According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, dyslexia is a learning disability that can hinder a person's ability to read, write, spell and sometimes speak. It is one of a group of conditions known as learning disabilities.

A dyslexic child or adult may have problems spelling, reading, putting things in order, following instructions, and may confuse left and right and reverse letters and numbers. Children with dyslexia have difficulty in learning to read despite traditional instruction, at least average intelligence, and an adequate opportunity to learn. It is caused by an impairment in the brain's ability to translate

images received from the eyes or ears into understandable language. It does not result from vision or hearing problems. It is not due to mental retardation, brain damage, or a lack of intelligence.

Dyslexia can go undetected in the early grades of schooling. The child can become frustrated by the difficulty in learning to read, and other problems can arise that disguise dyslexia. The child may show signs of depression and low self-esteem. Behaviour problems at home as well as at school are frequently seen. The child may become unmotivated and develop a dislike for school. The child's success in school may be jeopardized if the problem remains untreated.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in children and persists throughout life. The severity of dyslexia can vary from mild to severe. The sooner dyslexia is treated, the more favourable the outcome; however, it is never too late for people with dyslexia to learn to improve their language skill.

What causes dyslexia and the different types of dyslexia

There are several types of dyslexia that can affect the child's ability to spell as well as read.

  • Trauma dyslexia usually occurs after some form of brain trauma or injury to the area of the brain that controls reading and writing. It is rarely seen in today's school-age population.
  • Primary dyslexia is a dysfunction of, rather than damage to, the left side of the brain (cerebral cortex) and does not change with age. Individuals with this type are rarely able to read above a fourth-grade level and may struggle with reading, spelling, and writing as adults. Primary dyslexia is passed in family lines through their genes (hereditary). It is found more often in boys than in girls.
  • Secondary or Developmental dyslexia and is felt to be caused by hormonal development during the early stages of foetal development. Developmental dyslexia diminishes as the child matures. It is also more common in boys.

Dyslexia may affect several different functions. Visual dyslexia is characterized by number and letter reversals and the inability to write symbols in the correct sequence. Auditory dyslexia involves difficulty with sounds of letters or groups of letters. The sounds are perceived as jumbled or not heard correctly. "Dysgraphia" refers to the child's difficulty holding and controlling a pencil so that the correct markings can be made on the paper.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

Among other symptoms, dyslexia may be characterised by the following.

  • Learning style — the person has difficulty in learning to read, write and spell despite a normal or high IQ.
  • Deficient language and reading skills. Reading may be slow and inaccurate and is usually below grade level.
  • The person may reverse words, e.g. ‘saw’ for ‘was’, or letters, e.g. ‘b’ for ‘d’ — although this is normal up to the age of about 6.
  • Difficulty pronouncing words.
  • Poor skills in spelling, sometimes spelling the same word differently in the same piece of writing.
  • Difficulty in learning the sequence of the alphabet.
  • Difficulty with ‘word problems’ in maths.
  • Difficulty in summarising.
  • Finding it hard to recount a story in the correct sequence.
  • Finding it hard to follow procedures with multiple steps.
  • An inadequate vocabulary.
  • Concentration and memory problems such as restlessness, fidgeting, ‘switching off’ when things get too hard, or forgetting books or what was read even recently.

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

Dyslexia is a difficult disorder to diagnose. There are many factors the psychologist or other health professional reviews to diagnose the disability. The testing determines the child's functional reading level and compares it to reading potential, which is evaluated by an intelligence test. All aspects of the reading process are examined to pinpoint where the breakdown is occurring. The testing further assesses how a child takes in and processes information and what the child does with the information. The tests determine whether a child learns better by hearing information (auditory), looking at information (visual), or doing something (kinesthetic). They also assess whether a child performs better when allowed to give information (output), by saying something (oral), or by doing something with their hands (tactile-kinesthetic). The tests also evaluate how all of these sensory systems (modalities) work in conjunction with each other.

The tests administered are standardized and are considered highly reliable. The child should not feel as if there is something wrong because testing is occurring. Many of the tests use a game-type or puzzle format which can help make the child feel more comfortable. Children should get a good night's sleep prior to the testing and have a good breakfast. If the testing is done in a school setting, the teacher can prepare the child by talking about the person who will come and do special work with the child. With young children, the psychologist may visit the child's classroom before the testing so that the child is familiar with him. Whether or not the testing is done at school, the parent may want to talk to their child about a new person coming to work with them. However, parents should not try to coach the child concerning the testing. It is recommended that parents not be present during the testing.

A standard battery of tests can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition (WISC-III)
  • Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (KABC)
  • Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
  • Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery
  • Peabody Individual Achievement Tests-Revised (PIAT)
  • Wechsler Individual Achievement Tests (WIAT)
  • Kaufman Tests of Educational Achievement (KTEA)
  • Bender Gestalt Test of Visual Motor Perception
  • Beery Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration
  • Motor-Free Visual Perception Test
  • Visual Aural Digit Span Test (VADS)
  • Test of Auditory Perception (TAPS)
  • Test of Visual Perception (TVPS)
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised
  • Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test
  • Test for Auditory Comprehension of Language

Screening Test for Dyslexia in Children

If you answer 'Yes' to four or more of these questions, then your son or daughter may be dyslexic, and probably needs a full individual assessment by a psychologist or a dyslexia test in order to test the dyslexia symptoms.

  • Are there any family members who experienced difficulty learning to read or spell when they were at school?
  • Is your child experiencing reluctance to go to school or feelings of failure at school?
  • Does your child have difficulties with spelling?
  • Does your child miss out words when reading?
  • Does your child have difficulty reading aloud?
  • Does your child sometimes skip lines when reading?
  • Does your child experience difficulty copying from the board?
  • Does your child get confused about following instructions, for example when playing a game?
  • Is your child unable to count backwards from 100 down to 0?
  • Is anyone in your family left-handed?

Different skills

Many people with dyslexia are gifted in areas that don’t need strong language skills, such as art, design, computing and sports. Some are highly intuitive and extremely creative. They should never be considered to have an intellectual disability without further evaluation.

Famous People with Dyslexia

Famous people with dyslexia include Pablo Picasso, Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, Leonard Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Jay Leno and Whoopi Goldberg.

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