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Dysphonetic Dyslexia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Dyslexia is a common concern as it affects many children and adults. And although no two dyslexics have exactly the same symptoms, there are key symptoms which you can, quite easily, pick up.

The terms ‘dysphonetic’ and ‘dyseidetic’ are words used to describe typical symptoms of dyslexia. Reading difficulties related to phonological and auditory processing weaknesses have been called dysphonetic dyslexia, phonological dyslexia, or auditory dyslexia.

Children with dysphonetic dyslexia tend to have good visual processing skills but have difficulty remembering letter sounds, analyzing the individual sounds in words, and blending sounds into words.

Symptoms of dysphonetic dyslexia

Corinne Roth Smith lists the reading and spelling patterns of children with dysphonetic dyslexia:

  • Difficulty discriminating between individual sounds in beginning reading instructions (occurs very seldom).
  • Difficulty processing rapid auditory inputs so that consonant sounds that cannot be sustained (p-b) are not perceived; these may then be omitted in reading.
  • Poor ability to analyze the sequence of sounds and syllables in words; consequently they become reversed in reading words; this is akin to the problem faced orally when poor auditory analysis has taught the child such phrases as “lead a snot into temptation” and “Harold be Thy name” in the Lord’s prayer, or “lmnop” being one lumped cluster in the alphabet song.
  • Poor ability to remember individual sounds or sequences of sounds.
  • Difficulty blending individual sounds into words.
  • Difficulty listening to words and omitting one sound and substituting it for another (say cat; now take off the /c/ and put on an /f/); such abilities are essential for word analysis because that is what figuring out how to phonetically decode a word is all about; children usually develop this skill with initial consonants, and then medial vowels or consonants.
  • Difficulty remembering the sounds that individual letters and phonetically regular and irregular letter combinations represent.
  • Inability to rapidly retrieve letter sounds while analyzing words so that the beginning of the word is forgotten by the time the last letter of the word is recalled (naming problem).
  • Difficulty analyzing unknown words because of poor knowledge of phonetic rules and difficulty sequencing sounds.
  • Difficulty applying the phonetic rules from words that can be read to pseudowords that follow the same pattern but are not real words.
  • Vowel sounds are particularly troublesome.
  • Word substitutions that are conceptually (personhuman) or visually (horsehouse) related, but not phonetically related.
  • Limited sight vocabulary because the student cannot memorize an abundance of words without the benefit of phonetic cues.
  • Guessing at unfamiliar words rather than employing word-analysis skills.
  • Spelling remains below reading level because it is attempted by sight rather than by ear.
  • Correct spellings occur primarily on words that the child has encountered repeatedly and therefore can revisualize.
  • Bizarre spellings that seldom can be identified, even by the child, because they do not follow phonetic patterns.
  • Extraneous letters and omitted syllables in spelling.

Causes of dysphonetic dyslexia

Although some causes of dyslexia have a genetic origin (Kere, 2014), and environmental factors play an important role (Stein, 2018), cognition mediates brain-behavior relationships and therefore offers a sufficient level of explanation for the development of principled interventions. We thus need to understand the cognitive difficulties that underpin reading failure, regardless of whether their origin is constitutional or environmental (Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014). 

We cannot address dyslexia without a deep understanding that learning is a stratified process: one step needs to be mastered well enough before subsequent steps can be learned. This means that there is a sequence involved in learning. It is like climbing a ladder; if you miss one of the rungs of the ladder, you will fall. If you miss out on one of the important steps in the learning process, you will not be able to master subsequent steps.

A simple and practical example of this is the fact that one has to learn to count before it becomes possible to learn to add and subtract. If one tries to teach a child to add and subtract before he has been taught to count, one will quickly discover that no amount of effort will ever succeed in teaching the child these skills.

This principle is also of great importance on the sports field. If we go to a soccer field to watch the coach at work, we shall soon find that he spends a lot of time drilling his players in basic skills, like heading, passing, dribbling, kicking, etc. The players who are most proficient at these basic skills usually turn out to be the best in the actual game situation.

In the same way, there are also certain skills and knowledge that a child must acquire first, before it becomes possible for him to become a good reader. Underlying cognitive skills include:

  • Attention and concentration;
  • Visual, auditory and phonological processing;
  • Rapid recall and processing speed;  
  • Visual, auditory, and sequential memory;
  • Iconic, short-term, long-term and working memory;
  • Reasoning and logical thinking.

Cognitive skills that are often weak in persons with dysphonetic dyslexia include auditory and phonological processing; rapid recall; and auditory short-term and working memory.

Treatment of dysphonetic dyslexia

The good news is that weaknesses in foundational skills can be attacked head-on; it is possible to strengthen these cognitive skills through training and practice. Edublox’s Development Tutor aims at strengthening underlying cognitive skills including rapid recall, auditory short-term, and working memory. In addition, a child with dyslexia will also need application in the form of reading and spelling exercises. This can best be accomplished by Edublox’s live tutoring services. Our live tutoring program is based on the Orton Gillingham approach but simultaneously aims at developing the brain’s visual word form area. If live tutoring is impossible, you might want to consider Edublox’s Reading Tutor program.

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Key takeaways

Page last reviewed: May 28, 2021.
Next review due: May 28, 2023.

References and souces:

Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The dyslexia debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kere, J. (2014). The molecular genetics and neurobiology of developmental dyslexia as model of a complex phenotype. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 452(2), 236-243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.07.102

Smith, C. R. (1991). Learning disabilities: The interaction of learner, task, and setting. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Stein, J. (2018). The magnocellular theory of developmental dyslexia. In T. Lachmann, & T. Weis (Eds.). Reading and dyslexia (pp. 97-128). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.