OHSU

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a reading disability that happens when the brain does not properly recognize and process language and graphic symbols.

Dyslexia can be inherited. It can also appear in combination with other disorders such as developmental writing or arithmetic disorder, which also use symbols to convey information.

A common misconception about dyslexia is that dyslexic readers write words backwards or move letters around when reading. This is rare.

Treatment

Every person with dyslexia requires a different strategy to treat it. Although reading difficulties may be present for life, specialized help and treatment can lead to marked improvement in reading and understanding.

For instance, if a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, parents may set up an individual education plan with the child’s school to ensure success. Children with dyslexia may also benefit from:

  • Extra learning assistance (remedial instruction)
  • Individual/private tutoring
  • Special day classes
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Psychological counseling

Symptoms

People with dyslexia are identified by writing that does not seem to match their level of intelligence. Most have normal to above-average intelligence, but typically read at levels significantly lower than expected. Additionally, dyslexic people often substitute similar-looking, but unrelated, words in place of the ones intended (what/want, say/saw, help/held, run/fun, fell/fall, to/too, who/how etc.)

Children

Dyslexia symptoms in young children may include:

  • Developmental delays in speech
  • Reversed letters or “mirror writing”
  • Distraction by background noise

A child with dyslexia can suffer setbacks at school such as delays in speech, reading, writing arithmetic, behavioral problems and low self-esteem.

Since a child's initial reading skills are based on word recognition and the ability to separate out the sounds in words and match them with letters, it is important to seek help early on if you suspect dyslexia.

Adults

At older ages, symptoms may include:

  • Very poor spelling, also referred to as: dysorthographia (orthographic coding)
  • Omitting or adding letters or words when writing and reading
  • Difficulty with identifying or generating rhyming words, or counting syllables in words (phonological awareness)
  • Difficulty segmenting words into individual sounds, or blending sounds to make words
  • Difficulty with word retrieval or naming

Adults with dyslexia may be able to read with good comprehension, but more slowly than non-dyslexics. They may also perform poorly in spelling and nonsense word reading (a measure of phonological awareness).

Adult onset of dyslexia can also occur after a brain injury or in the context of dementia.

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