Although the general public tend to think of dyslexia as simply "word blindness", it is in fact a broad-based syndrome which can have both positive and negative features. It varies in degree from person to person and falls into two main categories, namely developmental and acquired.
Developmental dyslexia is neurological in origin and is unrelated to both intelligence levels and educational and social background. Problems may be linked to the processing of language-based information, short-term memory, co-ordination and sequencing which can affect reading, spelling, comprehension, organisation of time and tasks, numeracy, oral skills and the retention of material presented in both visual and auditory modes.
Acquired dyslexia is
"a condition characterised by a significant loss of literacy skills … as a result of some neurological trauma (such as a stroke or head injury, illness or brain disease)" (Singleton, 1999).
The characteristics of dyslexia are made more complex by the fact that they can vary both in degree and from day to day according to stress levels and task demands. Some individuals with dyslexia show particular talents in the fields of art, science, architecture and engineering, which require high-level creative and visual skills. West (1997) outlines the following positive aspects of dyslexia which when utilised in the learning process can benefit the student and their peers in group work:
It is therefore imperative to harness the learning styles of individuals to maximise their strengths and compensate for weaker areas. From a teaching perspective this can constitute good practice for all students.
Other specific learning difficulties such as attention deficit disorder and dyspraxia can have similarities to dyslexia and may co-exist in the same individual. High levels of distractibility and a preference for single-task activities are characteristics which may be found in all three specific difficulties.
In addition, a dyspraxic student may experience problems with:
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 118 9