Dyslexia (‘difficulty with words’ in greek), also known as reading disorder, is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. But it can also affect writing, spelling and even speaking. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, “sounding out” words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads. Often these difficulties are first noticed at school. When someone who previously could read loses their ability, it is known as alexia. The difficulties are involuntary and people with this disorder have a normal desire to learn.
This TED video below explains the difficulty in processing language that exists in people with dyslexia.
It is really about information processing: dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear. This can affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills.
People with dyslexia can still understand complex ideas. Sometimes they just need more time to work through the information. They may also need a different way to process the information, such as listening to an audiobook instead of reading it.
There’s a long list of famous people with dyslexia. This list includes director Steven Spielberg, investor Charles Schwab and actress Whoopi Goldberg. It also includes quarterback Tim Tebow, and author Dav Pilkey, who created the popular Captain Underpants books.
Signs of dyslexia
- read and write very slowly
- confuse the order of letters in words
- put letters the wrong way round – such as writing “b” instead of “d”
- have poor or inconsistent spelling
- understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
- find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
- struggle with planning and organisation
- the child commonly gets “left” and “right” mixed up
However, people with dyslexia often have good skills in other areas, such as creative thinking and problem solving.
Causes of DysLexia
- Highly hereditary.
- A difference in the way the brain works
- Problems in the development of phonological awareness
Having dyslexia doesn’t mean your child isn’t bright. The cause of dyslexia is believed to involve both genetic and environmental factors. Some cases run in families. It often occurs in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is associated with similar difficulties with numbers. It may begin in adulthood as the result of a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or dementia.
Types of DysLexia
Primary: This is the most common type of dyslexia, and is a dysfunction of, rather than damage to, the left side of the brain (cerebral cortex) and does not change with age. It is passed in family lines through genes (hereditary) or through new genetic mutations and it is found more often in boys than in girls.
Secondary or developmental: This is caused by problems with brain development during the early stages of fetal development. Developmental dyslexia diminishes as the child matures. It is also more common in boys.
Trauma: This usually occurs after some form of brain trauma or injury to the area of the brain that controls reading and writing. It is rarely seen in today’s school-age population.
The term visual dyslexia is sometimes used to refer to visual processing disorder, a condition in which the brain does not properly interpret visual signals.
The term auditory dyslexia has been used to refer to auditory processing disorder. Similar to visual processing disorder, there are problems with the brain’s processing of sounds and speech.
Dysgraphia refers to the child’s difficulty holding and controlling a pencil so that the correct markings can be made on the paper.
People with dyslexia also have other problems not directly connected to reading or writing, such as:
- difficulties with numbers (dyscalculia)
- poor short-term memory
problems concentrating and a short attention span, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- poor organisation and time-management
- physical coordination problems (developmental coordination disorder, also called DCD or dyspraxia)
Treatments for dyslexia
It is important for family members and the person with dyslexia to remember that it is not a disease. There is currently no “cure” for it. There are, however, a range of specialist and well targeted interventions that can help children and adults improve their reading and writing skills. A teacher who is trained in helping children with dyslexia will use a range of techniques to improve the child’s reading skills. These techniques usually involve tapping into the child’s senses, including touch, vision and hearing.
The child will receive help in improving the following skills:
- Learning to recognize phonemes
- Understanding that these phonemes are represented by letters or groups of letters strung together
- Reading out aloud
- Vocabulary building
- Reading comprehension.