Dyslexia is a learning disability that is neurological in origin. It affects a person’s ability to read, speak, and/or write. It is rooted in the difficulty of connecting letters with sounds, and assembling those letters and sounds in proper order as words. Dyslexia usually first appears in childhood, when students struggle in school and show signs of frustration or disengagement. Previously undiagnosed adults can also experience problems in reading and vocal comprehension. It is important to note that dyslexia is a medical condition, with a probable genetic basis, and not a lack of intelligence or the result of character issues. It is estimated to impact anywhere from 5% to 20% of the population.
Signs and Symptoms
Despite what you might see in the movies or on TV, it’s not always easy to tell if someone is dealing with this type of learning disorder. If you’re wondering how to tell if you have dyslexia, check these common symptoms:
- Reading (including reading aloud) slowly and with difficulty
- Problems with spelling
- Slow and labour-intensive writing
- Avoiding activities that involve reading
- Mispronouncing names or words, or problems retrieving words
- Difficulty summarizing a story
- Have memorization issues
- Struggle to learn foreign languages
Contrary to popular belief a lower-than-average IQ isn’t related to Dyslexia. Dyslexia just means, reading-wise, you need to be taught in a different way. So even though your test scores in school might be lower due to reading speed and comprehension issues, it doesn’t mean you are any “less smart” than your peers. In fact, many people with dyslexia are extremely smart.
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes dyslexia, but they think a problem during development may affect the way the brain processes information. They also believe that genetics (inheritance) plays a part. Although a gene for dyslexia has not been found, dyslexia does tend to run in families. Dyslexia is not caused by a physical disability, such as vision or hearing problems. Many people with dyslexia have average or above-average intelligence. Basically, the brains of people with dyslexia have a hard time receiving, organizing, remembering, or using information.
Because dyslexia is a complex neurological disorder, there is a role for the physician in the care of children with dyslexia, even though treatments are primarily educational. The physician may perform a physical exam and order screening tests, such as vision and hearing testing, to rule out any contributing deficits.
Several techniques and strategies are used to help people with dyslexia. These include taping lectures rather than writing notes, listening to books on tape rather than reading them, using flashcards, and using computer software to check spelling and grammar. Treatment may involve time spent with speech and language therapists, tutors, and special education teachers. With support, most children with dyslexia adjust to their learning disability and remain in a regular classroom. Some may require special education.
In conclusion, dyslexia is prevalent in our society, though not well recognized or understood. It is a life-long condition, which affects both children in school and adults in their vocational and social environments. Adults with dyslexia do exist and often are not recognized since they appear to function well in society and tend to mask their disability or gravitate toward occupations that do not emphasize their disability. Families and physicians must be aware of resources that exist in their communities and on the Internet for adults with dyslexia and allow access to these resources to enable them to best compensate for their disability.