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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a difficulty in learning to read despite traditional instruction, average intelligence, and an adequate opportunity to learn. It is an impairment in the brain's ability to translate images received from the eyes or ears into understandable language. Dyslexia 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. Behavior 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 dyslexia remains untreated.

What causes Dyslexia?

There are three main types of dyslexia that can affect the child's ability to spell as well as read. Each type of dyslexia has a different cause. The three main types are trauma dyslexia, primary dyslexia and developmental dyslexia.

Trauma dyslexia usually occurs after some type of brain trauma or injury to the area of the brain that controls reading and writing. This type of dyslexia 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 maturity. 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 hereditary and is found more often in boys than in girls.

The difference between primary dyslexia and trauma dyslexia is that trauma dyslexia occurs after a brain trauma and primary dyslexia is a dysfunction of the brain.

Developmental dyslexia is caused by hormonal development during the early stages of fetal development. Developmental dyslexia diminishes as the child matures. This type is also more common in boys.

Dyslexia involves several different functions: visual, auditory and dysgraphia. 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?

The most common symptoms of dyslexia are:

  • Letter and number reversals
  • difficulty copying from a board
  • problems with special relationships

Letter and number reversals are fairly common up to the age of seven or eight and usually diminish by that time. If they do not, it may be appropriate to test for dyslexia or other learning problems.

Difficulty copying from the board or a book can also be a symptom. There may be a general disorganization of written work. A child may not be able to remember content, even if it involves a favorite video or storybook.

Problems with spatial relationshipscan extend beyond the classroom and be observed on the playground. The child may appear to be uncoordinated and have difficulty with organized sports or games. Difficulty with left and right is common, and often a dominance for either hand has not been established. In the early grades, music and dance are often used to enhance academic learning. Children with dyslexia can have difficulty moving to the rhythm of the music.

How is Dyslexia diagnosed?

Dyslexia is difficult to diagnose. A psychologist or other health professional does a series of tests for diagnosis. The tests determines the child's functional reading level and compares it to reading potential, which is evaluated by an intelligence test. Tests also assess how a child takes in and processes information, and what the child does with the information.

Treatment for Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be treated. However, treatment must be tailored to each individual person.

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