Dyslexia is actually a term covering a range of learning disabilities, all involving a person having problems with language. Generally, dyslexia only refers to disorders that you are born with; if you acquire it later in life, it will be referred to as aphasia. (Although aphasia is generally thought of as affecting speech and comprehension of speech, it may also affect reading and writing). We do not yet have a good understanding of what causes dyslexia, nor how to treat it. Most treatment programs are essentially a form of "practice, practice, practice!"

Phonological dyslexia

  • The main impairment is in pronouncing novel letter strings such as 'Blut'
  • This is always a problem with the reading and comprehension of phonetic relations within words; if you are having problems moving your tongue into position to make words, you have apraxia, not dyslexia.

Surface dyslexics

Deep dyslexics

  • The main impairment is semantic paraphasias such as pronouncing 'sympathy' as 'orchestra.'
  • People with deep dyslexia cannot read phonetically -- but may appear to read phonetically by first doing whole-word recognition, and then accessing the phonology.
  • Cannot make rhyme judgments on words.
  • Cannot read any non-words at all.
  • Can read whole words to some degree.
  • These people may make a lot of semantic substitutions (e.g. PEACH read as APRICOT), but this may be a comparatively minor symptom. If this happens even once or twice during a reading session, that should be a red flag!

It wasn't that long ago (the late 70s and throughout the 80s, basically) that dyslexia was a go-to disorder (in much the same way as autism and ADD/ADHD are today). If something was going wrong with a kid in school, 'dyslexia' was a socially acceptable and more-or-less generally understood disorder -- so we labeled kids as dyslexic left and right. Obviously, a diagnosis like this is not exactly comforting, but it's nice to be able to give a label to the problem. Due to the vagueness of the simple term 'dyslexia', the general lack of testing to back up such a diagnosis, and the fact that it doesn't tell you much of anything about how to correct the problem, most educators are a little wary of the term these days; the broader term specific learning disability is often used in its place. The bullet points I've listed above give you some idea as to the complexity of dyslexia. Many of the problems that were once attributed to dyslexia are now attributed to a lack of phonological awareness skills, which at least gives us clear preventive measures (read to your kids!)

While it may be useful to claim that your child (or yourself) is dyslexic, be aware that this does not really tell anyone anything except that 'he has trouble reading'. If you have to deal with dyslexia on a practical level, you should identify specific problems and focus on overcoming those. The umbrella term dyslexia does not contain any real information on its own. It should be a starting point of a long and complicated explanation, not a pithy way to pigeonhole people.

Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by problems in the oral or written language. The word dyslexia is comes from the Greek "dys" (meaning poor) and "lexis" (language).

Problems may begin to show up in reading, spelling, writing, speaking, or listening. Dyslexia is not the result of low intelligence. Dyslexia results from differences in the structure and function of the brain. Their problems in language processing distinguish them as a group. This means that the dyslexic has problems translating language to thought or thought to language.

Some common signs of Dyslexia are:

  • Lack of awareness of sounds in words
  • Difficulty with word identification
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Poor sequencing of numbers or letters
  • Problems with reading comprehension
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts both in written and oral form
  • Delayed spoken language
  • Confusion about directions in space or time
  • Confusion about right or left handedness
  • Similar problems among relative
  • Difficulty with handwriting
  • Difficulty in mathematics

The NIH estimates that approximately 15% of the U.S. population is affected by learning disabilities. Dyslexia occurs among all groups regardless of age, race, or income. Many successful people are dyslexic. Recent research has shown that dyslexia is genetic.

Individuals with dyslexia need special programs to learn to read, write, and spell. Traditional educational programs are not always effective. Tutors and schools specializing in Dyslexia are often used, as well as Psychotherapy and multi-sensory teaching and strategies.

What is it?
Dyslexia (refered to by some as "a specific learning difficulty"), is a learning difficulty that affects reading, spelling, memory, concentration and sometimes maths, music] and foreign languages. Brain scans of effected people tends to suggest that dyslexic people process information differently to everyone else. It is caused by a difference in the structure of the part of the brain that deals with language.
It is believed to be genetic, having been observed to run in families. While the severity of the disorder can vary with individuals, it affects people for life.


Symptoms - how to recognise it - age related clues
Some of the characteristics shown by dyslexics include:
Pre-school kids:
Language based:-
Non-Language:-

In early school:
Language based:-
  • Has particular difficulty with reading and spelling.

  • Puts letters and figures the wrong way round.

  • Has difficulty remembering multiplication tables, alphabet, formulae etc.

  • Leaves letters out of words or puts them in the wrong order.

  • Still occasionally confuses ‘b’ and ‘d’ and words such as ‘no/on’.

  • Still needs to use fingers or marks on paper to make simple calculations.

  • Poor concentration.

  • Has problems understanding what he/she has read.

  • Takes longer than average to do written work.

  • Problems processing language at speed.


Non-Language based:-
  • Has difficulty with tying shoe laces, tie, dressing.

  • Has difficulty telling left from right, order of days of the week, months of the year etc.

  • Surprises you because in other ways he/she is bright and alert.

  • Has a poor sense of direction and still confuses left and right.
  • Lacks confidence and has a poor self image.


12 and over:
As for primary schools, plus:
Non-language based:-

For some more details of symptoms in adults, check out the BDA checklist at http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/d02adult/a03check.htm


Symtoms - how to recognise it - area related clues
In children, other symtoms in general could be:
When reading:-
  • Slow/laboured reading single words in isolation ie. not accompanied by a picture or in a story.

  • Reading aloud is slow and with irregular cadence.
  • Sometime ignoring puctuation.

  • May have low reading comprehension because of spending too much effort in reading the words. Listening comprehension may be significantly higher than reading.

  • Often reverses, transposes, inverts letters. For example dog and bog, ded and bed or we and me for inverting or transposing with gril for girl.

  • Substitute similar looking words even if it changes the meaning of the sentence. Sunrise for surprise.

  • When reading, sometimes transpose words with similar meanings that do not look similar.


When writing:-
  • The way the pen is held can be a clue. The writer may either hold it very high or very low or even in a fist grip.

  • Writing letters is a slow, laboured chore.

  • Letters sometimes have unusual start and end points.

  • Finds it hard to get the letters to 'sit' on the line.

  • Unusual spacial organisation on the page.

  • Shows confusion when learning cursive letters especially with similarly shaped cursive letters.


Quality of written work:-
  • Extrememly short sentences.

  • Might suffer from dysphraxia. This can take the form of slow and/or illegible writing.

  • Poor mastery of syntax, grammer and punctuation.

  • Poor spelling.

  • Missing mistakes on the page even after proof-reading.


Directions:-
Most dyslexic children have difficulties with directions and confuse north, south, east and west, up and down, left and right. Often difficulty in reading maps.

Sequences and steps:-
  • Difficulty in tying shoelaces. This may be not only to do with having difficulty in using sequences and steps but with directions as well.

  • Long division can often be a problem due to the fact that you have to do the same 5 steps in the correct order over and over again.

  • Touch typing is essential for people with dysgraphia. Unfortunately, this tends to be more difficult for people with dyslexia. They often find that the letters are all placed randomly which requires rote memorization. Also, there is a problem with sequencing when having to work out the actions for using capitals ie using shift then typing the key. Direction comes into it with difficulties deciding which key for which hand.


Rote memory of non-meaningful facts:-
Dyslexics often have difficulty memorizing facts that have no particular relevance or personal interest involved. This is for both adult and children.

Time and management:-
Dyslexics often have trouble using analog clocks. Since they often have problems with fractions saying "quarter to 6" means that they have to realise that the time is 5:45. This phrase also involves direction in that something "to" is before and something "past" is after.
Dyslexics find it difficult to estimate the time it will take to do something and as a result, are often late. Appointment calenders can cause confusion, it has been known for some to turn up for meetings etc on time on the wrong day or week.

Spatial organisation:-
Dyslexics often have trouble organising the space around themselves, prefering to pile things up rather than tidy and put things away. Sometime it seems as though, if they can't see an item, it isn't there. This disorganisation can invade their personal space - they often have trouble organising work or study space. They also have a tendency not to bring all of the required things to meetings or home to do homework.

Maths difficulties:-
Since there is a lot of memory, sequence and direction involved in maths, then there is often confusion in this field. While dyslexics are often very good at maths due to an increased ability for 3d visualistion, this can be masked with problems with some of what some might call the basics.

On the positive side, there are lot of things that dyslexics are better than average at:-


Sources:
http://www.bda-dyslexia.org.uk
http://www.dys-add.com
http://www.interdys.org


Inspiration for this piece: Yesterday I forgot how to form letters properly.
Disclaimer: The following write up is entirely subjective, what professionals would call anecdotal. If you're here, I figure you're interested in dyslexia, and if you've never met one, now you have.

Hooray for these writeups on dyslexia. There are a lot of people like me who have a mild form of this difficulty, not all cases are the worst extreme. I'd like to tell how it has affected me all my life.

The worst part was knowing there was something different about me, but not knowing what it was. Sometimes I felt so stupid, I mean shouldn't a kid be able to remember his parents' birthdays? And telling directions to some one else, the joke got to be "Turn left, No your other left". I know it seems that dialing the telephone should be the easiest thing in the world, but once I turn away from the page with the numbers and try to punch them in to the telephone, it some times takes 3 or 4 or more tries. Dialing a group of people on a phone list for me is torture, and frustration adds to the difficulty by accentuating the problems. Even though I now type for my living, I can't touch type. I can't remember the keys, I can type like crazy when I look at my fingers, and I have good hand eye coordination so I can get out my thoughts now. I cannot write in script. My printing is barely legible. Anyone who's read my writeups can attest to my spelling trouble. The correct and the incorrect don't have enough difference between them for me to remember.

There are good things about having this kind of brain though. I did construction for many years and there are a lot of people with the same kind of difficulties with language arts in the manual arts field. I can discuss at length detailed parts of things that don't exist yet. My partner and I were talking one day about the as yet unbuilt roof, pointing up in to empty space and the home owner who was listening said "You guys can see things that aren't there!", but of course it was second nature to us.

My dad has it, he told me later in life. I have read it is more prevalent in men than women. I discovered what dyslexia was and that it affected me in my middle 20's. The revelation was staggering. I finally understood how my brain worked. I wasn't stupid or broken, just different, and I am too. I process information differently, I can't memorize on demand. I won't remember your name on the first try, ever unless or until something significant happens. I remember all the lyrics from my childhood music records, from age 2. I remember my big brother's Army serial number because I had to write on the letters I sent him as a kid, I have a hard time remembering my son's birth date. If an event only happens once a year, I can't get it to stick in there. Music makes it easier to remember things. I'm a whiz with the names of old long dead actors I saw in black and white movies, I can't remember the names of my children's classmates. I am great at problem solving, answer divining, solution finding, if I put something out of sight, it's out of mind. I am glad there is more awareness in the schools to help the little kids not think they're stupid.

My son made his 5's backwards for a long time. He holds the pencil funny, we never could get him to grip it like the other kids do. I wonder about him. He doesn't show any other outward signs so far. I still sometimes get the order of numbers or letters in words wrong. Knowing what's going on makes it a lot more tolerable.
The structural differences appear to be in the cerebral neocortex of the brain. According to Albert Galaburda and Thomas Kemper, pioneers in the study of brain structure and its relation to dyslexia, the problem stems from "ectopias," neurons that migrate past where they are supposed to and into the outermost layer of the cerebral neocortex. This area usually has no nerve cell bodies, and the presence of these seems to disrupt the neural organization of the brain. The damage reverberates and the changes in organization of neural networks spread to other areas. In the end, the brain appears to reorganize its thinking patterns in such a way that language is much more difficult to process.

The damage appears to be different in females and males, with males having more ectopias (these are also called nodules in some books) and women less so, although they showed other evidence of "neuronal loss" in the cerebral cortex.

These nodules occur during embryonic development, and their cause is unknown, although many believe it to be genetic, perhaps having to do with chromosome 6.

Much of this was adapted from an International Dyslexia Association article. Most books discuss the fact that structure plays into it, but few have any specifics. http://www.interdys.org/servlet/compose?section_id=5&page_id=47

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