Original Research

South African professionals and developmental dyslexia: Knowledge, needs and perspective

Annika Altin, Salome Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Marien Graham
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 13, No 1 | a1104 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v13i1.1104 | © 2023 Annika Altin, Salome Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Marien Alet Graham | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 September 2021 | Published: 31 March 2023

About the author(s)

Annika Altin, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Salome Geertsema, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Mia le Roux, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Marien Graham, Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Despite extensive research on the specific learning disorder (developmental dyslexia) – SLD (DD), many fallacies still cause confusion amongst professionals worldwide. These myths involve the characteristics, diagnoses and treatment of SLD (DD) and should be eradicated.
Aim: The authors aimed to determine the knowledge, needs and perspectives of South African professionals working with children with SLD (DD).
Setting: A mixed-methods research design was implemented.
Methods: A survey study was carried out and a sample of 108 respondents was obtained. The respondents include speech–language therapists (SLTs), occupational therapists (OTs) and psychologists.
Results: Speech–language therapists and psychologists displayed better knowledge about the facts of SLD (DD), compared to OTs. Their knowledge levels were, however, not significantly affected by existing misconceptions surrounding the condition. The fallacy that SLD (DD) is caused by a visual impairment is still believed. An investigation into the professionals’ perspectives regarding the identification of SLD (DD) suggested that South African psychologists were the most confident of their ability to identify characteristics. Nonetheless, all professionals reported not being convinced of their ability to provide a differential diagnosis of the disorder. Statements regarding management highlighted the uncertainties about the importance of addressing phonological awareness skills in treatment. Additional training needs were also identified as SLTs, OTs and psychologists generally feel unprepared to assess and treat SLD (DD).
Conclusion: The differences identified amongst professional groups were related to the knowledge of the facts and characteristics of SLD (DD) and the ability to identify and manage the condition. Additional training needs should be addressed.
Contribution: The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the NRF for partially funding the publication of this article.


Keywords

Developmental dyslexia; assessment; treatment; training; specific learning disorder.

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