Understanding Phonological Dyslexia

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The subtypes of dyslexia

Perhaps you know the basics about dyslexia. However, you may not be aware that children with dyslexia can struggle in one or several different areas, often called types or subtypes. One of the most common types is phonological or auditory dyslexia.

What is phonological dyslexia and what are the characteristics? What signs indicate your child might have it? Most importantly, how can experts help children learn and succeed?

We’re here to answer those questions.

A primer on phonological dyslexia

Dyslexia is a cognitive condition that affects a child’s ability to recognize and use the sounds that make up words and/or numbers. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence or vision. It has to do with how the brain interprets and processes language.

Children with phonological dyslexia (also called auditory dyslexia) have trouble with phonological and/or phonemic awareness. Phonemic and phonological awareness are the skills that allow us to read.

“Phonological awareness lets kids recognize and work with the sounds of spoken language…. Phonemic awareness includes the ability to separate a word into the sounds that make it up and blend single sounds into words. It also involves the ability to add, subtract, or substitute new sounds in words,” according to understood.org.

This is where children with phonological dyslexia struggle. They may have difficulty or be unable to break words down into syllables and individual sounds.

What causes phonological dyslexia?

This learning difference affects the area of the brain that processes language. Children with phonological dyslexia are not as efficient at recognizing phonemes (the sounds that make up words) and words. Unfortunately, the root cause is not completely understood. However, some risk factors may be involved:

  • A family history of dyslexia or learning differences
  • Premature/low birth weight
  • Exposure to substances like alcohol, nicotine, or drugs during pregnancy
  • A prenatal infection that affects brain development
  • Individual differences in parts of the brain that process language

Symptoms of phonological dyslexia

There are signs that a child may have phonological dyslexia:

  • Difficulty learning sounds made by letters and/or letter combinations
  • Difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words (decoding)
  • Slow reading
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Difficulty recognizing familiar words in new contexts
  • Avoiding reading activities 

These signs could point to dyslexia, but they might also be because of another developmental condition or, it could just be a normal delay. The only way to know is to undergo a complete psychological or neuropsychological evaluation.

Support at The Learning Lab

While it’s true that children with phonological dyslexia struggle to read, they can learn. With help, your child can be taught ways to process language. Eventually, they will be able to read at a level that’s near or equal to peers.

The most effective method, which we use at Learning Lab, is called the Orton-Gillingham approach. This system was developed in the 1930s by Samuel Torrey Orton and Anna Gillingham. 

It includes six basic elements:

  1. Personalized approach based on the specific learning difficulties of the child
  2. Engaging multiple senses such as auditory, visual, and touch (kinesthetic) 
  3. Structured, systematic, sequential, and cumulative – Language elements introduced in a logical order
  4. Cognitive – Learning the general rules involved in how language is structured
  5. Flexible – The instructor makes sure the child truly understands patterns 
  6. Building a personal student-teacher relationship

Get the help you need now

If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia – or you suspect he or she might have it – we can administer Dyslexia Screenings to verify it. If there is a positive diagnosis, we can create a custom plan for your child that ensures your child learns to process language and read more efficiently. Contact us to get started.

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