What is Phonological Dyslexia?

At Red Square Pegs we are all connected by dyslexia. Either we have it, treat it, parent someone who has it, teach those who have it, or want to learn more about it. Dyslexia can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t truly understand what it is and isn’t. Oftentimes, parents enter the post-testing review meeting to discuss the results of their child’s evaluation and have a great deal of clinical terms thrown at them. Sometimes these terms are not fully explained. This causes information overload and an inability to fully process what is being presented. On the other hand, parents may think the root of dyslexia lies in the visual system causing confusion as to why they spent time and money on an evaluation that is composed of sound and word games. Defining essential terms and phrases helps ease the start of the journey.

One of the most common terms you will encounter is “phonological dyslexia.” Phonological dyslexia is the most common type of dyslexia and is defined as: “A specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” This definition can be overwhelming at first glance so let’s break it down into its core parts:

  • Specific Learning Disability: Dyslexia impacts how a student is able to learn in the classroom.
  • Neurobiological: Dyslexia exists in the brain, it is not a vision or hearing problem.
  • Phonological Component of Language: The phonological system of language is the most basic foundation level of oral language skills. Phonology refers to how sounds are organized in a language. A shaky foundation leads to poor phonological and phonemic awareness skills (I will explain “phonological and phonemic awareness” in my next post).
  • Unexpected: Dyslexics have average or above average cognitive abilities, have been exposed to effective reading and spelling instruction, and no other factors that would adversely impact their ability to receive reading and spelling instruction.
  • Secondary Consequences: If a student has poor decoding and spelling abilities, this will negatively impact their reading comprehension, vocabulary, and background knowledge that can be obtained from reading.

One aspect of dyslexia that is not included in the formal definition is that it has a life-long impact. There is no “cure” for dyslexia; however, effective treatment methods, strategies, and support can lessen its negative side effects. Dyslexia impacts each individual differently in all aspects of life. It can impact:

  • communication with others
  • educational performance
  • executive function skills
  • ease and efficiency of receiving instruction
  • organizational skills
  • overall mental health

Since dyslexia exists in the brain and all brains are different, how it impacts the individual’s life will vary from person to person. You may experience this if you parent two children with dyslexia who present with different symptoms. Perhaps you are a teacher or clinician and try to implement the same strategy in your small group and it’s only clicking for a few students.

Having a strong understanding of what phonological dyslexia is and the core deficit lying in the phonological system of language can allow parents, educators, and students to effectively treat and manage its symptoms. Knowledge is power!

International Dyslexia Association

Red Square Pegs was established to empower dyslexics by embracing dyslexia through awareness and shared experiences and to be a symbol of acceptance, pride, and confidence.