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Posts Tagged ‘grapheme’

We will continue with the identification features of Learning Disability in Children. Many of these features may be present in a child below the age of 8 as part of their developmental phase. There are developmental norms in various domains of child development and children differ in their pace of attaining these norms. If they persist beyond the age of 8, then special assessments for LD need to be done. Below the age of 8 if these problems are seen, it may indicate that the child is  ‘at risk’ of developing LD and suitable remedial measures are taken to alleviate the problem earlier.

We will now see what are the various errors that a child with “Reading Difficulty” or “Dyslexia” may commit:

Children with reading difficulty generally show a reluctance when suggested to read a book. They may give excuses like, “these are not taught to us in the school” or “we will first do some other activity and then do this”.

They may struggle so much to read that the pace of reading becomes very slow.

They may need to finger-point each and every word in order not to miss the position in the text while reading. They may skip words or skip sentences.

They may make errors like omitting words, adding words not in the text, guessing the words (team as time, clock as cloth, paper as pepper), calling out each letter and unable to blend them, reversal of letters in a word – on as no, was as saw, dog as god, tap as pat, pin as nip.

They may jumble up the soundsin a word, like, saying aminal for animal, pheletone for telephone.

They may find it difficult to ‘attack’ an unfamiliar word and get it right.

They may read a whole passage in a monotone and also pay no regard to the punctuations. This can be due to lack of comprehension.

Reading comprehension may be poor. They may find it difficult to understand what they read. Most of these children would be struggling to blend letters into words or join words together to make a sentence that it becomes difficult for them to give attention and grasp the meaning of what they are reading. The same children, if they are read to, can listen well and understand what has been read out as they are spared of the struggle to read! That is the reason why many of these children insist that their mother read out the question and answers of lessons while they sit and listen and understand.

Reading is a process of de-coding. The letters that go into the formation of words are nothing but symbolic representation of sounds that we produce through speech. Each language has its own coding in the form of letters of alphabet. The difficulty to read arises because of an inability to decode the letters or associate the sounds (phonemes) with the respective letters (graphemes) and blend these sounds to make meaningful words. This difficulty is more evident in English language where the phonemes and the graphemes have no connection at all. The letters b-a-g that make the word ‘bag’ are in no way connected to the sound that we make as ‘buh’ – ‘aah’- and ‘guh’ that blend together to make the word ‘bag’! The words ‘put’ and ‘but’ have different sounds associated with the letter ‘u’. Some letters make more than one sound. For ex: the letter ‘a’ makes different sounds in different words like apple, car, lake, again. Letter ‘g’ has a soft sound as in the word ‘gem’ and a hard sound in the word ‘gate’. Letter ‘c’ also has two different sounds as in ‘cinema’ and candy’. And there are many words where certain letters become ‘silent’. This leads to lot of confusion in a child’s mind who has difficulty in understanding a new language that he has not been previously exposed. Many of the regional languages of India, like Hindi, Kannada and others have their grapheme and phoneme the same. The letters we write represent the same sound and become easy to blend together to make a word. Though the grapheme-phoneme confusion is not there in these languages, the enormity of ‘kaagunithas’ and ‘ottaksharas’ make these languages difficult to learn for these children. 

We need to understand that dyslexia is not just a difficulty to decode letters and words. It is a whole problem of processing language to make sense out of it.

Children learn reading through sight first. They just look at whole word, listen to the sound of the word, associate it with a picture of an object or the real object that they see and understand their meaning. When you gradually remove the picture, they are still able to recognize the word as their brains would have stored these words and sounds like photographic memories. You can see young children reading out big billboards of advertisements that have been made familiar to them through advertisements on Television. Later when they enter school, letters are taught and they automatically recollect the earlier sight-reading and slowly pick up the skill of decoding the words. In many schools, the sounds of english letters are taught first – “phonetic way of teaching reading” – instead of A B C D they are taught ‘aah’, ‘buh’, ‘kah’, ‘duh’ etc. They believe that this is a better way of teaching letters of the alphabet as children can easily decode the words at a later stage. There is also the other school of thought that says “whole word approach” is a better way to start off where children blindly pick up whole words, sounds and their meanings. In fact this was the way we were all taught reading long long ago. But children who have been taught reading through phonetic way find it easier to attack unfamiliar words, however long they are.

Many children with LD have the problem of “figure-ground perception”. In any picture or music or a story, there is a fore-ground and a back-ground. Generally we all pay attention to the foreground and ignore the background thus able to grasp the main theme running through it. But these children are unable to distinguish between the important and the unimportant or the relevant and the irrelevant details. Hence when they read a long passage or listen to a long narration or look at a picture, they may miss out on important points and give attention to the irrelevant. They may not be able to sustain their attention and concentration for long to catch the main theme. Hence reproduction of a task becomes difficult for them.

…………………… to be continued

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