Causal Theories, Indicators and Remediations for Educators of Dyslexic Students - a New Zealand Context.

Essay by TaniwhaUniversity, Master's June 2006

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A difficulty with decoding and encoding the abstract symbols of written language

Despite:normal cognitive ability (intelligence)

normal hearing

normal vision

This suggests a neurological basis for this difficulty.

General facts about dyslexia:

*Dyslexia exists on a continuum of severity.

*Dyslexia has a genetic component...up to a 50% probability of being inherited if both parents are dyslexic. The implications of this are serious for home support.

*The prevalence of dyslexia in English-speaking countries is high, as the orthography of the English language is 'opaque', compared to countries with either a 'transparent' orthography, or a visual orthography.

*The suggested prevalence of dyslexia in New Zealand is 10% of students, and up to 50-60% of prison inmates.

*Dyslexia is not officially recognised in New Zealand, due to our traditional 'whole language' reading approach.

*There is no focus on dyslexia (or other Specific Learning Difficulties) in pre-service teacher training.

*There is no mandatory screening process for dyslexia or funding/resources for support.

*It is assessed and remediated on a 'user-pays' basis.

*Assessment is available through some educational psychologists (who have been trained specifically), and 1-1 tutoring is available with specialist teachers.

*Accommodation strategies are available for dyslexic students sitting NCEA assessments - such as reader/writers and extra time, but there are strict evidence criteria for approval.

*Dyslexic students can be very successful, both in their chosen subjects and careers, due to their thinking and resilience strategies.

*Each dyslexic student is different. Their indicators will vary, their severity will vary, their coping strategies will vary, their strengths will vary, their weaknesses will vary, and so will their behaviours.

*This makes it difficult to support them effectively in an inclusive environment.


The transition from Year 8 to Year 9 is a quantum leap for all students, but especially for dyslexic students.

The main issues that cause difficulty for successful integration and support are:

*A change in focus from skills to content.

*A change from a 'holistic' core subjects teacher to a team of specialist subject teachers.

*A change from a less broken timetable to a timetable of continual changes.

The best time to identify a dyslexic student's needs is their transition into Year 9.

A student's PAT results from Year 8 can be analysed for discrepancies in their scores. The most obvious indicators are a high Listening Comprehension score coupled with a low Written Language score.

Diagnostic assessment activities in the first term of this year (and each subsequent year) are extremely important, as this can set support and remediation strategies in place, before a student starts to 'slip'.

If a student is identified with dyslexia, ensure that there are 1-1 withdrawal or extra support strategies with a specialist available if possible.

Make sure that Learning Support has recorded this student to ensure accommodation strategies will be available for NCEA assessments.

Causal theories:

Part of the difficulty in identifying and supporting dyslexic students stems from the fact that, although dyslexia has a neurological basis, all dyslexic students are different.

Although all dyslexic students present with some common indicators (the principal indicator being a lack of phonological awareness), there are 3 neurological pathway possibilities for the causation of dyslexia.

Each presents its own set of specific indicators, and each requires different remediation.

Common Indicators:


*Significant discrepancy between verbal and written performance

*Persistent or severe problems with spelling, and erratic spelling, even with 'easy' or common words; restricted choice of words due to spelling difficulty

*Difficulty putting ideas down on paper

*Problems with sentence structure, punctuation and organisation of written work, not due to lack of experience

*Inability to 'see' mistakes even when pointed out, but can usually identify them when text is read aloud to them

*Difficulty in copying from the blackboard or texts - by losing place or muddling words

*Reversal of letters and numbers

*Ill-formed letters in size and spacing


*Reading well below their chronological age level

*Need to re-read text numerous times to grasp and hold meaning

*Trouble in following sequences or keeping track of place and line when reading

*Mispronunciations and saying the wrong word even when the right word is known

*Inability to read or extreme anxiety about reading aloud without preparation

*Visual-perceptual disturbances (words dance/blur/float/swirl when reading) or scotopic sensitivity

*Inability to identify keywords and concepts in texts and questions


*Problems ordering and remembering ideas sequentially

*Holistic thinking, and the ability to grasp the broad picture well, but without the detail

*Difficulty in memorising facts, new terms, new names

*Unusual and creative strategies for approaching and managing learning

*Ability to find unusual and creative solutions in problem-solving activities

*Increased difficulty in many of these areas when under stress (e.g. exams), and have good days and bad days

*Time-lag in answering questions due to processing speed or working memory difficulty


*Frustration, passivity, 'acting out', aggression, non-compliance, non-attendance, and delaying tactics in starting work

Common Strategies:


*Identify students' individual learning styles and encourage their use

*Use multi-sensory teaching approaches to the same concept or topic

*Practice sequencing and working memory skills frequently (Do Nows or games)

*Use peer activities and jigsaw learning


*Use Comic Sans Font size 12 for all handouts

*Use beige paper to reduce text flare

*Use folders in preference to books wherever possible


*Issue handouts one-sided

*Encourage note-taking one-sided

*Do not underline words in texts or on boards or OHPs - don't let them either

*Use colours and highlighters on board, OHPs and make sure they do too


*Use a cue prior to asking a student a question, to let them know they need to process the question and answer

*Allow time for processing and answering

*Issue instructions one at a time

*Place common instructions on the same place on the board each time


*Only mark one kind of intrusive error in a student's work at a time

*Let them use a 'try-out' sheet or column when they are writing

*Encourage them to write drafts on alternate lines for editing

*Use 'Detail Guy' for proof-reading

*Issue keyword lists per topic but group them in spelling rule families

*Use keyword lists as spelling activities

*Have common sight word lists available individually and on the classroom walls

*Use templates for essay production and have these templates displayed in the classroom


*Use mind-maps and graphic organisers to present information, and encourage them to use them for summarising for revision

*Use over-learning by displaying topic summaries on graphic organisers in class right through topic in unusual places - and keep referring to them

*Use mnemonics

*Use pop-ups for key concepts or procedures


*Make sure homework is written down

*Give homework in amounts of time rather than by achievement


*Encourage taped books

Neurological Pathway Possibilities:

Cerebellar Deficit Theory:


These students have a low activation level in the cerebellum. This results in a low activation of the cerebral cortex, predominantly in the sensory and motor areas.

Possible Indicators:

*May show clumsiness and propensity for accidents

*May show reduced response to pain or temperature

*May show slow or ponderous movement

*May carry extra body weight

*May have co-ordination difficulty (ball skills, dancing)

*May have fine motor control difficulty (particularly with writing and drawing)

*May have unusual or tense pencil grip

*May have poorly formed letters in writing (size and spacing)

*May press extremely heavily on the page during writing

*May have difficulty turning pages

*May be slow in speaking

Specific Remediations:

*Brain Gym

*Wobble or balance board



*Big pen grip

*Fine motor skill practice

Magno-cellular Deficit Theory:


These students have a low activation level in the visual and auditory sensory pathways. This results in difficulties in rapid and sustained attention to visual and auditory information.


*May be slow at copying from board or texts

*May write 1 sentence per line answers

*May get 'lost' in print in texts, on board, or OHPs

*May finger-track while reading

*May have either no eye contact or extreme eye contact

*May be distracted easily by movement

*May show inconsistent spacing of words and letters in writing

*May leave out small sight words in writing (such as prepositions and conjunctions)

*May leave out essential grammar in writing (such as full stops, commas)

*May not hear or read negatives (such as 'not' or 'no')

Specific Remediations:

*Use a coloured highlighter for different sentences or paragraphs in your and their notes

*Use behavioural optometry exercises to strengthen their rapid and sustained vision

*Give them a seating place in the classroom so that they have less focusing to do

*Let them use a marker to keep their place during reading

*Give them a copy of notes to save copying from the board

Hemispherical Laterality Theory:


These students have a lower neural communication across the corpus callosum between the two hemispheres of the brain. This results in a difficulty in written language development and production.


*May show mixed laterality for:hand




*May show obvious artistic/musical/oral/sporting ability that does not match written skills

*May have trouble crossing the midline

Specific Remediations:

*Use cross marching

*Start their work with 'lazy 8's'

*Make them do anything that crosses the midline

*Let them use a skoosh ball in their non-dominant hand

*Give them a seating place in the classroom that lets them favour their dominant eye and ear