We see that from the chapter on “working memory “, that people with dyslexia have problems with planning, organising, and carrying out daily chores because it requires mentally formulating a “to do” list organised by time and location. We can define organisational skill as the ability to maintain oversight over a process, coordinate information and see connections and solutions.
A person’s ability to organise is going to affect the daily life of that person, from keeping appointments to get things done. But it also affects the way we learn, and how we feel about learning. If organising comes easy to you, it will be easier to learn new material. If organising is difficult, learning new things – like reading and writing – is a greater challenge. This requires a greater effort and is more tiresome.
Some examples of organisational difficulties, and how they can appear in learning:
- Solves written assignments in an unstructured way
- Struggles to read a text, and at the same time looking for specific information
- Difficulties with defining long-term or short-term goals, or splitting up a main goal into several sub-goals
- Difficulties choosing between alternatives
- Difficulties finding the order things should be arranged in, in school this is can become visible when doing mathematics where you follow procedure to find solutions
- Difficulties following a plan step by step in sequence. Often rendering the task insurmountable
- Difficulties in calculating how long things will take, often when given several things to do
A student’s ability to learn is significantly impacted by their ability to organise the material they are learning. This is affected by the learning strategies the student is using and the confidence the student has to learn new things. If this is affecting the student badly over time, the student self-esteem and confidence will drop over time. A lack of organising skill can develop into a student’s belief that they aren’t “good” at school or aren’t smart enough to get good grades.
This means that helping pupils and students learn strategies to help them organise material better can drastically improve their ability in school. But for us to see if this is a part of the difficulty for a person with dyslexia, we need to take it into account when testing for dyslexia. The testing should be done in a way that gives clear indications on how the person’s ability to organise is affected by – or affecting, the person’s abilities.
To achieve reading-comprehension, it is required that we develop internal scenarios, draw conclusions, use signals in the text to tie sentences and paragraphs together, interpret words and sentences and so on. To sort all of this out, it requires a level of organising as we are reading. The further from our own experiences the text is about, the harder it becomes to achieve good reading comprehension. This is because it is easier for us to draw conclusions on the elements we know then the elements we have little experience with. The ability to organise the different parts becomes even more important.
The organisation of information on paper can give some difficulty for reading it, like train- and bus-tables. The use of columns that is meant to help decode the information, can have the opposite effect for people with dyslexia. The use of columns, rows or tables can, for some, make the information harder to decode and understand. When assessing older children or adults for dyslexia, it can be useful to check if these kinds of set-ups make decoding information harder for the person. It should not be used as proof, but an indication of how the difficulty occurs.
One indicator that has been understudied is how dyslexia can affect a person’s ability to manage time, or tasks in a timeframe. Several teachers can testify that children and youth who have dyslexia often struggle keeping time and are often late to class or mis-calculate how long a task will take them to do. It can be difficult separating a poor ability to keep time with other reasons such as motivational reasons. The tendency should be viewed over time, and in different environments. This can be useful information to collect from interviewing parents and teachers. More studies need to be done to make it more than an indicator.
Testing organisational skill can be difficult, and how we should test for it is dependent on age. The importance for each person to find a learning strategy that supports the person’s ability to organise reading and writing is crucial for the development of his or her reading progress.