Did you know that dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the United States? Approximately 1 in 5 people are dyslexic, and although it is considered a learning disability, being diagnosed with it does not mean you are not intelligent: in fact, studies show that people with dyslexia are often more creative and actually have a higher level of intelligence than others. While the cause is not fully understood, there are some factors that are known to affect the brain’s development and that might contribute to the development of learning disabilities. In honor of October being Dyslexia Awareness Month, we will take a look at this condition, including signs to look for, and how to help treat it.
What Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disability that is usually detected in children, but it is not often outgrown and usually persists into adulthood. Experts believe that between 5 and 10% of people have dyslexia, and around 40% of people with dyslexia also have ADHD.
A common misconception about dyslexia is that people with the disability “see” words backwards, but it is actually an issue with the way the brain processes language: those who are diagnosed with it have trouble reading fluently and will often read slowly and make mistakes while reading. This is because people with disability use only the right side of the brain to process language, while non-dyslexics use three areas on the left side of the brain to process language. Difficulties can spill into other subjects such as spelling, writing, and math. All of this means that those with the disability use about 5 times more energy to complete mental tasks.
There are different types of dyslexia that range from mild to severe, but the sooner it is treated, the better the quality of life for the individual.
The Different Types Of Dyslexia
- Primary dyslexia– This is the most common type of dyslexia, and does not change with age. It causes difficulties processing sounds, letters, and numbers, which negatively affects abilities in spelling, reading and math. It is genetic and is often found more in boys than in girls.
- Secondary, or developmental dyslexia– This type of dyslexia is caused by issues with brain development during the fetal stage, but slowly disappears with age. It is also more common in boys than in girls.
- Trauma, or acquired, dyslexia– This type occurs after trauma to the area of the brain that controls reading and writing.
- Visual dyslexia– This is a condition in which the brain does not interpret visual signals properly, and does not receive the full picture of what the eyes are seeing.
- Phonological dyslexia– With this condition, there are issues with the brain’s processing of sounds and speech. 75% of people who have dyslexia experience difficulty in breaking speech into individual sounds.
- Surface dyslexia– With this form of dyslexia, a child takes longer to process language when they move beyond the decoding stage.
There is no known cause for dyslexia, but researchers believe that it could be caused by genetics and brain differences. It often runs in the family: children have a 50% chance of having dyslexia if one parent has it, and a 100% chance if both parents have it.
Brain anatomy plays a role, as well: brain imaging studies show a difference in the brain between people with and without dyslexia, mainly in the part of the brain that controls key reading skills.
Signs & Symptoms
Dyslexia does not look the same for everyone, but one of the major signs in a child is trouble decoding words, or matching letters to sounds. Dyslexia can affect everyday skills and activities such as social interaction, memory, and ways of dealing with stress. Other signs and symptoms to look for include:
- Avoiding reading out loud
- Slow learning of new vocabulary words
- Difficulty copying from a book or board
- Difficulty remembering content
- Problems with coordination, and difficulty with organized sports or games
- Difficulty with telling the difference between left and right, and with establishing dominance for either hand
- Difficulty remembering or understanding what they hear
- Difficulty recalling sequences
- Missing words or parts of whole sentences when talking
- Difficulty expressing thoughts
- Withdrawal and depression
- Loss of interest in school-related activities
- Problems with self-esteem
In some cases, dyslexia might not be diagnosed until later in childhood, when a child has trouble with more complex skills, including grammar, reading comprehension, reading fluency, sentence structure, and more in-depth writing.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, consult with your doctor about your child’s development so they can conduct tests to determine your child’s functional reading level and compare it to comparable reading levels. They will also assess how your child processes information and offer advice on how they can improve their learning skills.
After your doctor has more of an idea of the type of dyslexia present, a treatment plan will be created, which will focus on your child’s weaknesses and ways to work on strengthening them. School professionals will come up with an academic treatment plan to help your child succeed, and will guide you on how to continue working with your child at home. Early intervention and support is important to help manage the disability.
Dyslexia has nothing to do with how intelligent someone is, it merely means that they have a hard time with reading and comprehension. It is something that can be detected and managed, which is why many people with dyslexia go on to be successful in all aspects of their lives; the best way to make sure this happens, though, is to have a treatment plan in place. In many cases, you can get your child tested for dyslexia for free at their school, but if you get private testing, it can cost you a lot of money, even with health insurance. And, if you do find out that your child is dyslexic, it is important to be insured so you can get them the best treatment possible to manage the disability and to continue to manage it as they grow up.
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