Dyslexia is a neurological condition that is characterised by trouble with reading comprehension. Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines Dyslexia as a specific learning disability in reading. It can cause individuals to have trouble reading accurately and fluently, poor decoding, and poor spelling ability, including writing and reading comprehension.
Dyslexic people can have difficulty with phonological awareness (manipulations of sounds) and the ability to segment words into their syllable components when speaking (speech sounds). Dyslexia affects the way information is processed, stored and retrieved. Dyslexics have difficulties with attention and concentration due to the continued strain of trying to understand what they read.
Dyslexia occurs when the brain connections between areas that represent speech sounds and the left frontal lobe (important for higher level processing) are significantly impaired. Neurophysiological research has found that a core deficit in Dyslexia is the disrupted timing in auditory processing, particularly in the range relevant to speech sounds. This inability to respond to speech sounds consistently causes problems in relating a speech sound to the written letter. These learning difficulties are phonological, namely an underlying defect in segmenting and manipulating the phoneme constituents of speech.
Dyslexia can first be noticed in infants but is not typically diagnosed until childhood, though it is not uncommon for adults to be living with Dyslexia without being diagnosed. Brain injury or dementia commonly cause the adult onset of Dyslexia. It’s believed that about 20% of the population are living with the condition.
Dyslexic children often have associated deficits that co-exists with Dyslexia including:
Dyslexia in children who have no other brain condition or injury has no known cause, though it is believed to be genetic. Neurological research of Dyslexics suggests that they have abnormal cortical development in the key region of the “reading network”.
Dyslexia is up to 8 times higher in first degree relatives of individuals who have the condition compared to those without it. Genetic and environmental factors are thought to have a combined role in Dyslexia which is indicated by being able to predict a specific learning disorder in offspring by checking the family history for reading difficulties and parental literacy skills.
The onset of Dyslexia in adults is usually due to stroke or brain injury. It can be caused by medications and also surgery. Traits
Reading: A Dyslexic child may have normal intelligence and be receiving the necessary parental and schooling support, but still has difficulty in learning to read. During reading, they may have to regularly re-read paragraphs and still have little understanding of even basic information. They lose the place in the section that they have read and will need to start again. Words may become jumbled, or left out entirely, leaving sentences that make little sense. In adults reading skills may have developed but still require added effort done at a slow pace, which may cause extreme fatigue.
Writing: During writing, they may rewrite the same word or letter, the written word may become jumbled with letters out of place or words left out of sentences. They generally have messy handwriting. In adults, they may write very informative and professional articles but have many spelling mistakes. Even when proof reading their writing, these errors may still not be noticed.
Speaking: A Dyslexic child may take longer than others to learn to speak. They may commonly mispronounce words, have trouble with rhyming, and not appear to distinguish between different word sounds such as “cough” and “dough”. Long, unfamiliar, or complicated words such as those that have more than two syllables can be more challenging due to their inability to process words (sound out words) phonologically. In adults, they may struggle to retrieve words that they know but can’t pronounce causing them to avoid difficult words and sometimes replace them with easier options.
Learning sets of data: Dyslexic children may take longer to learn and to remember the letters of the alphabet and how they are pronounced. They may have difficulty remembering their arithmetic tables, less common colours, and even days of week or months of the year.
Delayed development: Dyslexic children may take longer to learn to crawl, walk, talk and reach other milestones.
Concentration: It is common for Dyslexics to have trouble maintaining focus, due to the continual strain exerted while trying to read or write information, causing mental exhaustion. Types of Dyslexia
There are two main types of Dyslexia, those that are developmental and those that are acquired. Developmental Dyslexia is the most common and is typically hereditary, it's more Auditory (relating to the sense of hearing) in nature. Developmental Dyslexics have phonological troubles meaning that they have difficulty with phonemes or sounding out words. Acquired Dyslexia is less common and is generally caused by stroke or brain injury; usually a more visual condition. Acquired Dyslexics have difficulty with semantics (analysis of word meanings and relations between them) and sight words.
The most common type of Dyslexia affecting children is phonological Dyslexia, but they may have one or more other types of less common Dyslexia.
Phonological Dyslexia: This is the most common type of developmental Dyslexia and is characterised by difficulty with identifying individual sounds that make up a word. While learning to read children decode words by sounding them out one letter, or group of letters, at a time. If a child struggles to hear the sequence of sounds that come together to form the word, they may not know the word when they see it or not be able to spell the word to write it down.
Surface Dyslexia: Normally acquired but can also be developmental, and is characterised by difficulty with whole word recognition and the inability to easily convert new words into sight words. Sight words are words that are instantly recognised by the reader, not sounded out and require almost no effort. Surface Dyslexics may be able to sound out words phonetically but have extreme difficulty sounding out words that don’t sound the way they’re spelt, such as “weight”. Instead of these words being recognised at a glance, they must be decoded each time they are encountered, causing poor comprehension and increasing processing speed for reading.
Deep Dyslexia: Characterised as the occurrence of grammatical errors during reading and the impairment of non-word reading typically acquired due to stroke or head injury. Deep Dyslexia can have symptoms that include visual errors, where the written word “thing” is spoken aloud as “think”, derivational errors where the written word “governor” is read aloud as “government” and poor reading of function words. Diagnosis
The process of diagnosing a child with Dyslexia will typically begin with a parent or teacher realising that their child is having trouble with reading and writing. The child may be struggling with words to sounds, or having difficulty reading and retaining sight words consistently.
The first step is usually to rule out any intellectual disabilities, hearing and vision impairment, lack of appropriate teaching, language disorder or emotional problems.
A psychologist will then test the child’s IQ comparable to their age, provide achievement tests to determine the child’s learning difficulty and questionnaires. They will analyse these to help with the correct diagnosis.
Children are not commonly diagnosed until seven years of age, but if a younger child is showing signs and symptoms of Dyslexia, then an educational psychologist may do a comprehensive assessment to identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations to address the identified difficulties. Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no one cure or treatment for Dyslexia. It is important to remember that there are many different traits and symptoms of Dyslexia and each child is an individual who will require a personalised analysis to provide the most appropriate treatment option. Listen to professionals including psychologists and teachers to understand which treatment option is best for your child.
Some of the many treatment options available include those which can be used online or in a home environment. Consider if the program improves reading and how it works, how much progress can be expected and how it is measured, and what evidence is available to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.
Structured, sequential, and phonics based programs of literacy instruction appear to be the best intervention that has lasting benefits to improve reading. Phonic based material can create new connections within the brain that will make reading more successful and minimise effort. Schooling
The government has recommended that school teachers be trained to identify and assess Dyslexia and other significant reading difficulties. This enables schools to be self-sufficient in evaluating children, provide evidence based instruction, and make reasonable adjustments.
Dyslexic students can overcome their condition and excel academically with many transitioning successfully into University and the work force. To help them reach their full potential, they may need high-quality intensive literacy instruction with teachers being aware of their learning difficulties and providing extra time to process and learn new material.
The use of a computer may assist to allow them to download programs such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text. Teaching explicit rules for sounding out words and spelling, the use of flash cards and repetition of reading and copying words then using them in sentences, all may have a positive effect on the child.
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