Dyslexia—also referred to as language-learning disabilities or reading disabilities—accounts for approximately 80% of all diagnosed learning disabilities. Although some children with dyslexia have difficulty acquiring spoken language, more often the problem is in learning to read, write, spell or do math.
People with dyslexia may have problems recalling specific words and word sequences (days of the week, months of the year, etc), organizing thoughts, memorizing information, understanding intended (rather than literal) meaning, and reversing letters and numbers.
- 5-year-old Jamie has difficulty rhyming, repeating words with more than one syllable, and remembering the names of the letters of the alphabet.
- 7-year-old Kristen has difficulty applying the sound-symbol associations to decode (sound out) words.
- 10-year-old Sarah has wonderful comprehension when she’s read to but can’t understand what she reads herself because she’s struggling to identify words.
- 11-year-old Juan is extremely articulate but he has trouble organizing his thoughts when he writes, and expressing himself on paper.
- 12-year-old Michael is a decent reader, but he’ll only read if forced to and his spelling is terrible.
- 13-year-old Ahmed also reads well enough, but for years he has struggled in math.
Although the exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, research shows that it is related to inefficient phonological processing—problems in the brain that make it difficult to sort out, analyze, and sequence sounds heard in spoken language. Dyslexia often runs in families suggesting a genetic as well as an environmental component.
Dyslexia cannot be cured, but it can be remediated through explicit instruction aimed at improving the skills and knowledge to understand printed material.
Children with dyslexia must be taught in a systematic manner, building little by little upon what they have already learned. Their reading program must include instruction in phonemic awareness (understanding speech sounds), phonics (letter-sound relationships), fluency (reading speed and accuracy), comprehension, and vocabulary.
Dyslexia is often accompanied by strengths in reasoning and problem-solving skills, as well as visual-spatial and motor skills necessary to excel in the fine arts, performing arts, athletics, engineering, and science.
Signs & Symptoms
Suspect a language-learning disability if your child has difficulty in several of these areas over time:
- Learning numbers or the alphabet
- Rhyming words
- Remembering colors
- Sounding out words
- Persistent reading or spelling errors
- Reversing numbers or letters
- Remembering facts (including math facts)
- Misunderstanding arithmetic signs
- Reading comprehension
- Written expression or spelling
- Understanding word problems
- Organizing, planning or managing time
- Completing or handing in assignments
- Concentrating or paying attention
- Reading fluency and comprehension
- Organizing and expanding ideas in written expression
- Remembering and retrieving detailed information
- Comprehending more complex information