Exploring Recent Advances In Understanding the Psychological Basis of Reading Difficulty

The term reading difficulty encompasses a spectrum of issues that arise during the process of decoding letters and words or attaching meaning to words and phrases. Anyone can have a reading problem. Reading difficulties are not indicators of intelligence. Reading difficulties occur in the brain where letters and words are translated into useable information. The action of reading is broken into different segments; decoding, comprehending, and retaining information.

Fixing the Difficulties

The neurological process, pertaining to the brain, can surface as dyslexia, ADHD, and other medical conditions. Reading difficulties can also surface when an individual, not diagnosed with a medical condition linked to reading difficulties, has not developed adequate vocabulary. While reading difficulties make understanding and interpreting information difficult, individuals can overcome these hurdles. To overcome the hurdles, interventions will need to be implemented. Some interventions are intense and require extensive remediation, while others are simple discrete approaches.

To determine the appropriate intervention, the evaluator needs to locate where the individual is having trouble with reading in terms of decoding, comprehending, or retaining information learned. The approach used to understand how to decode words may not be the same approach used to help a student comprehend the reading. Additionally, one strategy used by a student to decode may not work for another student struggling with the same issue.

These difficulties do not just disappear over time, nor is there a cure. There are ways to address and help those with reading difficulties succeed over time. However, these issues typically remain with people throughout their lifetime. Current research endeavors to understand the reasons why these issues occur and to understand the disconnect between portions of reading or the process as a whole.

Scientific Identification and Research

Scientists are currently using techniques such as naming speed (tasks in which readers do their best to name sets of information quickly and accurately) to help determine future reading difficulties in order to start interventions early. However, no single test can be used to predict all reading difficulties because the difficulty may be minor and may not interfere with learning until later on in a student’s academic career. Professionals are attempting to incorporate science, in terms of the functioning of the brain pathways and how people think, with the process of learning.

On the education side of reading difficulties, educators look for different indicators that may identify an issue with reading. Educators will monitor students’ reading and look for items such as spelling errors that make a word beyond recognizable, word skipping when reading aloud, a recollection of a story and its elements, loss of focus while reading, or the speed at which a student reads either rapidly increasing or drastically decreasing. If a student demonstrates one of the actions every so often, it does not validate that there is a problem with reading. These weaknesses usually surface alongside each other and on a consistent basis.

Recent research also asserts that reading difficulties are not necessarily linked with visual issues, but rather with the sounds of letters and words. This is because letters can have different sounds when paired with other letters, and some paired letters can have similar sounds to standalone letters. For example, the “c” in cat has a different sound from the “c” in receive. Furthermore, the “gh” in rough has a similar sound to the “f” in flower. For a child struggling to read, remembering, and applying these rules may prove taxing and discourage the child from reading.

Misunderstanding sounds seems to correlate to reading difficulties because, even when reading silently, the mind is still sounding out the letters and digraphs to decode a word, its overall meaning, and a word’s meaning toward sentence and the reading. Many successful people have reading difficulties, but found approaches and interventions that work and addressed the issue depending on the severity of the condition and the part of the reading process that is compromised.

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