A psycholinguistic approach to dyslexia disorder
| Julia Koifman - 01 Jun 2023


Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of mental aspects of language and speech. This discipline investigates and describes psychological processes that make it possible for humans to master and use language. It is primarily concerned with how language is represented and processed in the brain. Psycholinguistic research investigates the cognitive processes, such as perception, memory, and thinking which are involved in the ordinary use of language, for instance, understanding a lecture, reading a book, writing a letter, and holding a conversation (Nordquist, 2019). In light of the forenamed, it suggests modern methods that enable kids with learning disabilities (LD) to perceive, store and reproduce information.

Why do some students do well and some struggle?

Educators have always asked themselves this question. Up to the late 19th century, they connected low school progress to low IQ, but in 1896 W. Pringle Morgan (1896) proposed the term "developmental dyslexia" when he researched a teenager as "word-blind" due to his poor visual memory. (Morgan, 1896). Another term, "congenital word blindness," was used until the 1960s, when dyslexia was introduced to encompass developmental reading difficulties.  Scientists used to claim that reading difficulties were caused by low intelligence. But in the 1970s, they found that dyslexia was characterized by unexpected reading difficulty in the face of an average or even high level of IQ. (Critchley, 1970).

The pedagogical impact on children and the correction of impaired functions are carried out in a complex. One of the priority tasks of remedial teachers is the adaptation of students with dyslexia and the construction of education in such a way as to activate the strengths of the child, i.e., help him use everything available ways of receiving information. Working memory and other techniques are practiced in Israeli schools for special education. (BeitEkshtein, 2018).

Working memory and learning disabilities. 

Our working memory (WM), specifically short-term memory, helps us hold and use information. It is a cognitive process, which enables us to listen, remember, follow instructions, and formulate answers while being asked questions. It includes verbal and visual-spatial short-term memory stores. Verbal short-term memory holds information that can be expressed in numbers, words, and sentences. Visual-spatial short-term memory holds images, pictures, and information about location in space. It also has a component that helps us resist distractions and remain focused when engaged in a task (Smith-Spark, 2007). 

"Motor learning, and classical conditioning of motor responses in particular, has been consistently linked to cerebellar function in humans" (Nicolson & Fawcett, 2008, p.125). The latter is based directly on the mainstream cognitive theory, which suggests automaticity as a major requirement for skilled performance. The process of automatization is slow in dyslexic children because WM deficits make it extremely difficult to synthesize information while reading. Reading a paragraph requires a person's WM to hold on to each letter, the sound associated with it, the words that contain specific letters, and the sentences constructed from those words. The reader needs to hold on to this information long enough to put the sentences together and comprehend the text. This demand overwhelms the WM of a person with dyslexia (Smith-Spark, 2007).  As a result, LD students get low grades although they do not have a lower mentality capacity or an IQ compared to regular children.

How language is studied in LD classes in Israel.

English as a foreign language is extremely complex for Hebrew speakers. Nevertheless, most children learn it quickly and with ease due to computer games and films without translation. LD students might speak English fluently but have severe difficulties in the classroom because they often get distracted. Moreover, problems with WM and deficits in phonological processes cause misspellings and misunderstandings of instructions and tasks. (Nicolson& Fawcett, 2008, p.47). As a result, students often get frustrated and give up.

However, the research in neuroscience and psychology suggests that when LD students enjoy learning, it enhances their short-term memory, stimulates their long-term memory to keep the information, and makes them interested and focused. When they understand films, songs, and computer games they get motivated to speak English. In addition, when they get good grades and achieve their learning targets, the educational process succeeds. Thus, in my classes, many non-readers play table games or online ones, which helps me to avoid discipline problems. Usually, I use flashcards that enable them to connect letter patterns with associated sounds. When this stage is over, they connect specific letters with objects in the flashcards and pictures. In this way, they enlarge their vocabulary and start speaking step by step. Since they have poor verbal WM, I have to repeat such games but I diversify the activities in the classroom. In the beginning, they give short answers while being asked but later they try to describe what they see in the pictures. At the same time, I give them spelling, vocabulary, sentence-structure games, and short texts to enhance their cognitive processes and develop reading comprehension skills.


Dyslexic students face greater challenges in learning ESL and it takes them much more time to be fluent in reading and get prepared for final exams. Although many of them speak English fluently, they confuse letters, word order, sentence structure, and grammar tenses. Therefore, remedial teachers should offer spelling, vocabulary, and grammar games every lesson and give short quizzes every week. I create self-checking online activities and they help my students a lot. To enable them to pass the matriculation exam, the Israeli Ministry of Education uses the psycholinguistic approach and offers them oral or computerized tests.

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