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History of dyslexia

First attempts to define the dyslexia violations

For the first time ever, the reading and writing violations were considered an independent pathology of speech by A.Kussmaul in 1877. According to the literature sources of the late XIX and early XX century, presented by the authors like F. Bachman, G. Wolff, and B. Engler, it was common to think that reading and writing disorders are one of the manifestations of the general dementia, as they are observed only in mentally retarded children. However, in 1896, V. Morgan described a case of a reading and writing disorder of the fourteen-year old boy with normal intellect. Morgan defined the disorder as “the inability to write words correctly, and to read without mistakes.”

dyslexia history

The variety of further viewpoints

Morgan’s followers A. Kussmaul and O. Berkan began considering the reading and writing violation as an independent pathology of speech, not associated with mental retardation. In the late XIX and early XX centuries, there were two opposite viewpoints. Some authors have considered the reading and writing violation as one of the components of mental retardation. Others stressed that the reading and writing pathology is an isolated disorder, not associated with mental retardation.

Gradually, the understanding of the nature of reading and writing infringements has changed. This disorder has not been defined as a homogeneous optical infringement anymore. Simultaneously, the differentiation of the concepts of “alexia” and “dyslexia“, “agraphia” and “dysgraphia” has been taking place. Various forms of dyslexia and dysgraphia were highlighted; the classification of the reading and writing violations was developed.

The most remarkable ideas

The viewpoint of a neurologist N.K.Monakov has played an important role in the development of the doctrine of writing violations. He was the first to connect dysgraphia with impaired speech with the general character of the speech disorders, or aphasia. The most remarkable early works of local authors were the ones of neurologists R.A.Tkachev and S.S.Mnukhin.

Analyzing the observation of children with impaired reading issues, R.A.Tkachev concluded that the root of alexia is a memory impairment. A child with alexia diagnosis cannot remember the letters and syllables, cannot correlate them with the certain sounds. According to R.A.Tkachev, alexia is the weakness of the associative links between the visual images of the letters and the auditory images of the respective sounds.

The common basis of these psychiatric disorders, according to S.S.Mnukhin, is a violation of structure formation. Alexia and agraphia are more complex manifestations of disorders; as for the more elementary disorders, they are the ones of mechanical reproduction of the series (the sequencing, the order of naming the days of the week, or the months of the year, etc.).

A new emphasis on dyslexia features

In 30-ies of XX century, the reading and writing disorders were carefully explored by psychologists, teachers, and speech pathologists. During this period, it was firstly emphasized the relationship between these disorders, on the one hand, and the defects of speech and hearing, on the other hand. The most famous researchers of that time period were F.A.Rau, M.E.Hvattsev, R.M.Boskis, and R.E.Levina.

In his early works, M.E.Hvattsev directly connects the writing violations with the issues of pronunciation of sounds. There are the cases of corrected speech defects with the reading and writing violations remaining the same. The author explains them as for the the higher resistance of the old ties between the way the sound and the letter are. In his later works, M.E.Hvattsev considers these violations as more differentiated ones, taking into account the complex structure of the process of reading and writing. He highlights the various forms of dyslexia and dysgraphia, many of which are still quite reasonable.

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