Reading Ability of Indonesian Youth with Dyslexia

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Ilustration Youth with Dyslexia. (Source: Dunia Anak Indonesia)

Dyslexia is often associated with the deficiencies in phonological awareness (Anjarningsih, 2011; Patel, 2011; Bellocchi, et al, 2013; Lallier, et al, 2014; Valdois, et al, 2014). However, problems with phonological manipulation skills are less apparent in the languages of shallow orthography (Kałdonek‐Crnjaković, 2015).

Among those constituents required in reading, morphological awareness is considered to be one of the factors that affect dyslexic reader’s reading ability (Chung, et al, 2010; Chik and Ho, 2012).

In Surabaya, at least 19.8% of children of primary school age are suspected to be children with dyslexia (Nawangsari and Suprapti, 2008). If it is not immediately followed up, these children can hardly catch up with their same-age friends in understanding the lesson since they often have difficulty understanding the written language. Therefore, even though dyslexic readers are highly intelligent (Beaton, 2004) this impairment may affect their academic performance.

Nevertheless, in treating the students with dyslexia, it is essential to understand the process of reading to find out which reading ability is impaired. Thus, treatment can be more effective and efficient. Besides, parents and teachers are expected to provide direction and teaching patterns in reading activities of students with dyslexia.

Each affix might change the meaning of the root word, and therefore the morphological aspects in reading are also associated with the meaning retrieval process during reading activity (Carlisle & Fleming, 2003; Pacheco & Goodwin, 2013). Therefore, reading the affix correctly is essential in interpreting the text. Morphological processes that exist in Bahasa Indonesia include zero derivation, affixed words, reduplication, abbreviations, join words, and back-formation (Kridalaksana).

In determining the morphological error patterns in students with dyslexia, this study included 160 words that were chosen based on their morphological complexity were involved in a set of the reading instrument. Morphological complexity that is taken into consideration is the original word length based on the syllables and the range and variety of affixes. The words were then put into 55 sentences, which were read aloud by dyslexic participants.

From the reading test, it was found that the variety of deviations that arise are the addition of affixes, reduction of affixes, replacement of affixes, the substitution of essential words, replacement of whole words, the addition of syllables, and combinations. The results of morphological deviations show that deviations that occur during the test are as frequent, both in inflectional and derivational ascribed words. The majority of morphological variations (96%) occur in affixed words. An example can look like this.

(Target) setiap hari adikku pulang berjalan dari sekolah sampai ke rumah. [Every day my younger sibling goes home by (walking) from school until home]

(Participant 2) setiap hari adikku pulang perjalanan dari sekolah sampai ke rumah. [Every day my younger sibling goes home by (trip) from school until home]

In this example, Participant 2 added the suffix –an when he read the target word. He then read the prefix ber- as per-. The way Participant 2 read [b] as [p] and vice versa implied that there was a possibility that this affix substitution happened due to ‘mirror effect’ that typical dyslexic readers experienced whenever the letters looked alike. Hence, perjalanan might appear as berjalan in their mental representation. Based on the activation-verification model suggested by Paap et al. (1982), during word recognition, the semantic effect is also taken into account. Thus, if there is a semantic context, words will be verified semantically. Then, the words that were semantically related to the candidate were set in their mental lexicon and were checked first.

Based on this model, once the participant read it as perjalan, somehow it was hardly accepted since there was no word such as perjalan in Indonesian. Therefore, to make the word make sense, he unconsciously added suffix –an to make it more acceptable.

Besides, participants tend to simplify related words by eliminating affixes and only read the basic words. At least 58% of the deviations were affix omission. This indicates that even though they are in their teens, students with dyslexia still have difficulty reading complex words, especially those that have affixes.

Morphological ability is related to the ability to recognize words (Kieffer, 2014; Cavalli, et al., 2017; Law, et al., 2017). Therefore, interference with this ability can cause delays in the ability of adolescent students with dyslexia to recognize words in the form of their efforts even though only reading words that are classified as simple for people without dyslexia and reading errors that arise.

Judging from the frequency of occurrence of these deviations and the age of the participants, this implies that regardless of the length of exposure to language, experience, and reading practices, deficiencies in the decoding stage remain in readers with dyslexia even when they are teenagers (Undheim, 2009).

It means that teachers and parents of readers with dyslexia need to provide more training in reading, especially on polymorphemic words, especially those that have an affix. It should continue to be done so that students can absorb knowledge more optimally. (*)

Author: Wasito Kirana Angkita

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