People with dyslexia have problems with reading comprehension. Dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction, or upbringing.
The problem in dyslexia is a linguistic one, not a visual one. Dyslexia in no way stems from any lack of intelligence. People with severe dyslexia can be brilliant.
Although it is a neurological condition, dyslexia is not linked to intelligence. The effects of dyslexia vary from person to person. The only shared trait among people with dyslexia is that they read at levels lower than typical for people of their age.
Fast facts on dyslexia
- Dyslexia is not related to intelligence.
- People with dyslexia are more likely to develop immunological problems.
- The content of dyslexia tests varies dependent on the age of the individual.
Symptoms and traits of dyslexia
Dyslexia commonly causes difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding.
Dyslexia is different from delayed reading development, which may reflect mental disability or cultural deprivation.
The most common signs and symptoms associated with dyslexia can be displayed at any age, but they normally present in childhood.
Childhood symptoms of dyslexia include:
Difficulty in learning to read
The child, despite having normal intelligence, receiving proper teaching, and parental support, has difficulty learning to read.
Milestones reached later
Dyslexic children may learn to crawl, walk, talk, and ride a bicycle later than the majority of others.
Slow speech development
Apart from being slow to learn to speak, a dyslexic child may commonly mispronounce words, find rhyming extremely challenging, and not appear to distinguish between different word sounds.
Slow at learning sets of data
At school, dyslexic children may take much longer than other children to learn the letters of the alphabet and how they are pronounced. There may also be problems remembering the days of the week, months of the year, colors, and some arithmetic tables.
A dyslexic child may seem clumsier than their peers. Catching a ball may be difficult. Poorer eye-hand coordination may be a symptom of other similar neurological conditions, including dyspraxia.
Left and right
Commonly, a dyslexic child gets "left" and "right" mixed up.
Numbers and letters may be reversed without realizing.
Some dyslexic children might not follow a pattern of progression seen in other children. The child may learn how to spell a word and completely forget the next day.
If a word has more than two syllables, phonological processing becomes much more challenging. For example, with the word "unfortunately" a person with dyslexia may be able to process the sounds "un" and "ly," but not the ones in between.
Children with dyslexia commonly find it hard to concentrate. Many adults with dyslexia say this is because, after a few minutes of non-stop struggling, the child is mentally exhausted. A higher number of children with dyslexia also have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), compared with the rest of the population.
When a person with dyslexia expresses a sequence of ideas, they may seem illogical or unconnected.
There is currently no "cure" for dyslexia. Treatment is aimed at providing compensatory strategies to deal with the disorder in daily life.
The sooner a child is diagnosed and receives support, the more likely he or she will achieve long-term improvements. Treatment may include the following:
- Psychological testing - this helps the teacher develop a better-targeted teaching program for the child. Techniques usually involve tapping into the child's senses, including touch, vision, and hearing.
- Guidance and support - it is vital for the child's self-esteem and personal ambition that they are reminded that even though reading and writing may be a problem, millions of people with dyslexia worldwide have thrived and become successful and productive citizens.
- On-going evaluation - adults with dyslexia may benefit from evaluation to hone or refine their coping strategies, and identify areas where more support is needed.
Dyslexia as a condition is managed - not cured. However, according to the Brain Foundation, Australia:
"Although the outlook for people with dyslexia depends on the severity of their disorder, the majority live normal, productive lives."
Diagnosis of dyslexia
If a parent, guardian, or teacher suspects a child may have dyslexia, a professional evaluation to better understand the problem will pave the way to more effective treatment.
Test results may also open the door to more support for the child; they may become eligible for special education services, support programs, and services in colleges and universities. Diagnostic tests often cover the following areas:
- background information
- oral language skills
- word recognition
- decoding - the ability to read new words by using letter-sound knowledge
- phonological processing
- automaticity and fluency skills
- reading comprehension
- vocabulary knowledge
- family history and early development
During the assessment process, the examiner needs to be able to rule out other conditions or problems that may show similar symptoms. Examples include vision problems, hearing impairment, lack of instruction, and social and economic factors.
Causes of dyslexia
A child with dyslexia may have more difficulty than usual in reading, spelling, and concentrating.
Specialist doctors and researchers are not precisely sure what causes a person to develop dyslexia.
Some evidence points to the possibility that the condition is genetic, as dyslexia often runs in families.
Two chief causes of dyslexia are:
- Genetic causes of dyslexia - a team at the Yale School of Medicine found that defects in a gene, known as DCDC2, were associated with problems in reading performance.
- Acquired dyslexia - a small minority of people with dyslexia acquired the condition after they were born. The most common causes of acquired dyslexia are brain injuries, stroke, or some other type of trauma.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, dyslexia is the most common learning disability. 80 percent of students with learning disabilities have dyslexia.
The International Dyslexia Association estimates that 15-20 percent of the American population have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words.
Dyslexia affects people of all ethnic backgrounds, although a person's native language can play an important role. A language where there is a clear connection between how a word is written and how it sounds, and consistent grammatical rules, such as Italian and Spanish, can be easier for a person with mild to moderate dyslexia.
Languages such as English, where there is often no clear connection between the written form and sound, as in words such as "cough" and "dough," can be more challenging for a person with dyslexia.