By Emily Lapkin
If your child struggles with reading issues or dyslexia, you may be unfamiliar with the lingo you’re hearing. Here are some key terms to help you take an active role in conversations about your child’s reading issues.
A language-based processing disorder that causes trouble with reading, spelling, writing and sometimes speaking. In schools, dyslexia is generally referred to as a “reading disability” or as a type of “specific learning disability.”
The ability to sound out letters and words. As readers learn which symbols (letters) are associated with certain sounds, they can start to make sense of printed words and translate them to speech. Decoding or “sounding out” a new word is sometimes called “word attack.”
The ability to read sentences correctly and quickly, without having to stop and decode every word. This leap in processing enables readers to focus on the meaning of a passage of text. Fluency is key to reading comprehension.
A common way to teach reading and spelling that engages the senses of sight, sound, motion and touch. Multisensory approaches emphasize how a letter or word looks and sounds. Instruction includes what your lips and tongue need to do to produce particular sounds and what your arms and hands need to do to write each letter of the alphabet. Multisensory structured language (MSSL) programs also explicitly teach the structure of the English language in terms of grammar and meaning.
In the early 20th century, Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, introduced a multisensory structured approach to teaching people with dyslexia. Orton-Gillingham is the foundation for many programs used today.
The smallest units of sound that are used to form words. For example, peek has three phonemes: p, ē, and k.
Noticing and identifying individual sounds in spoken words. Readers who are aware of the different phonemes in a word can start putting them together (“b-a-t” becomes bat). This is called phonemic blending. Readers can also move in the opposite direction and break a word into different phonemes (pulling apart bat into “b-a-t”). This is called phonemic segmentation.
The relationship between letters and the sounds they make. This knowledge is essential to a reader’s ability to sound out, or decode, and to spell, or encode, words.
Identifying the sounds of words and word parts. Readers who have this awareness can find words that rhyme (mother and brother) and identify words that start with similar sounds (mother and money). Learn more about how phonological awareness works.
Distinguishing between different sounds within words. Children who struggle with this may leave out key sounds (saying boom instead of broom) or substitute some sounds for others (saying tat instead of cat). Difficulties with phonological processing are common in young children, but continuing difficulties can present many challenges by the second or third grade.
The ability to name colors, pictures, objects or letters rapidly, in a sequence. Variations in rapid automatized naming (RAN) are thought to predict abilities in letter recognition, word recognition and recalling the sounds of letters.
The ability to read words by sight, or without having to sound them out. Word recognition—having “sight words”—helps a beginning reader become a fluent reader.
For kids with dyslexia, it can be hard to deal with multi-syllable words. They may have trouble remembering and pronouncing them correctly. Here are ways to help your child with long words, whether she’s reading or having a conversation.
Beginning around third or fourth grade, your child is expected to be able to read a passage of text, understand it and answer questions about it. Here are the five skills needed for reading comprehension.
Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.
8 Tips for Introducing Dyslexia to Your Child
Dyslexia: What You’re Seeing
Dyslexia: What You’re Seeing in Your Preschooler
5 Essential Skills Needed for Reading Comprehension
Can I Get an fMRI Scan to Show That My Daughter Has Dyslexia?
Skills That Can Be Affected by Dyslexia
Learn how she found her talent and took it all the way to an Olympic gold.
When your child goes off to college, will her accommodations from high school go with her?
Dr. Sheldon Cooper struggles with social skills—just like this mom’s son.
Jan 21st at 10:00 am
Sign up for weekly emails with helpful resources for you and your family.
This email is already subscribed to Understood newsletters. If you haven't been receiving anything, add firstname.lastname@example.org to your safe-senders list.
Name must have no more than 50 characters. Email address must be valid. Email message must have no more than 140 characters and cannot include the < > / \ special characters. Please fill out all fields to send a message.
Don’t worry—we saved what you wrote.
Sign up to get personalized recommendations and connect with parents and experts in our community.
Only members can view and participate in conversations.
Child’s nickname is private and only you can see it.