Factors affecting Dyslexic People
Speaking of phonological awareness, it is considered to be the key of learning how to read and write. Namely, this awareness allows us to recognize phonemes and differentiate them from one another. Phonemes are small units of sounds all words consist of. When phonemes are changed, words are changed respectively, along with their meaning. Thus, changing a single phoneme in the word “cat” can lead to creation and utterance of the word “bat”. Dyslexic people have troubles noticing this difference and all other phonetic changes as well.
This is what has been written and then copied unquestioningly by many professors for more than 30 years. If it is true that dyslexics have a phonological awareness deficit there are many questions that beg an answer. I have been teaching dyslexic students for 8 years. I am from Sabah, Malaysia where all students learn at least 2 languages in school - Malay and English. Some learn a third language - Mandarin. All my students do not have a problem reading or spelling in both Malay and Romanised Mandarin which use the same 26 alphabets as the English language. They however are unable to read in English. The question is; if a dyslexic has a phonological awareness problem then why is it that he has no phonological problem with Malay and Mandarin?
Where does the author come up with this from? None of my dyslexic students over the last 8 years have a problem with this. They can easily read through all the family words of cat - bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat and sat.
However, a dyslexic child's mind shuts down when what he hears from the teacher does not make sense to him. For example having easily learnt the family words but, cut, gut, hut, jut, and nut he shuts down when he hears the word 'put'. Is this a phonological problem? I just tell my students that this is the problem with the English language and ask them to pronounce the word 'put' the way it is pronounced.
I have also noticed many of my students opening their eyes wide and staring at me when I teach them the words - 'A cat'. Having easily taught then the family words bat, cat, fat ... I go on to 'A cat' and they are lost. Why is this? Is it a phonological problem? No, they have learnt the phoneme of the letter 'a' as in 'apple' in the family words bat, cat, fat, mat, par, rat and sat. However, now the letter 'A' in 'A cat' has a different phoneme (sound). Here the alphabet ‘A’ has the sound as in ‘around’. When this is not explained to the dyslexic child, his mind shuts down.
I tell them that the letter 'a' has many sounds (at least 5 sounds) and that one of the sounds that the latter 'a' has is the sound as in ‘apple’ sound in bat, cat....
When I teach the words 'A cat', I point out that this 'A' sound is different. The sound here is as in the word ‘around’ and the child has no problem learning to read.
As such, it is high time that this statement that dyslexics have a phonological awareness problem be looked into.
For information: All vowels have more than one phoneme e.g.
“A” as in ant, atlas, axe and animal.
“A” as in article, ask, art and arm.
“A” as in around, away, ago and asleep.
“A” as in always, also, almost and although.
“A” as in alien, ace, an