Dyslexia: An overview
Learn what dyslexia is, what signs to look out for, and what you can do to help if your child is dyslexic.
By Jan Baumel, M.S.
You've heard the term "dyslexia" and wonder if it applies to your child who's struggling in school. How can you tell if she has this language-based learning disability?
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (Adopted by the IDA Board in November 2002 and by the National Institutes of Health in 2002.)
The Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) defines dyslexia as a learning disability in the area of reading.
These organizations point out that the term dyslexia is defined in many different ways. While reading is the primary problem, some definitions of dyslexia also include difficulties with:
A person with dyslexia is someone whose problem in reading is not the result of emotional problems, lack of motivation, poor teaching, mental retardation, or vision or hearing deficits. Dyslexia is a persistent, lifelong condition. There's no cure for it, but there are ways to approach learning and be successful.
Although kids with dyslexia have language processing and learning difficulties in common, the symptoms and severity can be quite different. Kids learn some academic skills at a level lower than others their same age and intellectual peers, but they can do other things quite well. They may be talented in the arts, skilled in technology, or adept with spatial relationships. These strengths and talents need to be encouraged and reinforced.
What should I look for?
Most kids have problems in school at one time or another. Ask yourself and the teacher if your child has shown these characteristics to a greater degree than normal over a period of time and in different environments, e.g., school, home, child care.
- Has difficulty pronouncing words, may reverse or substitute parts of words
- Has difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions
- Doesn't hear fine differences in words; e.g., writes "pin" for "pen"
- Has problems stating thoughts in an organized way
- Confuses the order of letters in words
- Doesn't recognize words previously learned
- Spells a word several different ways; doesn't recognize the correct version
- Has poor reading comprehension
- Has difficulty remembering what he just read
- Has difficulty concentrating when reading or writing
- Is unable to tell important information from unimportant details
- Spells poorly; misspelling is not phonetic
- Has problems taking notes accurately
- Has difficulty organizing and completing written projects