All You Ever Wanted to Know—Jargon Relating to Reading and Disabilities Decoded For Parents


Have you ever been in an IEP meeting or parent conference where the teacher or administration mentions certain vocabulary terms, conditions, and jargon that you are not quite sure the meaning and too embarrassed to ask? If this has happened to you, I hope the below glossary can serves as a simple, quick reference guide to clarify some of your questions.



ADHD– also known as Attention Difficulties with Hyperactivity. Children will often have a short attention span and tend to work on a number of different tasks at once. They will be easily distracted if there are a number of competing distractions. It is possible for children to have some attention difficulties without hyperactivity also known as ADD.


Auditory discrimination– Difficulties in identifying specific sounds and distinguishing these sounds with other similar sounds. This is common in students with dyslexia, hearing loss or partial/intermittent hearing loss.


Bottom-up- method of reading using decoding skills.  The reader has a good grasp on letter sounds and can blend words. It is essential that students with dyslexia are taught through he bottom up approach in order to ensure they are familiar with basic sounds and sound combinations (for comparison see top-down method).


Cognitive– this refers to the learning and thinking process. It is the process that describes how learners take in, retain and understand information.


Decoding– refers to the reading processing and specifically to the breaking down of words into individual sounds.


Differentiation– the process of adapting materials and teaching to suit a range of learner’s abilities and levels of attainments. Usually differentiation refers to the task, the teaching, the resources and assessment. Differentiation is the key to successful education of students with learning differences.


Dyscalculia-describes children and adults with difficulties in computation of numbers, remembering numbers or reading the instructions associated with number problems.


Dysgraphia– the difficulties in handwriting. Children with dysgraphia will benefit from lined paper as they have visual/spatial problems and may have an awkward pencil grip.


Dyslexia– difficulties in accessing print but also in memory, processing speed, sequencing, directions, syntax, spelling and written work. Children with dyslexia often have phonological difficulties that result in poor word attack skills.


Dyspraxia– refers to children and adults with coordination difficulties. Can also be known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).


Emotional literacy– the extent to which children are aware of their emotions and feelings and particularly those of others.


Eye tracking– being able to read a line and keep eyes on track throughout the line. Children with poor eye tracking omit lines or words on a page.


Information processing– describes how children and adults learn new information. It is often describes as a cycle-input, cognition, and output. Children with learning disabilities can have difficulties at all stages of information processing.


Kinesthetic memory– refers to memory used for movement such as remembering exercise routines. Learning handwriting is an example of how young children use their kinesthetic memory.


Learned helplessness-refers to the cycle of failure that some children may experience particularly if they have repeated failures at the same time. The extent of this failure is reinforces by subsequent failures and it becomes a learnt response to a task.


Learning disabilities- a general term to describes a range of specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. It is often referred to as LD and is note equated with intelligence. Children with LD are usually in the average to above average intelligence range.


Learning Styles- this can describe the learners preferences for learning such as visual, auditory, kinesthic, or tactile learning.


Long-term memory- this is used to recall information learnt and needs to be recalled for a purpose. Many children with dyslexia have difficulty with longer term memory, as they have not organized the information they have learnt and recalling it can be challenging.


Metacognition- process of thinking about thinking. This is being aware of how one learns and how a problem is solved.


Multiple intelligence– first developed by Howard Gardner in the early 1980s in his book Frames of Mind. Gardner provides insights into eight intelligences and shows how the educational and social needs of all children can be catered to through these intelligences.


Multisensory– use of a range learning modalities including visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile learning.


Neurological- refers to the brain associated factors—that is the difference components of the brain or brain processing how the components interact with each other.


Paired reading-involves the child and tutor reading aloud at the same time.


Peer tutoring– when tow or more children work together to try to learn from teaches other.


Phonological awareness– refers to processing of becoming familiar with letter sounds and letter combinations that make the sounds in reading print. There are 44 sounds in the English language and some sounds are very similar sounding. This is confusing and challenging from children with difficulties in reading.


Reciprocal reading– aim is to encourage the child to check his own comprehension. Small units of text are presented and the tutor reads aloud first and summarizes what has been read. The propose is that the tutor models the read aloud and think-aloud process in order to encourage the child to self-question and to actively obtain meaning from text.


Scanning– refers to the process involved when one is attempting to locate a particular word or piece of information on a page.


Specific Learning difficulties (SLD)- refers to the range of difficulties experiences in general that can be of a specific nature such as reading, coordination, spelling and handwriting. There are quite a number of specific learning difficulties and they can be seen as being distinct from general learning difficulties.


Top-down method- refers to the reading process in which the reader begins with context and background of the text and uses contextual coleus to help with reading. Reading for meaning is more important than accuracy in this method.


Working memory-this is the first stage of short-term memory. It involves holding information in short term and storing and carrying out a processing activity.