What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific kind of reading difficulty. Despite average to above average intelligence, children with dyslexia have difficulty learning to “decode,” or read words by associating sounds and letters or letter combinations. They have difficulty recognizing common “sight words,” or frequently occurring words that most readers recognize instantly. Examples of sight words are “the” and “in.” Children with dyslexia also have difficulty learning how to spell, sometimes referred to as “encoding.” Recent research suggests that there are two main features of dyslexia. First of all, people with dyslexia have weak phonemic awareness. This means that they have difficulty hearing the fine distinctions among individual sounds, or phonemes, of the language. They also have difficulty rhyming and breaking words down into individual sounds. Phonemic awareness relates directly to learning to decode and to spell words. In addition, it takes longer for people with dyslexia to “process” phonemic information, or to make connections between sounds and letters or letter combinations. When reading, people with dyslexia need more time than typical readers to put together individual sounds into words.
What are the symptoms of dyslexia?
The following is a list of common symptoms of dyslexia. If your child exhibits one or more of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that she has dyslexia. A thorough evaluation is needed to determine if a child has dyslexia. If your child exhibits many of these symptoms, however, it is a good idea to talk with her teacher:
What causes dyslexia?
Recent research indicates that the cause of dyslexia lies in the brain. The brains of children with dyslexia simply have a harder time learning and remembering the code to how sounds and letters go together. Despite this difficulty, children with dyslexia have strong listening vocabularies and understand text when it is read aloud to them. They are bright, are good thinkers, and are often very creative. With special instruction, children with dyslexia learn to read, but most continue to be somewhat slow readers and many struggle with spelling into adulthood. Luckily, there are many strategies that people with dyslexia can learn to help them compensate for these difficulties. As a result, people with dyslexia who have had special help as children and who have developed solid compensatory strategies, or ways of using their strengths to help them compensate for their weaknesses, can be successful in all walks of life.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dyslexia
There is no evidence that children with dyslexia see differently from other children. The root cause of dyslexia lies in a difficulty processing sounds–not visual information. While it is true that children with dyslexia tend to reverse similar letters, such as “b” and “d,” for a longer time than typical children, it is important to remember that nearly all children reverse letters in the early stages of reading and writing development. Letter reversals in children with dyslexia are a result of slower literacy development and do not indicate that they “see” the letters any differently from typical children.
It was once thought that dyslexia is more common in boys than in girls, but recent research had shown that this is not the case. An equal number of girls and boys are dyslexic. It is thought that boys are more likely to act out as a result of having a reading difficulty and are therefore more likely to be identified early. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to try to “hide” their difficulty, becoming quiet and reserved.
Because the source of dyslexia lies in the brain, children do not outgrow dyslexia. With the proper intervention, children with dyslexia can learn to read well. As adults, people with dyslexia can be successful in many different careers, although many adults with dyslexia continue to have difficulty with spelling and tend to read relatively slowly.
Not all reading problems are dyslexia. Some reading problems are caused by lack of exposure to books and good language models in the home or to lack of quality reading instruction in school. Other children with reading problems or difficulties can read text accurately, but have difficulty with reading comprehension.
Research suggests that about 17 percent of the population has dyslexia.