Dyslexia is a condition that interferes with a person’s ability to develop and use language skills. People tend to associate dyslexia with reading problems, but people with this condition can also have a hard time with some math problems, as well as with writing and pronouncing words.
Dyslexia does not have anything to do with an individual’s intelligence or interest in learning. However, people with dyslexia may have problems with reading, writing, and spelling. For example, they may reverse letter shapes.
Dyslexia has a range of possible symptoms, and not everyone with the condition will have all of them. According to the International Dyslexia Association, 15–20% of the population show some signs of dyslexia.
People do not outgrow dyslexia, although the symptoms do tend to vary by age. With appropriate instruction and support, people with dyslexia can succeed in school and the workplace.
Keep reading to learn more about how dyslexia can affect people at different ages.
Even though most people do not read in preschool, children can demonstrate symptoms of dyslexia by the age of 3 years, or even earlier.
All children learn how to talk in their own way and at their own pace. However, a delay in starting to speak can be an early sign of dyslexia.
Other signs of dyslexia in young children include:
- problems with rhyming
- not easily recognizing the letters in their name
- not using the right word for a specific object
- difficulty with sequences, for example, having problems following directions, telling stories, or reciting the alphabet
There is ongoing research into the causes of dyslexia. Although researchers have not yet determined exactly what these may be, they believe that the condition may relate to how the brain processes information.
Dyslexia also seems to have a genetic component. Therefore, parents who have had difficulties with reading and spelling should pay close attention to their child’s development.
Dyslexia affects an individual’s ability to recognize words and connect them with sounds and meaning. As a result, it usually becomes more evident in elementary school.
In children who are elementary school aged, signs of dyslexia may include:
- confusing letter shapes and sounds
- making mistakes when reading aloud, such as saying a synonym for the word on the page or skipping prepositions
- trouble telling left from right
- problems with spelling
- difficulty discussing or describing what they have read
- finding books boring or frustrating
- having a hard time sounding out new words
- switching up the sequence of letters in a word
As school work in the middle grades becomes increasingly demanding, issues with reading and writing can become more obvious.
Students with untreated dyslexia are at risk of falling further and further behind their classmates.
They may have less ability to acquire knowledge, and their vocabulary may not improve at the same rate as other students. It may be hard for them to demonstrate what they do know in essay type tests and other assignments for which writing is important.
Additional dyslexia symptoms that can appear around the age of 11 years include:
- using words with the right sort of sound but the wrong meaning, for example, using “assimilate” in place of “simulate”
- poor handwriting
- low self-esteem due to challenges with academic achievement
- social isolation
One of the most challenging symptoms of dyslexia for high school or college students is a very slow reading pace, which can make it difficult for them to complete assignments on time. Both essay and multiple choice tests can be particularly challenging.
High school and college students with dyslexia may also:
- struggle to find the word that they wish to use
- find it extremely challenging to learn a foreign language
- be unable to understand wordplay, such as puns
- have a large listening vocabulary but limited reading or writing word use
- describe themselves as dumb, or worry about their academic progress, even if they get good grades
The challenges that dyslexia poses can persist into adulthood and the workplace, although they take different forms at this age. Common signs of dyslexia in adults include:
- trouble understanding the building blocks of spoken communication
- poor working memory
- limited ability to process visual information
Adults with dyslexia may also have the following symptoms:
- difficulty remembering lists and numbers
- saying “um” and “er” a lot when speaking
- frequently forgetting names
- problems with organizing and preparing written work
Some people can find the prospect of seeking help for someone with dyslexia daunting. Family members and the affected individuals themselves may be wary of people labeling them as having a learning disability.
However, the earlier people get an evaluation and diagnosis, the sooner they can start to receive the teaching and support that they need to manage their dyslexia.
This support can help children keep up with their peers. It can also put an end to the negative emotional side effects of dyslexia, such as feeling stupid or lazy despite neither of these being the case.
The Child Mind Institute report that several reading programs can help young people with dyslexia. Techniques that might be helpful for teachers, parents, or caregivers to use include:
- using multiple senses simultaneously to help the individual connect words with sounds
- showing the person different approaches to help them understand what they are reading
- strengthening the person’s awareness and ability to work with spoken words
- finding ways to make reading fun
Other benefits of seeking help include:
- getting an evaluation
- working with teachers, schools, and employers to arrange for accommodations and assistance, such as more time to complete tests
- seeking training from a specialist who has received training in how to help people with dyslexia improve their skills
- becoming familiar with and starting to use supportive technologies, such as speech-to-text software
Dyslexia is a complex condition that affects the ability to develop and use language skills, particularly reading and writing. It does not relate in any way to an individual’s intelligence.
Although dyslexia symptoms tend to vary by age, it is not possible to outgrow the condition. However, with training and technology, people can learn how to manage dyslexia.