This essay is going to explore and explain the social constructive ideas of dyslexia, a specific learning difficulty. I will explore research around dyslexia and look at different approaches and theories towards it.
Special educational needs are socially constructed, which means society has decided to create a label to explain certain difficulties. Burr (1995) sees social constructionism as the outlook and idea that society has created and the assumptions that society has made, Burr explains that it is a critical stance toward knowledge that Is taken for granted, and it is a knowledge that is created by social processes.
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Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which effects 1 in 10 people within the United Kingdom (NHS 2019), individuals with dyslexia have visual, creative and problem solving skills (Dyslexia UK). Dyslexia is a phonological difficulties where the individuals with dyslexia struggle with recognising the sounds within words, effecting and causing problems with reading, writing and spelling The NHS state “Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis; It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing.”(NHS 2019). Dyslexia has been defined in various ways Allen (2010) and Burden et al (2005) acknowledge dyslexia as being a learning disability that impairs the skills involved in accurate or fluent word reading and spelling, whereas Catts et al (2005) and Crombie (2002) suggest that dyslexia happens due to areas in the brain not functioning properly and functioning in different ways. There is three different types of dyslexia that an individual can have, these being Phonological dyslexia, orthographical dyslexia and deep dyslexia. Phonological dyslexia is difficulty with hearing the sounds that makeup words, not a problem with hearing but a particular difficultly with the skill that we rely on to read and write. Difficulty putting sounds together to make words. Phonics should be first, fast and only way to teach reading and writing. There is other ways to teach not just phonics, however education is in a phase at the minute where phonics is the only way forward, this shown through schemes such as ‘Phonics is fun’. Phonics disadvantages children with phonological difficulties. Orthographical is more about recognising the shapes of words, recognising spelling patterns and being able to put letters in front of other words to make more, recognising irregular common words. To develop through reading you need to recognise words shapes. Deep dyslexia is when you have both, makes it difficult to provide the correct support as if you have either dyslexia you build on the opposite to develop the skills.
The characteristics and symptoms of dyslexia are “extremely variable and depend on the persons age, sex, family background, educational experience, level of intelligence, and whether they also have other developmental problems.” (Brunswick (2011)). In early childhood symptoms such as delayed learning to talk, takes time to learn new words, unable to form words and sounds correctly, problems remembering names, numbers and colours, and difficulty in learning nursery rhymes. As a child gets older and starts school more symptoms become clear such as the child’s reading age being below the expected level, struggling to process and understand what he/she has heard, confusion in using the right words and answering questions, struggling to remember sequences, difficulty in hearing, seeing and spelling words and unable to sound out the pronunciation of a new word, a child with dyslexia will also spend a lot longer on completing tasks that involve reading or writing than other children and will try to avoid activities that means they have to read.
Dyslexia effects people socially and emotionally. Children can feel frustrated, embarrassed and ashamed at the fact they are unable to do as much as the other children can and that they struggle unlike the other children, the fact they are struggling to read and write can cause them to feel frustrated and disheartened, resulting in them having low self esteem and not seeing themselves as an equal. The children’s ability to concentrate will be low. Children with dyslexia can become anxious and suffer from anxiety and often depression due to not being as good as others, the mental strain and the stress and pressure to expectations. Westwood (2011) looks at current evidence and explains how that when more efficient learning strategies are used, the child’s learning is enhanced an is able to reach higher learning levels.
An assessment needs to be done to identify if the child does have dyslexia or they just are developing slower than others. At this stage the teacher plays a vital part in assessing the child, as he/she will see the child in a development and learning situation more than the parents or other practitioners Reid (2003) states “The class practitioner and the subject practitioner work with the child more than others and would be able to highlight any discrepancy or unexpected performances”. Once the assessment has been carried out and the child knows they have dyslexia it can help the child understand that there is a reason why they are struggling, this can help improve a child’s confidence towards learning, things also need to be put into place to help the child with dyslexia and extra support needs to be put into place or else nothing will change for the child, Its been suggested by Reid and Wearmouth (2002) that there is little point in accessing a child’s needs unless the assessment consists of suggestions for the teaching and changes. It is the class teachers responsibility to understand that a child in the classroom with dyslexia will learn differently to children without, Lyon et al (2003) says “if a child cannot learn the way you teach, you must teach the way they can learn” the practitioner needs to adapt and change learning styles making them suitable for the child with dyslexia. This is agreed with by Reid (2011) who believes that it is important that when a individual with dyslexia is learning if they do not understand certain tasks, these tasks need to be clearly presented to the child to ovoid them being overwhelmed. The class teacher and the practitioners are the ones that can give the most help to children with dyslexia. Foucalt’s power theory is connected with dyslexia through the professionals have more knowledge than the parents and carers, this links to the regime of truth and how it makes it difficult for the parents/carers and the child to know if the school and practitioners are doing the right thing and giving the right support due to them being in a high power, the parents/carers and child will just believe and trust that the school and practitioners are doing so.
A teacher plays the vital part in the development of a child with dyslexia, Briggs (2002) suggests how that the skill of a teacher goes beyond the ability to teach and that they must be able to adapt to every changing circumstances, for example a child with a SPLD, James (2003) states “teachers play various roles to ensure that the education system and the society as a whole move along side by side”. Teachers must adapt their teaching methods appropriately and be able to meet individual dyslexia abilities by differentiating to meet children’s needs. Teachers need to ensure the classroom is welcoming, children with dyslexia will struggle to motivate themselves to learn so having the classroom welcoming and inviting will make a difference, Edward (1980) believes “it is important to create a friendly classroom where children come in and want to learn”. Teachers can help a child with dyslexia by using a one to one approach, analysing what the child is capable of and what they need more support in and identifying needs. As well as teachers, parents also play a vital role in helping the child with dyslexia, The Bercow report (2008) highlights the importance of teachers and parents working together and providing extra support for children with dyslexia, creating positive outcomes. Parents need to give as much support they can in the childs home life, one of the most important thing for a child with dyslexia is to build up the childs self esteem and confidence (Grigorenko 1999) and never letting them believe they are incapable of doing things or not good enough. Parents need to encourage the child to express themselves and to try new things.
When enabling strategies there is many things you need consider, such as the views of the individual and parent/ carer, the modifications to the learning environment, the teaching of new skills, and support in the form of coping strategies. It is important to note that parents, carers and practitioners need to recognise that not all strategies will work for all students. The ‘SEND code of practice (2014)’, a guidance on the special educational needs and disability (SEND) system for children and young people should be followed at all times by all professionals involved in the care of an individual with dyslexia. This is a guidance that schools must follow, It has details of the legal requirements that must be followed without any exception, it highlights the duties of the local authorities, health bodies, schools and colleges to provide for those with special educational needs. There is a lot of pressure on mainstream schools today to provide exceptional care and support for children with special educational needs, and with more and more children being diagnosed with special educational needs and there being funding cuts it makes it even harder. The National Education Union (2018) and the funding costs made by the government in schools in the United kingdom will continue to effect the support that schools can give to children with special educational needs and the SENCO department. Due to the increase of children with special educational needs and the demands of places in SEND schools there has become a economic issue and lack of resources and funding for pupil places at these schools. (National Education Union 2018) The use of ‘The SEND code of practice’ helps to enable strategies for children with dyslexia within schools. Lots of strategies can be and are encouraged to be put into place to help support, encourage and enrich a child’s learning, for example multisensory learning, pocket spell checkers, line readers, coloured keyboards, text to speak and educational games. Multisensory learning can be used from a young age, learning through the use of writing words and sentences in sand, physical spelling activities, or scavenger hunts for letters and words is an effective way for a child with dyslexia to learn “Multisensory activities help dyslexic children absorb and process information in a retainable manner and involve using senses like touch and movement alongside sight and hearing”. (Burton 2016). The use of text to speak can be useful for a child in the classroom as it means the child with dyslexia can take part in normal classroom tasks and activities such as writing sentences without having to panic about writing the sentences with the correct grammar and with the right spelling.
Another enabling strategy can be the curriculum, the school needs to asses the curriculum and then use it as a focus for intervention and what needs to be done for the child with dyslexia to achieve the correct level, removing barriers to achievement, age and learning levels and the involvement of staff and parents need to be considered. A whole school approach also helps to enable strategies for a child with dyslexia.
Being labelled as dyslexic can bring many positives as It means the children will be able to access the right care, help and support that is needed, it can also help them to understand and have an answer as to why they have been struggling, as well as bringing positives unfortunately labelling comes with its negatives too, being labelled as dyslexic can create a stigma, Goffman (1990) explains stigma as being formed by society when an individuals identity is different to social normalities. This effects an individual and can result in them being a victim of prejudice and stereotyping behaviour. Society can have a pre-judged opinions of people with dyslexia claiming them to be thick or slow and presuming they are not as good as others. This can be changed by society being more educated on dyslexia and knowing the effects and implications it can have upon the individual.
In conclusion, believe it’s important for knowledge and understanding of specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia to be increased, this is important for professionals working with children and families to assist with their needs. I also feel strongly for support needed to be given to children with dyslexia, as a society we have a real problem with phonics and English is already a difficult language to learn with things like SCWA, which is linguistic term for the sounds that is not a proper sound. Second syllable is a unstressed syllable and cannot be heard. I also encourage for schools to promote an inclusive practice where children with specific learning difficulties are felt a sense of belonging, achievement and equality at all times.
Appendix 1 – meeting of concern
Present at meeting:
– Primary school Teacher
– Local authority representatives
– Mother and father of child
– Educational psychologist
– SENCO LEAD
Daisy is 5 years old currently in year 1, her reading level is below average and struggles with her confidence Daisy is showing multiple symptoms and characteristics as a child of dyslexia. Meeting is taking place to discuss putting an assessment and case plan into place.
An assessment has been arranged and Daisy has been assigned a senco learning assistant to help her on a one to one basis in the classroom. Mum and dad agreed that Daisy is developing slow and have noticed that she struggles with words and does anything she can to avoid doing reading. Another meeting has been schedule to take place after we have the outcome of the assessment, in the mean time Daisy’s class teacher and mum have agreed to communicate at collection time and keep one another informed and aware of anything that needs to be known.
Allen, H.E. (2010) Understanding dyslexia: Defining, identifying and Teaching. Illinois Reading council journal, 35(2), pp. 89-93
Bercow, J. (2008). The Bercow Report: A Review of Services for Children and Young People. Nottingham: D.C.S.F. Publications.
Briggs, A. and Sommefeldt, D. (2002). Managing Effective Learning and Teaching (Centre for Educational Leadership and Management). SAGE Publications.
Brunswick, N. (2011) Living with dyslexia, New York, The Rosen publishing group
Burden, R. and Burdett, J. (2005). Factors associated with successful learning in pupils with dyslexia: a motivational analysis. British Journal of Special Education, 32(2), pp.100-120.
Burr, v. (2015) social constructionism 3rd ED. Routledge.
Burton, L. (2016) Helping your student with dyslexia (online) Available at:helping-your-student-with-dyslexia-learn-5-strategies-to-rely-on [Accessed 4th July 2019]
Catts, H., Hogan, T. and Fey, M. (2003). Subgrouping Poor Readers on the Basis of Individual Differences in Reading-Related Abilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(3), pp.34-38.
Crombie M (2002) Dealing with diversity in the primary classroom- a challenge for the class teacher. Cited in Reid G and Wearmouth J (eds) Dyslexia and Literacy. Chinchester: Wiley, pp 229-240
Goffman. E. (1990) Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity, penguin social science books
GOV.UK (2015) SEND CODE OF PRACTICE (SEND) Guidance on the special educational needs and disability (SEND) system for children and young people aged 0 to 25, from 1 September 2014.(online) Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-ofpractice-0-to-25 [ Accessed 5th July 2019]
Grigorenko, E. (1999). Our Labeled Children: What Every Parent And Teacher Needs To Know About Learning Disabilities. Reading, Mass.: Perseus.
James, A. and James, A. (2008). Key concepts in childhood studies. Los Angeles. SAGE Publications.
Lyon, G., Shaywitz, S. and Shaywitz, B. (2003). Defining dyslexia, comorbidity, teachers’ knowledge of language and reading: A definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 53(14), pp.10-15.
– National Education Union (2018) Special Educational Needs funding in crisis [online] [accessed 5th July 2019] Available from: https://www.teachers.org.uk/news-events/conference-2018/sen-funding-in-crisis
– Reid, G. (2013) Dyslexia and inclusion, 2nd ED. London; Kingsley publishers.
– Reid, G. and Wearmouth, J. (2002) Issues for assessment and planning of teaching and learning, Chichester: Wiley.
– Westwood, P.S. (2011) Commonsense methods for children with special educational needs. (4). Routledge Falmer.
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