Discussing Dyslexia: Key Terms to Know

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Discussing Dyslexia: Key Terms to Know

In addition to those diagnosed with dyslexia, the dyslexic community is made up of a variety of stakeholders: researchers, educators, family members, specialists, tutors, and more. And like most communities, there is a set of terms that are frequently used in discussions that aren’t common in general everyday conversation. 

If you’re one of the stakeholders listed above, or simply interested in learning more, becoming familiar with these terms and adding them to your vocabulary will help you join the conversation about dyslexia, the science of reading, and proven-to-work interventions: 

Dyslexia is a language-based learning difficulty that is characterized by difficulties in decoding abilities,  fluent word recognition and comprehension.

Decoding is the ability to sound out words with greater ease and automaticity. Teaching decoding skills is critical to the development of reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension is the ultimate goal when learning to read. This means that a reader is able to process words, understand their meaning, and leverage existing knowledge to provide context and further understanding of the message. 

Reading fluency is comprised of three key indicators: speed, accuracy and prosody (reading with the appropriate expressions using tone, stress, and rhythm). Many consider fluent readers to be those who can read aloud with little effort and with expression.

Phonics refers to the instructional process used to teach reading. 

Phoneme refers to the smallest unit of sound. It does not convey meaning yet (see grapheme) but combining units of sounds allows us to make words. For instance, the letter /m/ is a unit of sound but it does not yet have any meaning in and of itself.

Phonemic awareness is a person’s ability to identify individual sounds and to manipulate words and syllables.

Morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning. 

Morphology refers to the structure of a word, including its root (the basic element of a word) and affixes (which can be used at the beginning or end of a word and can change its meaning). An affix used at the beginning of a word is known as a prefix, while an affix used at the end of a word is known as a suffix. A good example is “unhappy.” The meaning of the root word “happy” changes when the prefix “un” is added to the root.

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