Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language.
Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.
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.
This is the official definition of dyslexia published by the International Dyslexia Association (Ida) in 2003. Any other definition is not scientifically validated, since the scientific Committee of the Ida gather the most important researchers from all over the world.
Dyslexia does not have the same percentage of population in different countries.
There are even big differences. In Italy the official data reveal 3.5%, versus 7.4% in the United States.
The data could contrast with the fact that the disease has a neurobiological basis, and therefore it should theoretically be equally distributed.
Instead, like every form of disability, it results from the interaction between the neurobiological inclination and the environment (in this case spelling).
In Italy dyslexia is far less frequent than in the English-speaking countries, since Italian has a regular spelling; English, instead, has a very irregular spelling.
The degree varies with the age.
The problem is more acute at the primary school because there is little time to learn the spelling rules. At the high school, the main problem is the quantity of material to read.
The learning process develops through book-reading mainly, therefore the dyslexic makes a major effort, given that the notions come from the mode that is disordered.
In order to overcome this problem, the Ida has made an agreement with the press companies: the dyslexic must be provided with books in the digital format. This is a little revolution, because the dyslexic used to need someone that read for them, while now they can do it on their own by the use of a machine.
The Specific learning disabilities (Sld), according to the data of the Italian Dyslexia Association, refer to about 8% of the school population and, if they are not properly treated, they can have psychological, social and work consequences. The Sld comprise dyslexia (difficulty processing language), disorthographia (difficulty with orthographic coding), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing) and dyscalculia (difficulty in maths). Dyslexia, that is the most known, is the difficulty with reading correctly and fluently; it can be more or less severe, and it is often associated to difficulties in writing and calculation. It is important to highlight that the Sld are not caused either by cognitive deficiencies, or environmental or psychological or sensorial or neurological problems, but they are specific malfunctions.
Dyslexia is a difficulty with reading and writing correctly and fluently. Reading and writing are such simple and automatic acts that it is difficult to understand the effort made by a dyslexic child. In Italy it is little known, although it has been estimated that it affects 1,500 million people at least. Dyslexia is neither caused by intellectual deficiencies, nor environmental, psychological, sensorial and neurobiological problems. The dyslexic child can read and write, but only making an extreme effort, because they cannot do it automatically. Therefore they get tired soon, make mistakes, have learning delays or learn nothing. The reading difficult can be more or less severe and it is often associated with writing and calculating problems and even intellectual activities. Nevertheless, these children are intelligent and usually lively and creative.
Because it is an invisible disability. It does not manifest itself outside the school. It is a diversity without diversity. The dyslexic child’s behaviour is similar to that of a lazy and unwilling child, therefore the easiest and quickest explanations are often wrongly done. In fact, outside the school, this child behaves normally, like the others: lively, sociable and cheerful. The fact that dyslexia does not manifest outside the school leads to this minimized explanation: when the child has to read or write, he/she shows him/herself lazy and unwilling. Differently form what happens when a child suffers from a disability, no one can suspect the presence of dyslexia while playing with their friends. There are not biological, behavioural or social signs that can reveal dyslexia outside the school. Only during a class-work the child shows this difficulty, that is often mistaken for unwillingness and therefore punished: “…when it is time to play you are always ready, and now you have to read…”. Learning disorders are defined as specific when they manifest in subjects with normal IQ.
Dyslexia manifests at the beginning of the primary school with clear difficulties with learning the alphabet letters, in writing even very simple and common words (like dog, finger, hand, etc.). The dyslexic child makes typical mistakes in reading and writing, like the inversion of letters and numbers (e.g. 21 – 12) and the substitution of letters (m/n; v/f; b/d). Sometimes the child cannot learn the multiplication tables and some information in sequence like the alphabet letters, the week days and the months of the year. The child can make confusion about space and time relationships (left/right; yesterday/today; months and days) and also when expressing a thought verbally. In some cases there are also difficulties in some motor abilities (like tying the shoes), in calculations, in keeping the attention and the concentration. The child has often psychological problems, but this is a consequence, not the cause of dyslexia. Even after primary school, slowness and mistakes in reading remain, impairing the comprehension of written texts. The child seems disorganized in his/her activities, both at school and at home. The child has difficulties in copying the notes from the board and in note-taking. Sometimes the child loses self-confidence and can have changes in his/her behaviour.
Every dyslexic is different from another, the dyslexic is not a fixed entity. dyslexia manifests as a complex of characteristics that every dyslexic shares in a high or low degree. Here there is a list of traits, behaviours, abilities, sensorial or development differences at different degree. The higher the number of affirmative answers is, the higher the probability of dyslexia is. In that case it is necessary to contact a specialist (a neuro-psychiatrist or a psychologist) for a diagnosis.
Several steps forward in rehabilitation have been made lately. The international scientific community share the lines to define the rehabilitation effectiveness:
The professionals involved into the assessment of Specific Learning Disorders are the neuropsychiatrist or the neurologist for the neurologic check; the neuropsychiatrist, the psychologist or neuropsychologist for the intellectual effectiveness assessment; the psychologist for the psychodiagnostic analysis and the personality assessment; the psychologist, the neuropsychologist along with the speech therapist ad the psychopedagogist for specific analysis. The facilities of neuropsychiatrics or developmental psychology, or even speech therapy of local health units should have specialized personnel to diagnose the Specific Learning Disorders. The private centres should certify their competence, stating the application of the national guidelines to diagnose the Sld. The Italian Dyslexia Association has a telephone Help-line (051 243358, e-mail email@example.com) available 5 days a week to guarantee full assistance.
The diagnosis procedure comprises:
The problem of right protection of a dyslexic person is particularly complex and open to diverse solutions. At present, there are not specific regulations and the Italian Dyslexia Association has presented a series of norms in order to regulate the requests from schools towards the dyslexic pupils, to establish the limits and define the possible facilities. Within the present legislation, it is possible to refer to some articles:
The law n. 517/77 art. 2 – primary school: organized activities for groups of pupils from the same class or different classes;
The law n. 517/77 art. 7 – lower school: periodical school activities as a replacement for the normal activities for 160 hours at most at the beginning or the end of the year, according to a programme of integrated initiatives or aids as indicated by the School Council and class councils;
The law n. 59/97 art. 21: didactic autonomy aimed at the learning rights;
D.P.R. n. 275/99: diversities are recognized and enhanced, every individual’s potentials are promoted, all the useful initiatives for the successful educational achievement;
the times of teaching and subject development must be regulated in the most appropriate ways, through individual rhythms of learning and flexibility;
recover and aid initiatives;
the law n. 104/92 art. 13 – school integration: this is realized through technical equipment and didactic aids;
The law 104/92 – learning assessment and exams: the Ministry regulation that rules mark assignments and exams every year establishes particular conditions only for certified pupils in compliance with the Law 104/92.
For the secondary higher school, there is the possibility to do extra tuitions for the pupils that need them, but teachers do not have to do them, the school is not obliged to organize them and pupils do not have to attend to them. In case of failure though, the school must prove having planned recover interventions.