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What Do We Need to Know About Deep Dyslexia?

Teachers of children with dyslexia take many additional educational hours. Academic Language Therapy (ALT) provides the most extensive preparation a teacher can take for helping children with dyslexia. The Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexia in Austin endorses this reading therapy program.

Not every teacher gets to take ALT classes. When I taught pre-service teachers, I learned about four distinct reading challenges. Each challenge is named a type of dyslexia. For this writing, I focus on Deep Dyslexia.

A child that fits this classification displays similar characteristics to a child with poor hearing and poor vision. With weakness in both auditory and visual processing, the child needs to add movement, touch, taste, and smell to the normal auditory and visual processes. Dropping to an easier reading level fails to help the child with Deep Dyslexia. The characteristics continue no matter how easy the reading task. The following characteristics diagnose a child with Deep Dyslexia.

  1. The child usually possesses high intelligence and must be taught about his or her thinking ability. Teaching at the child’s reading level limits advanced concepts, which the child wants and needs. Lack of intelligence does not fit the child with Deep Dyslexia.

  2. Reading orally creates misery for the child as well as for the listener. An easier text frustrates the child but does not improve oral reading.

  3. The child fails to hear subtle differences in letter sounds.

  4. Flashcards generally do not work well for this child.

  5. In spite of poor oral reading, comprehension remains strong. After listening to a child struggle while reading aloud, I always felt amazed when the child understood and recalled critical information.

Children who continue to struggle with letter sounds through second grade usually struggle in middle school. At that time, you must make a decision to either:

  1. Continue work on mastering sounds by adding movement, touch, taste, and smell to the process.

  2. Give up efforts to teach sound-to-symbol matching and focus on the success of comprehension.

In many cases, maintaining good comprehension with silent reading provides the greatest success. Without special training, an emphasis on fluency, phonics, and memorization takes you and the child on a long, slow, and sometimes painful path

When Teaching Sounds, Pretend the Child is Deaf

Consider what you might do for a child with a diagnosis of “word deafness”. Even if this seems extreme, ask yourself, “What would I do to help a child with limited hearing master the sound to symbol connections?” Consider the following:

  1. Touch the child and say, “Look at me. Look at my mouth and notice the placement of my tongue and teeth when I make this sound.” (All vowels require an open mouth, tongue and teeth. Refer to vowel sounds as “open sounds.”)

  2. Give the child a mirror and say, “Make your mouth, tongue, and teeth look like mine.” Use the phrase, “The name is (letter name) and the sound is (make the letter sound).

  3. Make the sound an additional time and ask the child to touch your throat. Vowels and most consonants create voiced sounds with a vibration in the throat.

  4. Ask the child to repeat the sound and feel his or her own throat.

Olfactory (sense of smell) and gustatory (sense of taste) provide your strongest senses. Use these extreme measures when the need justifies additional work on your part. Any time you choose to emphasize a particular sound, simultaneously use as many senses as possible.

Works Cited

Besner, D. “Deep Dyslexia and Right Hemisphere Hypothesis.” J. Psychol. Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 565-571. 1983.

Carlson. “Types of Dyslexia.” Welcome to the Dyslexia Homepage. Macalester College. 1998.

Frandsen, Barbara. “Slaying the Dragons: 21stCentury Literacy.” AuthorHouse. Bloomington, IN. 2013.


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