What is Dyslexia: 16+ Basic Facts That You Should Know
There have been so many parents and teachers worried about children not reading properly, confusion letters and having trouble learning to write. Even though not all children learn at the same pace, it is important to know what is dyslexia and every aspect related to it. Children and even adults can be tested for dyslexia and there are different training options to help deal with certain symptoms. Continue reading to find out more what is dyslexia and every question you might have had regarding it.
What is dyslexia
In 1975, the World Federation of Neurology used the term developmental dyslexia for the first time. The dyslexia definition is: “Dyslexia is a disorder that presents itself in the difficulty to learn to read, regardless of a conventional education, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunities. It depends mainly on the cognitive alterations whose origin is often constitutional.” This description is still used today. Reading is a complex process and doesn’t only require visual representations, but it is also necessary to give meaning to the words and be able to relate them to a sentence.
Many parents ask today what is dyslexia well the reading difficulties in children with dyslexia are caused by neural errors:
- Structural deficiencies in linguistic processing.
- A deficient function of working memory
- Low processing speed levels
What is dyslexia: symptoms
Children and adults with dyslexia can be very intelligent and smart. However, in academic or written work settings they do not perform well. If you are still confused about what is dyslexia and you suspect that you or your child might have dyslexia pay attention to the following symptoms:
- Difficulty remembering meaning and pronunciation of words that they have read/learned.
- Hard time naming objects
- Some have symptoms of attention deficit.
- Easily distracted.
- Unable to read materials that others can read.
- Poor in spelling.
- Poor comprehension as a result of reading difficulty.
- Poor handwriting.
- Poor essay writing.
- Headaches and/or dizziness while reading.
- When asked orally performs well but not in written assessments.
- Learns through hands-on experience or visual.
- Takes longer to learn about new topics.
Some people might be mildly dyslexic however they have never been diagnosed. Some relevant symptoms in this cases are:
- Making mistakes when writing that seems careless.
- Usually labeled as lazy or not hardworking.
- Low self-esteem
- Having a bad attitude or behavioral problem.
- Underachieving despite being intelligent
What is dyslexia: is dyslexia real?
For years there has been debate whether dyslexia is a real learning disorder or whether it is just a reading difficulty in the learning process that can be overcome. The real fact is that dyslexia persists over a lifetime. If it were a reading difficulty, the intervention process would reduce its symptoms almost to a non-existent extent, however dyslexia symptoms, even if milder after an intervention, persist over a lifetime. Therefore, dyslexia is a real learning disorder, however, labels even though they can be useful for medical and mental health professionals, it is important to evaluate thoroughly and get scientific justification for it. If you have been diagnosed with dyslexia, be sure you have been tested and that the professional keep track of your progress and setbacks. If you are professional, avoid quick labeling and be sure to make a complete assessment.
What is dyslexia: are there different types?
Now that we have answered the question “what is dyslexia”, we can explain the different types of dyslexia. There are two main types:
- Developmental dyslexia: It is a hereditary type of dyslexia that affects the visual processing of words, however, it leaves oral and non-verbal reasoning skills intact. It has a genetic background that is caused by problems with brain development during the early stages of fetal development.
- Acquired dyslexia: This type of dyslexia is also known as Alexia. This type of dyslexia is caused when there is brain damage like an injury or a stroke after the sufferer has learned to read. There tends to be an injury in the lexical route that results in pronunciation errors.
Authors have tried to divide dyslexia into different classes based on the ways that the child learns to read. The most common are:
- Phonological Dyslexia: This is what most people think of when speaking about dyslexia. It consists in the difficulty to break down individual sounds of the language, or phonemic awareness, and match these with written symbols.
- Surface Dyslexia: This is a difficulty in remembering whole words by sight. For example, people with dyslexia have trouble with words that don’t sound the way they are spelled, weight, February, debt, etc. This is due to decoding issues and recognition.
- Rapid Naming Deficit: This is a difficulty naming letters or numbers when seen. This is mainly an issue with processing speed.
- Double Deficit Dyslexia: This is related to both naming or processing speed issues as well as phonemic awareness issues (rapid naming and phonological). They have trouble isolating sounds and can’t name letters or numbers quickly.
What is dyslexia: Is it common?
It is estimated that more than 10% of the population is dyslexic. This means that in a class of 30 students, at least 3 of them are dyslexic.
Dyslexia is a very common learning disability, and contrary to what many people believe, it doesn’t disappear with age.
This pathology is often confused with lack of interest or motivation. When a student doesn’t get good grades, it is easy to think that they are not making an effort, that they are lazy or immature, that they don’t want to work at home, or that they don’t want to study. Even worse, this difficulty may be attributed to a lack of ability, or more plainly, that the child is “dumb”.
There are hardly any strategies implemented in schools to detect dyslexia, so it is likely that the system caused many people to believe they were less capable than others, that they were worse students, and that they were less intelligent. This is why there are so many adults that haven’t been diagnosed with dyslexia.
What is dyslexia: Is it more common in boys or girls?
Until recently, it was believed that dyslexia was more common in boys than girls, but recent studies have shown that there is very little difference, with boys having only a slightly higher percentage.
What is dyslexia: Is it a learning disorder?
Dyslexia is a learning disability with a neurobiological origin. It is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder, that presents itself when learning how to read and write and makes it difficult for the reader to process writing and orthography.
When it is Developmental Dyslexia which is the most common, it is considered a learning disorder since it happens in the first evolutionary stages. The DSM considers it a specific learning disorder with impairment in reading. As the brain is developing, some of its independent modules undergo an alteration, which impedes the neural structure used in language processing from responding normally. People with dyslexia have a structural dysfunction in a determined nervous network in a specific independent module in the brain that prevents them from correctly processing information.
This disorder was previously interpreted as a visual disorder, but as time went on, it was confirmed that it is actually due to a structural deficit in the neuronal connections that make up language.
If it is an Acquired dyslexia then it is considered a loss of the ability to read but not a learning disorder.
What is dyslexia: Is it a problem with perception?
In the 60s, there was a tendency to think that learning disabilities or disorders were caused by hearing and sight problems. Many experts went back to look at possible causes of dyslexia and thought it may be related to vision problems. The doctors Golberg, Helveston, and Levine showed that children who suffer from dyslexia had the same problems as those without vision problems, which led them to reject the theory.
It is important to keep in mind that dyslexia can be present with other vision problems but it is not directly linked to a specific one.
What is dyslexia: How is it diagnosed?
According to the DSM, the Diagnostic Statistic Manual, the criteria for dyslexia diagnosis goes as follows:
- A. Ongoing difficulties in reading accuracy/fluency; spelling accuracy; written expression competence and fluency. This difficulty has persisted and for at least 6 months, despite specific interventions. This intervention should be recognized as evidence-based and ideally delivered by an experienced and qualified person.
- B. Reading achievement is substantially below that expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-
appropriate education. This is measured by individually administered standardized tests of reading accuracy or comprehension.
- C. The difficulties are apparent in the early years of schooling. The exception to this is where the problems happen later in school years due to the demands on performance.
- D. Specific learning disabilities will not be diagnosed if there is a more plausible explanation for the difficulties.
All four criteria must be met and the level of functional impact is determined as being mild, moderate or severe.
Due to the fact that dyslexia requires observation of behavioral symptoms, it can be tricky. Children are often misdiagnosed with EEG or neuroimaging, where they might have other learning disabilities or might be slow learners. For an EEG to be associated with dyslexia it has to have the language areas in their brain as not active or shut down while doing a language task.
By using EEG and other tests to diagnose we can find out which brain areas are causing the reading or comprehension problems. This can help the professional design a specific training program to target problematic areas.
What is dyslexia: Can it be diagnosed early?
It is natural to think that a child may have dyslexia when they learn to read and have a hard time, but in spite of these indicators, it is impossible to know for sure whether a child will have dyslexia or not from a young age. Learning slowly may also be related to a developmental delay. An evaluation for a specific learning disorder, such as dyslexia can be done from age 7 and older.
What is dyslexia: Are children with dyslexia less intelligent?
Not at all! The visual thinking for dyslexic children is 400 to 2000 times faster than their verbal thinking, and it is more complete. As an adult, many dyslexics have had promising careers in architecture, sculpture, and design, because they can visualize what they want to do before doing it.
What is dyslexia: Is it related to ADHD?
There have been both cognitive and neuroanatomical relationships made between ADHD and dyslexia.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is often seen with dyslexia, but it may be in any of its forms:
- Predominantly Inattentive ADHD
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD
- Combined ADHD with all three nuclear symptoms
It is important to identify if the child has both ADHD and dyslexia because the intervention and treatment program will be different.
The student who suffers from dyslexia will have to make an effort on their reading and writing homework, which will be tiring, making them lose concentration, get distracted, and want to avoid doing these kinds of assignments. This is the reason why these two disorders can be confused.
What is dyslexia: Is it related to Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is also a specific learning disorder similar to dyslexia but with numbers. It is a difficulty learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, etc. It is seen as mathematical dyslexia. Both disorders can appear together however, this is very rare. In order to get a dyscalculia diagnosis, as well as dyslexia, extensive tests have to be made.
What is dyslexia: Is it connected to hyperlexia?
Yes, children with hyperlexia show increased and intense activation of the brain in parts of the left hemisphere in the same area where dyslexics show decreased activation of the same part of the left hemisphere. This may suggest that hyperlexia may represent a point of convergence of several genetically-linked developmental disorders to a specific learning disorder.
What is dyslexia: Is it hereditary?
Many genetic factors play a role in dyslexia, so it could easily be inherited. 40% of children that have a sibling with dyslexia will have the same learning disability. When one of the children is affected by this difficulty, it is likely that one of the parents has it as well.
What is dyslexia: Does it have biological markers?
It’s true that in recent years there have been multiple studies based on genetic evidence and neuroimaging tests that can explain the structural and anatomic aspects of dyslexia, but these biological markers are not normalized for diagnosis. Dyslexia diagnosis is currently centered around studying the clinical history of the patient and assessing the results of different psychometric results.
What is dyslexia: Is it curable?
The learning difficulties caused by dyslexia are chronic and will be apparent throughout the person’s entire life, but its impact may change. Complications when expressing oneself and the consequences specific to this disorder may change as an adult. Adults with dyslexia can read properly, but they have a harder time than someone without it. In order to get to this point, you have to have an intense and persistent therapy during childhood.
What is dyslexia: Can I prevent it?
You can interfere with the first signs of dyslexia and establish a therapy based on the principles of learning to read: promoting phonological skills and word recognition. However, dyslexia cannot be prevented. It’s important to do a diagnosis early on and act on the first signs since it will make the impact less harsh on their daily lives.
What is dyslexia: Can I treat it?
Dyslexia treatment is mainly educational. There are several educational approaches and techniques that help cope with difficulties. Some of these may include involving hearing, vision, and touch in the learning process to help reading skills. It focuses on learning to recognize and use the sounds to make up words. Help understand the letters and strings that compose these sounds. Read aloud to build speed and fluency. Build a vocabulary of these recognized words.
What is dyslexia: Is there an upside to it?
A dyslexia diagnosis can be difficult to hear and disheartening. However, dyslexic people distinctive perceptual abilities.
- They have sharper peripheral vision than others.
- They have “visual gist” meaning they can rapidly take in a scene as a whole.
These great abilities are what makes people with dyslexia great in professions such as design, architecture, and art.
“Identifying the distinctive aptitudes of those with dyslexia will permit us to understand this condition more completely, and perhaps orient their education in a direction that not only remediates weaknesses but builds on strengths”. -Annie Murphy
What is dyslexia: What can dyslexic adults do?
Job stress and no success in employment can be some of the things that adults with dyslexia struggle with on a day to day basis. If you are struggling with this we suggest you seek evaluation and professional help regardless of your age to help with reading and writing. Seek additional cognitive training on your own and reasonable accomodations from your employer.
What is dyslexia: Suggestions to help dyslexic children in school
- Make the child know you understand their difficulties and that you will support them.
- Help them to properly pronounce words.
- Don’t hold them to the same reading level as their classmates.
- Make sure they’ve understood the text they’ve read.
- Positively reinforce them when they ask questions.
- Give them oral tests if possible.
- Don’t make them read in front of other children.
- Give them less reading and writing homework.
- Accept that they have problems concentrating and paying attention.
- We recommend that you practice these fun games and exercises as a family to improve dyslexia and have fun together.
- Treating child dyslexia through scientifically validated clinical exercises is fundamental to be able to boost executive functions and improve reading ease and error detection.
Now that we have answered every question on what is dyslexia, please let us know in the comments below if you have any more.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.