Nuts, bolts and hurdles of Dyslexia (16/52)

It’s back to school after the Easter break for many pupils and students this week, and so it is for me – well, online school in the form of a MOOC entitled “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching” to be precise. This 4-week course is designed to support teachers of additional languages but is already proving useful to me both as an educator with dyslexic students in my university lectures and as a student of what often seems like a foreign language to me – English!

Dr Judit Kormos (the module leader) provides an insightful metaphor for dsylexic students learning a language: a hurdles raceonly the hurdles are invisible! Or, as Dr Kormos expresses it [00:50]:

“Learning to read for dyslexics is like running a race where only the dyslexic students have invisible hurdles on the track. The others complete the race easily and quickly while the dyslexic students fall when they first hit the hurdles.”

Dr Kormos goes onto explain the two main hurdles of dyslexia which impact on language learning are: i) shorter working memory span and ii) reduced phonemic awareness or, in other words, hearing the difference in words and sound-letter association. She calls on educators to recognise these hurdles exist and help students to see them coming and develop ways to overcome them.

Interestingly, Dr Kormos also urges us to look at dyslexia as a learning difference [05:50]:

“Dyslexia should not be seen as a disability that hinders people in their daily life, but as a difference in acquiring new knowledge and skills. These students can learn successfully. And to return to our metaphor of the hurdle race, they can reach the finish line, but they do it differently from others. Hence, they will need adjustments in the teaching process and the environment, and assistance in developing efficient strategies.”

I wonder if we will get to dyslexia as a superpower by week 4?!

Professor Kate Cain explains how [the nuts and bolts] people learn language and why this presents particular challenges for dyslexics. Her research concluded that there are three steps to understanding: i) words, ii) sentences and iii) meanings. Dyslexic readers can pick out key words, deconstruct sentences but often struggle to integrate these coherently and recall them accurately with their shorter working memory span playing a part in this. Add an increasing crisis of confidence as other racers [learners] start to pull away and you are on a collision path. No wonder so many dyslexics leave education with low self-esteem – you will no doubt recall Vincent’s guest blog last week.

I’ve three more weeks to go on the course. But, there is still time for you to sign up … “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support