not seem it this is super important.
Ponder this crucial fact in the diagnosis - the language development needs to be out of sync with the rest of their intelligence. So theoretically there a re a lot of people out there who have wrongly been identified as learning delayed, or as having intellectual difficulties, and not as having a specific learning difficulty because they present with difficulties in both number and literacy.
How many children have been misdiagnosed because of the misunderstanding between the extremely high crossover with dyslexia, dyscalculia (maths version of dyslexia) and dyspraxia (or developmental coordination disorder, - difficulties with co-ordination and movement)...?
Onto how many people have an SpLD - the DSM5 says that between 5 & 15% of the child population worldwide has an SpLD, and 4% of the adult population do...
You'll understand my 'WHAT?!?' in two shakes of a tail feather and here's why...
SpLD's are neurodevelopmental disorders (meaning they are developed during early stages of child development, and affect the brain). Basically SpLD's are your brains way of processing information when it comes to learning. So why does it seem to disappear in adulthood?
The reality - it doesn't. It's still there. The brain still processes information in the same way. It's just people get better at coping, hiding or doing jobs which don't need their specific difficulty.
For example., I have dyscalculia and can not tell the time using an analogue watch. So what do I do to cope? If you've ever asked me what time it is I will usually grab my phone. I wear an analogue watch (without numbers because if you can't use it then numbers are just useless), and often look at the watch and then will look for a digital clock, or grab my phone if I need to actually know what the time is). For this reason I do not work in a job which requires accurate time keeping skills. If however, I do need to do something at a certain time, or for a certain time then the phone alarm comes in super handy. Also good old google maps, and google calendar sync to tell me what time I need to leave to get somewhere on time - so you'd never know!
Also it's important to think about who the 'adults' are. We have got an awful lot better at identifying SpLDs (although honestly, it's still pretty poor), than 10, 15 or 20+ years ago, and the 'adults' would have been in school all those years ago. So while on the surface it could be misconstrued that for 10% of us when we hit adulthood all our SpLD difficulties miraculously disappear it's simply not the case.
And here's why you wouldn't want it to be...
Guy's and gals with SpLD's actually have a super power when it comes to learning. They can:
Just to digress a little - the 3D and 4D visualisation thing really took me aback a few weeks ago. I genuinely just thought everyone could. When I found out that it was something unique to people with SpLDs my poor family suffered... I don't know how many times I tried to get them to visualise something in their hand and rotate it, or look at it from different angles. Or to imagine a slice of pizza with all the smells, and the textures... (this I don't recommend because it makes you hungry...). It still baffles me. For all those people out there who don't have SpLDs and think I'm making this up - trust me you guys are just as confusing for us when we realise you can't do this!
Anyway back to SpLDs.
So basically anyone with dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia (or has one of these super awesome abilities tacked onto another mental health difficulty), is able to process the world in a completely unique way.
Problems only arise when we're being forced to try and process information in a linear fashion, or in 1D / 2D. It's this which means we tend to fall at the school hurdle. After nursery, everything is learned from books, or by writing things down. SpLDs are most often diagnosed around the age of 7 and this is pretty much the time those of us who muddled through maths with counters are no longer to use our fingers or counters, and those poor kids with dyslexia who never even got the opportunity to use 3D letters...
So realistically it's definitely not a disorder, or difficulty our word is absolutely ordered it's just more of a circle than a flat line, and being able to rotate things in 3D or 4D - definitely not a difficulty!
OK so if it's a neurodevelopmental disorder (*ahem*) what's going on with our brains?
Well traditionally researchers have theorised that children with SpLDs and ADHD and ASC use the same parts of the brain for learning and this is why they're heavily co-morbid but ...
Biotteau et al., (2016) are one of many groups of researches to have recently thrown a spanner in the works when it comes to understanding why dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalcula, ADHD, and ASC are so often co-morbid. For the past few years it has been theorised that it is the same parts of the brain which are affected, and this is also why many of these difficulties also end up mimicking each other (making it hugely difficult for anyone to properly diagnose what's going on). But what they've found - this is just not true... They found that while children with dyslexia, and children with dyspraxia performed the procedural learning (learning something through repetition) task with the same level of automaticity (doing something without thinking, much like when we drive to work and forget how we got there...), they actually used different brain processes to achieve it.
Back in 2011 - Loh, Piek, & Barrett also found something similar between children with dyspraxia, and ADHD. They tested children for perceptual reasoning (measuring the ability to find links between visual stimuli and also tests reasoning skills), and found that children with dyspraxia, and co-morbid ADHD & dyspraxia did have poor perceptual reasoning children with just ADHD didn't.
So where does that leave us?
OK so those 5 choices are a little dramatic. But it is important to realise that without really understanding how, and why our brains are doing what they're doing when it comes to learning it's very difficult to develop ways to support someone. Which means there needs to be a lot more prodding, poking and testing to really understand what's going on.
You will however, be glad to know that because one thing is certain - children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia are able to visualise in 3D and/or 4D, this can be used to help them understand letters, numbers and number concepts (time, distance, area...) and this underpins being able to rapidly increase learning potential. Even more awesome children who have co-morbid ADHD, or ASC with dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia rely on similar techniques for learning so the potential for using 3D and 4D to increase learning can be wide reaching indeed!
Are you ready to take our free test to see if you have the 3D learning superpower?
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
BDA. (n.d.). Definitions. Retrieved from British Dyslexia Association: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/definitions
Biotteau, M., Peran, P., Vayssiere, N., Tallet, J., Albaret, J. M., & Chaix, Y. (2016). Neural changes associated to procedural learning and automatization process in Developmental Coordination Disorder and/or Developmental Dyslexia. European Journal of Paediatric Neurology. doi:10.1016/j.ejpn.2016.07.025
Loh, P., Piek, J., & Barrett, N. (2011). Comorbid ADHD and DCD: examining cognitive functions using the WISC-IV. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 1260-9. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2011.02.008
Katie Woodland - A developmental, and holistic psychologist who specialises in educating and empowering individuals, business leaders & school teachers to remove mental health as a barrier to success.
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