By Kristin Stanberry
In recent years, many famous and successful adults have gone public about their learning struggles, attributing a wide range of difficulties to dyslexia. The good news: This type of publicity raises public awareness of learning disabilities, which currently affect nearly 15 percent of Americans, according to the National Institute of Child and Human Development. The downside to widespread publicity: The media, medicine, science, educators, and the law describe and define dyslexia in many different ways, making it hard for parents to gain a clear understanding of what dyslexia really is. In this article, we'll explore the current state of confusion and offer some straight talk about 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:
With this definition in mind, let's explore the confusion that exists on this subject by looking at how various professions view the problem.
The cause and effect of dyslexia are of concern and interest to doctors and research scientists. Interestingly, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV™), published by the American Psychiatric Association, makes no reference to dyslexia. It does, however, include conditions called "reading disorder," "expressive language disorder," and "disorder of written expression" — all of which might fall under the umbrella of dyslexia.
On the research side, however, many well-known neurologists and scientists who conduct brain research tend to use the term "dyslexia." For example, Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz, co-directors of the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development's Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention, use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain activity during reading tasks. Their work has helped establish the neurological basis for the disorder they call dyslexia.
Many educators don't use the term dyslexia. They talk instead about specific learning disabilities or language processing disorders because, they point out, dyslexia is a broad term which isn't very helpful in developing a targeted educational program to meet a child's individual needs. Teachers believe that by pinpointing exactly where the breakdown occurs in a child's language processing (e.g., word recognition/decoding), they can choose the most effective instruction and assistance for the child.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.