Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by a difficulty in using words and even symbols for knowledge acquisition. Dyslexic patients have particular problems with phonemes – those linguistic units that make-up words. As a consequence, dyslexic patients often have problems with reading, writing and spelling. Almost by definition, a person with dyslexia has a wide discrepancy between his ability to read and his intelligence, learning aptitude and age level. Researchers will refer to the dyslexic patient has being “two standard deviations” below normal in reading – which simply means that their in the bottom third of their class in reading ability.
Dyslexic children will often exhibit the following behaviors:
- Have difficulty in hand writing
- Have difficulty in reading at their grade level
- May have been slow to talk as a child
- Have problems identifying letters and words
- Have problems in verbally expressing themselves
- Confuse directions as well as handedness
- May have problems with math
- Reverses letters and words
Dyslexia affects about three times as many boys as girls. About 10% of children have varying degrees of dyslexia. It is not related to intelligence per se, it is not a behavioral problem or a social problem or a psychological problem. This does not mean that dyslexic children do not develop various types of problems – they may because of the lack of knowledge about their condition, which is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
People with dyslexia will report that words seen to jump around on the printed page and words and letters appear superimposed. Although people with dyslexia will sometimes see a “d” as a “b” and reverse words like “god” and “dog”, it is important to note that young children who are learning to read and write will also have these common errors. Unlike normal children, however, dyslexic children never “grow out of” such problems. There is no “cure” for dyslexia. This does not mean that there are no remediation strategies available for such children.
Recent research suggests that dyslexia may be related to how the brain receives and processes transient or time varying information. For example when a child reads, his eyes make very rapid “saccadic” eye movements from one word to the next on the line of the printed page. This visual information travels along the visual pathways to cortical sites that are used for vision as well as information processing for identifying words and their meaning. Research has shown that one of these brain sites, called visual area 5, does not process this transient visual information correctly. As a consequence, as a dyslexic child tries to read, his brain scrambles the words on the page making it difficult to read.
Other research suggests that another problem in dyslexia is the processing of the fundamental units of words – called phonemes. There are 44 phonemes that make-up the English language. It is believed that people with dyslexia have a difficult time in encoding these phonemes in order to store and retrieve written language. As a consequence, a person with dyslexia may not have a problem in talking but may have a problem in writing and reading.
What to do
If you suspect that you or your child is dyslexic, you should ask your school personnel or school counselor or school psychologist to test you child for dyslexia. For a start, have your child complete the dyslexia test as found at the Dyslexia Institute in England (http://www.dyslexia-inst.org.uk/index.htm). Go to http://www.dyslexia-inst.org.uk/dys_test.htm to take the test. Also go the Web site for the International Dyslexia Association (http://www.interdys.org/) where you also can find-out about what needs to be done.