## Understanding Dyslexia and Supporting Students with Learning Disorders
Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) that affects reading, one of the main functions for the learning of every student. Today, this disorder is quite well-known and investigated, although in the past relational and emotional components tended to hide it.
According to data from the Ministry of Education (MIUR), around 5% of students in Italy are affected, which is roughly one student per class. There are many myths to debunk about dyslexia: it is not a disease, and there is no such thing as a "typical dyslexic". It should be emphasized that the causes of dyslexia are qualitatively and quantitatively diverse. In each student, potential attention problems or executive function problems are identified through appropriate investigations. By working accurately on reading and attention, excellent results can be achieved. It should also be noted that dyslexia is diagnosed in the absence of other origins of deficits: neurological, sensory, social, and relational.
Manifestation of Dyslexia
When dyslexia is analyzed within the context of Specific Learning Disorders, it is very difficult to find students who have problems solely with reading. It is very common to observe heterogeneous situations in which there are difficulties in calculation, writing, reading, emotional sphere, attention, or memory. These situations are defined as comorbidity of different SLDs.
Visual and Reading Challenges
Readers with dyslexia see words and letters that change direction, orientation, or move. Many lose their place, skip lines and words, and get tired very easily. The "crowding effect" or visual crowding, where stimuli surrounding a central stimulus create a crowded situation, is also common. Some students benefit from increased spacing between words and letters.
Diagnosis and Recognition
Dyslexia can be recognized through direct and indirect observation of decoding problems, difficulty understanding texts, or slow reading. Specific tests related to reading will be administered to the student to definitively ascertain dyslexia. Parents are usually the first to be alerted, and they seek help from health services. A diagnosis of dyslexia is typically made after the second grade.
Dealing with Dyslexia
The school can implement strategies to support students with dyslexia, such as avoiding situations that generate frustration and reducing the workload of tasks that require individual reading. Reading skills can be strengthened through alternative exercises and reinforcement. Personalized Educational Plans (PDPs) are important for ensuring that dyslexic students achieve the same objectives as their peers.
Compensatory and Dispensatory Tools
Compensatory tools, such as concept maps, educational software, audiobooks, and voice synthesizers, help dyslexic students perform non-intelligent tasks. Dispensatory measures personalize the evaluation and exempt students from certain activities, respecting their pace and personality.
Dyslexia is a complex learning disorder that requires understanding and support from teachers and parents. By implementing appropriate strategies and tools, dyslexic students can overcome challenges and succeed academically.
Article by Mariana Ciaglia, pedagogue