Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia

26th March 2021

People often ask me “Why do they give the most complicated of words to describe conditions where people struggle with words?”

As with any complexities of the English Language it all seems to be a consequence of the rich history of our language. The many differing people who have been in power throughout the ages, the influences they brought with them and the ‘changes’ made along the way.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am interested in dissecting words and really getting to know where they come from and why. I think this can help you to understand a word, not just a string of letters but a meaningful concept which can be easier to visualise.

The story behind words

In simple linguistic terms:

  • ‘Dys’ = a prefix meaning ‘Difficulty’
  • ‘ia’ = a suffix meaning ‘a condition’
  • ‘lex…’ = means ‘words’ (eg. lexeme)
  • ‘graph’ = means ‘to draw/ to write’
  • ‘prax'(is) = means ‘action, doing’

(side note: ‘prefix’ + ‘root’ + ‘suffix’ for example; ‘in’ + ‘struct’ + ‘ing’)

If you look up the meaning of ‘lex‘ on its own with out a suffix it means ‘Law‘. Which may seem strange but when you think of the history of language it was only ‘spoken’ first of all, the only people who had access to the written script (in what ever form) were the priests and the scribes on behalf of the king. Were written symbols used then to record the laws of the land or religion? People of ‘power’ who had influence over the way others live, the only people who had access to the written language?

Lexical meaning’ – is the meaning of a word in isolation from its context in a sentence.

Lexicon’ – a dictionary of words and vocabulary. Know the words and their meanings.

Lexeme‘ – A unit of meaning in its most basic form. For example a dictionary has a list of ‘lexemes’. Can be a single word or more than one if meaning relies on a combination of words. For example ‘police station’.

lex...’ is all about the ‘words‘ before the grammar. Grammar teaches how sentences should be formed, the rules and the terminology of the process. We may grow up and automatically know how to communicate information ( although not for all) through speech and the ‘awareness’ of grammar (to verbally put words in right order to make a sentence). To master the spoken language, then go on to develop the written communication, the phoneme to grapheme correspondence and grammar rules. However, for some, the words (‘lex..’) and the ‘learning about the rules of grammar’ can be a struggle.

Difficulty’ at ‘word’ level is ‘a condition’ – ‘dys’ ‘lex’ ‘ia’

Dyslexia maybe a term more people are aware of as apposed to ‘dyspraxia‘ or ‘dysgraphia‘, there does seem to be less research and awareness into these conditions.

As always, every individual’s symptoms can vary (not two people are the same) and each condition can co exist with another learning difference.

Dyspraxia

I would refer you to the Dyspraxia foundation and Movement Matters websites for further details on dyspraxia or as it is also referred to as ‘Developmental Co-ordination Disorder’ (DCD)

This disorder can affect around 5% of school aged children, 2% severely. Affecting movement and coordination in children and adults.

Problems can include; gross and fine motor control, Poor body/spatial awareness, difficulty organising their thoughts, body and equipment – problems with planning and execution of physical movement. There maybe problems with attention and time management. People with dysgraphia may have a good memory for some things but not ‘procedural’ memory – remembering subconsciously how to perform a task). Can also have effects on speech and emotional wellbeing. With difficulties with gross motor skills may struggle throwing a ball, riding a bike, and co-ordination.

Dyspraxia‘ as a term, maybe used more in the school environment in connection with young children. However, as the NHS website seems to suggest, most healthcare professionals use the term ‘Developmental Co-ordination Disorder‘, to avoid confusion.

DCD, as the name suggests, is developmental whilst ‘dyspraxia’ can sometimes be used to describe movement problems caused by stroke or brain trauma in later life.

Apraxia – In its most sever form can inhabit everyday functions such as licking lips, coughing and winking. The inability to plan and carry out everyday movement despite having full use of their body. Apraxia can be acquired later on in life or be a genetic disorder.

Dysgraphia

Handwriting Quotes - BrainyQuote
BrainyQuote

Can affect fine motor skills such as writing, using scissors, utensils etc. A person with dysgraphia may have difficulty with spatial planning and find it hard to keep to the lines and within margins, use punctuation and paragraphs correctly, and may write with an unusual mixture of capital and lower case letters. The fine motor skills impairment for this and dyspraxia may result in slow and messy handwriting, trouble with pencil grip and trouble using utensils or buttons.

Suggestions

If you have any concerns for yourself or others then seek expert opinion either through school and an educational psychologist or an Occupational or Physical Therapist.

Maybe at school some extra provisions could be considered such as:

  • slanted desk or board
  • pencil grip or handwriting pencils
  • extra time
  • less writing and other modes be used instead such as oral presentations
  • software such at speech to text.
  • If note taking is imperative, consider the possibility of recording the lesson.
  • develop keyboard skills
  • To orally discuss ideas before writing and maybe evaluating spelling tests by verbally spelling out the word rather than writing.
  • multisensory activities to practice letter formation.
  • Use wide- ruled or graph paper. Alternatively used paper with raised lines to highlight the lines to write on and the margins to keep within.

At home you may like to develop visual spatial awareness, hand eye coordination and increase motor strength;

  • do jigsaws together
  • blow bubbles and ask your child to keep an eye on where the bubbles go and pop them with their fingers
  • do dot to dot puzzles
  • use tweezers and move beads from one container to another to practice the pincer movement.
  • relieve stress/tension in the hands, fingers and wrists by practicing shaking and rubbing your hands and twirling your wrists before any writing. Consider using a stress ball.

So in answer to the question above; why give a hard word to say, read and write to a condition that encompasses ‘a difficulty in language’?? I still do not have an answer. But maybe it should think less about the ‘label’, as a word, and understand the learning differences as a whole to best support the individuals. Just as we should be doing whilst reading a child’s story, look less at the spelling of the individual words and more at the content of the story as a whole.

Look at the individual, their strengths and their difficulties as a whole (their story), identify the issues and allow and readdress the learning to support the actual content.

Although I will continue to personally enjoy ‘the stories behind the words’…..

Have you any personal experience of any of the above? Yourself or a child? Been supporting a child with these issues? Would like to raise awareness of these lesser known conditions? Please use the comment box below or send me an email direct.

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