Among the neurodevelopmental disorders, we find the constellation of dys. These are learning disorders that are often noticed in childhood, especially at school. It is important to be able to be diagnosed as early as possible, as well as to raise awareness on this subject. Too often, a student with difficulties will be qualified as “bad” or will believe that he or she is not intelligent enough to succeed – whereas in the case of dys, the development of intelligence is normal: there is no intellectual deficiency! In order to avoid a drop in self-esteem, rejection from school due to poor academic results or anxiety, it is important to put in place appropriate support, whether at school or in daily life.
Among the dys (which can be combined), we distinguish :
- Dyslexia: which is a reading and writing disorder (about 5% of children).
- Dysorthography: which is a disorder of understanding spelling rules.
- Dyscalculia: which is a disorder that leads to difficulties in arithmetic (about 4% of the population).
- Dyspraxia: which is a disorder concerning visuospatial and motor skills.
- Dysphasia: which is a disorder of comprehension and/or production of oral language (about 2%).
- Dysgraphia: which is a disorder that causes difficulties in writing and holding a pen correctly.
In general, dys is linked to various difficulties. There are orientation problems (confusing right and left, for example), fatigue and slowness, memorization problems, organization problems (having a messy table, losing things…), recurrent failures in evaluations (which are not adapted), etc.
In terms of behavior, the student may be inhibited (discreet, self-effacing, trying to be forgotten) or on the contrary agitated (impulsive, aggressive…). This allows the student to divert attention from his real difficulties.
Here is a more complete description of the most frequently found dys:
Dyslexia can cause difficulties in learning to read, especially in the first grade. However, it is important to keep in mind that each dyslexia is different! We can find, among others :
- Difficulties in deciphering words, decoding them (phonological dyslexia)
- Difficulty in recognizing words as a whole, in recognizing known words when they are combined together (surface dyslexia)
- Confusion of letters (q, p, b, d)
This is related to arithmetic: counting, calculating… Geometry may not be a problem, it really concerns calculations. One may have difficulty with:
- Counting, understanding concepts like increasing/decreasing, “three times less”…
- Writing or reading numbers, or differentiating arithmetic symbols (+, x, -, /)
- Perform simple calculations (students can use their hands to count)
- Memorize multiplication tables
Dyspraxia may involve:
- Visuospatial disorders: locating elements in space, orienting oneself…
- Difficulty in automating gestures
- Difficulty with everyday gestures: writing, tying shoelaces, using measuring instruments…
- Maladjustment due to poor coordination of movements
Difficulties can be found :
- Expressing oneself: the student speaks little, or it is not very understandable (meaning, coherence)
- Forming sentences: the student may try to make himself understood by mime or by pointing to objects
- Comprehension (e.g., understanding simple instructions)
In case of dys, what to do?
Attention: it is necessary to differentiate between a delay linked to a difficulty and a disorder. The disorder remains, even if it can be compensated for (compensation strategies), whereas the delay (if it is well taken care of) can be made up. In all cases, one must be understanding and adaptable. The challenge is to build on the student’s abilities, his or her preserved capacities, in order to compensate for the dysfunctional capacities, and to enhance the student’s value.
Screening is often done at school, depending on the difficulties encountered by the student and their persistence. We then speak of EBEP (Students with Special Educational Needs), for whom we can set up a PAP. Follow-up with an adapted professional is also recommended: doctor (general practitioner or pediatrician), speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychomotor therapist, neuropsychologist or psychologist if necessary, etc.
Finally, here are some examples of compensations, to be adapted according to the student:
- Suggest writing on the computer or using multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank texts (rather than copying everything)
- Break down instructions into simple sentences, then make them more complex as you go along
- Suggest memory aids (e.g. multiplication tables)
- Make learning more concrete with games or visual elements (e.g., instead of writing “cut” have a drawing of small scissors)
In short, if you are a student and you encounter difficulties similar to those described above, it might be interesting to talk to a professional who can guide you (your doctor, a psychologist…). If you are a (young) adult, this can help you to better understand how you function.
For more information, you can consult the French Dys Federation website: https://www.ffdys.com/