Specific difficulties

Unsplashed background img 1

Dyslexia (ICD-10 R48 International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems - Geneva 1992, WHO). The basis for diagnosis of development dyslexia can be the definition published in 1994 by International Orton Dyslexia Society (USA):

Dyslexia is one of many types of difficulties in learning: It is a specific disorder with a language basis, resulting from a change in the structure of the central nervous system. It is characteristic of difficulties in decoding singular words, which, most often, reflects insufficient skills of phonological processing.  Difficulties in decoding singular words are usually incommensurable to age and other cognitive skills and school abilities. These difficulties are not the result of a general developmental disorder or sensory disorders. Dyslexia manifests itself with different difficulties in reference to various forms of language communication, often in addition to difficulties in readings, there are serious problems in learning skills in the scope of writing and correct spelling” (Bogdanowicz, Adryjanek, 2009, p. 27).

The aforementioned definition shows that dyslexia is perceived as learning disorder and not as disease. It has a neurobiological basis, which means that the brain of dyslexic persons functions in an untypical manner and develops differently.

Division into dyslexia types:

Dyslexia of visual-spatial type - caused by disorders of perception of visual memory and spatial perception.

Dyslexia of auditory-language type - caused by disorders of perception and auditory memory and, most of all, by disorders of development of language functions (in particular, phonemic hearing
and phonological skills).

Mixed dyslexia type - auditory-language disorders and visual-spatial disorders.

Dyslexia of integrational type - caused by disorders of integrations of visual-spatial, auditory-language, tactile-kinaesthetic and motor functions (Bogdanowicz 2004).

Specific difficulties in learning are demonstrated in a few forms:

Dyslexia - specific difficulties in reading, most often, in connection with difficulties in mastering correct spelling.

Dysorthographia - difficulties in mastering correct spelling (including orthography). Specific difficulties in expressing oneself with writing (writing texts).

Dyscalculia - difficulties in learning arithmetic.

Dyspraxia - difficulties in making correct motions.

Dysgraphia - difficulties in mastering the correct graphical level of hand-writing.

The aforementioned difficulties can occur at the same time or separately. 


These orders have different sources. They include heredity, anatomical changes and physiological disorders of the nervous system (in the pregnancy period and delivery with abnormal course). Environmental negligence and lack of immediate intervention deepens disorders and writing difficulties.

Difficulties encountered by dyslexic students result from internal conditions, independent of their good will and involvement. In order to master an educational material to the same extent as their peers, they must make double or triple effort and, still, the results are poor. First failures at school, constant lack of successes, lack of praise on the side of teachers, sense of failure, discredit in front of classmates who master the educational material with ease, dissatisfaction, anxiety, indifference and even despair - are the feelings which constantly accompany students with dyslexia. Dyslexia cannot be totally prevented, but its consequences can be significantly lessened. Early diagnosis and early support of child development are a chance for optimal development of a child with a developmental disorder.

Once it is know which aspects require our attention, a lot can be changed in a child situation. Children with undiagnosed difficulties or a diagnosis made too late (that is, e.g. as late as in the nursery) have been deprived of chances for optimal development in a significant degree.

Secondary effects can occur:

  • difficult behaviour,
  • weak motivation for work and concentration difficulties,
  • irregularities in emotional and/or social development,
  • misunderstanding child’s problems by their environment and family, environment’s and family’s reluctance, negative evaluation directed to parents, blaming parents for being not resourceful; sense of parental helplessness.
  • motor clumsiness, difficulties in planning motion,
  • difficulties in establishing contact,
  • lack of cognitive curiosity, passiveness, low interest in the environment,
  • hyperactivity, weak concentration
  • risk of neuro-developmental disorders connected with smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and drug abuse by a mother during pregnancy period.
  • prematurity (with delay of speech and language development, concentration disorders, hyperactivity and behaviour problems as well as with general developmental delay or eyesight deficit)
  • children from a group of perinatal risk (abnormal pregnancy course and complicated delivery, low birth mass, untypical neurological symptoms).

Symptoms of specific learning difficulties:

The most common symptoms of specific learning difficulties are noticed as late as at the end of the initial learning period, whereas they should be notice much earlier. The best case scenario would be if symptoms of  risk of dyslexia were noticed prior to commencement of school education, that is symptoms of disharmonious psycho-motor development, indicating future reading and writing difficulties. They are symptoms of delayed development of some cognitive and motor functions which constitute bases of learning to read and write. “Risk of dyslexia” can also define first failures in education caused by these dysfunctions. Children with a family history of similar disorders, from a complicated pregnancy and delivery as well as these children who show any types of developmental delays are particularly burdened with “risk of dyslexia”. It does not mean that the period of commencement of education is the period in which we should suspect specific learning difficulties. Professor Marta Bogdanowicz lists symptoms of specific learning difficulties in particular age groups, starting from the earliest period:

Neonate and post-neonate period

The psycho-motor development of children with specific difficulties in learning to read and write usually has an untypical course since it is disharmonious. Children in the neonate and post-neonate period manifest delay in speech and motor development. They utter their first words, simple and complex sentences later than their peers. They crawl poorly or not at all. They start to walk, run at late stage, they have difficulties in keeping balance. Sometimes it happens that they have lowered muscle tension. They have poor manual skills, not resourceful in self-maintenance.

Nursery period

  1. Low motor skills of the entire body: a child has a problem with running, difficulties with keeping balance, for example, during walking on the curb, along the line, experiences significant difficulties while learning to ride a three-wheeled bike, is clumsy, poorly functions in motor plays.
  2. Low motor skills of the hands: difficulties and unwillingness to look after themselves, for example, while fastening buttons, tying shoes, hand manipulation plays, such as threading beads, a child incorrectly holds a pencil while drawing, holds it too tight or too weak.
  3. Poor visual-motor coordination: difficulties in playing with building blocks, a child draws with reluctance and primitively, cannot draw: as a 3-year old - circles, as a 4-year old - square and cross, as a 5-year old - triangle.
  4. Delayed lateralisation development, i.e. lack of signs of domination of one hand (both handedness)
  5. Disorders of development of visual perception and visual memory manifest themselves in the form: helplessness in drawing (drawings are rich in content, but have a primitive form), difficulties in solving puzzles or pictures cut into pieces, solving jigsaw puzzles.
  6. Delayed speech development, incorrect articulation of many sounds, difficulties in uttering complex words, building utterances, memorising names.

School period (class I-III)

  1. Low motor skills of the entire body: a child has difficulties in throwing and catching a ball, learning to ride a two-wheeled bike, roller-skates, ice skates or ski, poorly runs, jumps and unwillingly participates in motor plays and PE classes.
  2. Lowered motor skills of the hands: incomplete mastering self-maintenance skills connected with getting dresses (fastening buttons, tying shoelaces), washing and eating (using knife and fork), difficulties in throwing at the aim and catching.
  3. Continuing two-handedness.
  4. Delay in orientation in the body structure and space: a child has difficulties in indicating their body parts and defining them with right/left terms (e.g. right and left hand, leg, ear); cannot define the direction to the left and to the right from themselves (e.g. road to the right, door to the left).
  5. Difficulties in correct use of adpositional phrases, expressing spatial relations: over/under, behind/in front of, inside/outside.
  6. Difficulties in orientation in time, e.g. in definition of season of the year or day, specific day, hour in the clock.
  7. Difficulties in coordination of hand and eye functions: draws and written in an ugly manner and with reluctance, has difficulties with drawing a rhombus, coping complex geometrical figures, drawing patterns, do not keep their writing within ruling, folds “dog ears”, hold a pencil or pen too tight, their hand gets tired too quickly.
  8. Difficulties in memorising a poem, song, multiplication table, more than one instruction at the same time, difficulties in memorising names, mistaking similar names, difficulties in memorising material ordered in series and sequences, such as names of the days of the week and months, seasons of the year, alphabet letters, subsequent meals and series of numbers.
  9. Speech defects, incorrect pronunciation of complex words (changing positions of sounds and syllables, sound assimilation, e.g. tape and tate), using incorrect phrases in the grammatical aspect.
  10. Difficulties connected with delayed development of visual perception and visual memory, difficulties in differentiating elements from the whole as well as their synthetisation into a whole, for example, during building constructions from lego blocks, solving mosaic according to the pattern; difficulties in finding different details in two pictures. Difficulty in mastering correct spelling: difficulty in memorising the shape of less common letters, with complex structure (f, h, ł, g); mistaking similar letters in terms of shape, for example l/t/ł/ or m/n, mistaking identical letters, but differently positioned in space: p/b/d/g, making mistakes during rewriting texts.
  11. Difficulties in differentiating similar sounds (e.g. z/s, b/p, k/g, that is, disorders of phoneme hearing); difficulties in separating syllables and sounds from words, their synthetisation (disorders of sound and syllabic analysis and synthesis) as well as manipulation with word phonological structure (e.g. find words hidden in the name “sunflower”, think of a rhyme to word “kitten”. guess what I am thinking of: “Post ...ox”). Difficulties in mastering correct spelling connected with delayed development of auditory perception of speech sounds, auditory memory and speech: mistaking letters corresponding to phonetically similar sounds (e.g. sounds z/s, w/f, d/t, k/g), difficulties with writing down palatalization, mistaking sounds i/j, nasal sounds ą/om, ę/en, notorious skipping, adding, misplacing, doubling letters and syllables, writing nonsensical words, highly intensified difficulties in writing from hearing (dictations).
  12. Difficulties in learning to read, for example, a child reads really slowly, most often sounds and not always performs correct, secondary synthesis, incorrectly pronounces words, does not understand the read text.
  13. First writing attempts - often writes letters and digits in a mirror reflection as well as copies words, writing them down from right to left, does not remember letters.

School period - above class IV

  1. Slow reading pace, unwillingness to read.
  2. Incorrect writing, spelling mistakes are dominant.
  3. Difficulties with memorising: poems, terms, names, for examples, months, dates, data, telephone numbers, mistaking surnames and names, multi-digit numbers.
  4. Difficulties in school subjects requiring good visual, spatial perception
    and visual memory: in geography - poor map orientation, in geometry - simplified, schematic drawing, in chemistry - problems with chains of chemical reactions.
  5. Difficulties in school subjects requiring good perception and auditory memory of speech sounds: difficulties in mastering foreign languages, in biology - with mastering terminology, in history - with memorising surnames, dates.

Causes of dyslexia. There are a lot of theories, concepts aiming to explain the causes of dyslexia.

Genetic concept - (20%-30%), the cause of disorders and base of difficulties in reading and writing are genes transferred from one generation to another, i.e. dyslexia heredity,

Concept of delayed maturation of the nervous system - it is believed that dyslexic disorders are connected with the slowed down maturation of the central nervous system caused by such factors as genes, hormones,

Organic concept goes that the cause of dyslexia are micro damages of brain regions which have a particular participation in the reading and writing process. It is connected with harmful chemical, physical and biological factors impacting the CNS in the perinatal period,

Hormonal concept - sees the cause of dyslexia in insufficient development of some regions of cerebral cortex and incorrect model of brain development, i.e. blocking the development of the left hemisphere, i.e. one that is particularly connected with speech; testosterone overproduction can be a harmful factor.

Psychogenic concept - sees the cause in emotional disorders arising from anxiety, stress and mental trauma. In the most cases, it is a mutual linkage of different factors which impact on the development of cognitive processes (perception, language), motor activity and integration of these functions. There are also cases of dyslexia with minor symptoms when it is the result of heredity or disorders in the narrow scope.

Examples of famous dyslexics: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Pablo Picasso, Henry Ford, Vincent van Gogh, Nelson Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Alexander Bell, Hans Christian Andersen, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Robbie Williams, Tom Cruise, Thomas Edison, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire, Salma Hayek, Goldie Hawn, Robin Williams, George Washington, Whoopi Goldberg

  1. Bogdanowicz M., 2007, Uczeń z dysleksją w domu, Wydawnictwo Pedagogiczne Operon, Gdynia.
  2. Bogdanowicz M., 2004, Uczeń z dysleksją w szkole, Wydawnictwo Pedagogiczne Operon, Gdynia.
  3. Bogdanowicz M., Adryjanek A., 2009, Uczeń z dysleksją w szkole, Gdynia: Wydawnictwo Pedagogiczne
    Operon 2009.
  4. MINI-MAX o dysleksji - czyli minimum tego, co na ten temat powinni wiedzieć rodzice i nauczyciele
    dziecka dyslektycznego, by maksymalnie mu pomóc, praca zbior., red. Mielcarek D., 2006,    
      Wydawnictwo "Seventh Sea", Warszawa.
  5. Davis D. R., Braun M.E., 2001, Dar dysleksji. Dlaczego niektórzy zdolni ludzie nie umieją czytać i jak mogą się nauczyć, oryg. The Gift of Dyslexia. Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read and How They Can Learn, tłum. Skoczylas G., Zysk i S-ka, Poznań.
  6. Davis R. D., 37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia, [dok. elektr.], http://www.dyslexia.com/library/symptoms.htm, (odwiedzona,15.09.2010).
  1. [dok. elektr.], http://beingdyslexic.co.uk/, (odwiedzona, 15.09.2010).