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Dyslexia is not a disability, but a learning difficulty. “Dys” means difficulty with and “lexia” means words, hence the “difficulty with words”. It is a neurological condition that is characterised by difficulties that mainly affect the ability of a child to read, write and spell.

Dyslexia can be seen in various forms; while some kids only have difficulty pronouncing words, some find it difficult to write. There are different kinds of dyslexia, but other learning disabilities like dyscalculia and dyspraxia are also sometimes mistaken for dyslexia.

One of the major problems surrounding dealing with dyslexia is that people are unaware of its signs. A majority of the children affected by dyslexia remain undiagnosed - either due to the negligence of parents or ignored by teachers - and suffer through their lives. Different signs of dyslexia can be seen at different stages of life.

Although a lifelong problem, early diagnosis of dyslexia can help manage it better. A dyslexic child can learn to read, write and speak perfectly normally with the help of parents and teachers.

  1. Types of dyslexia
  2. Developmental disabilities mistaken for dyslexia
  3. Signs and symptoms of dyslexia in different stages of life
  4. Causes of dyslexia
  5. Managing children with dyslexia
  6. Educational amendments for dyslexia
  7. Parental support for children with dislexia
  8. Takeaways about dyslexia
  9. Doctors for Dyslexia

Types of dyslexia

There can be various types of dyslexia. Some significant ones are:

Phonological dyslexia

People with phonological dyslexia aren’t able to form words as they are unable to blend the sounds to make a word. Phoneme blending, or being able to break sounds down to form words, requires listening to a sequence of separately spoken sounds and combining them to form a recognisable word, like the sounds ‘sh’, ‘o’ and ‘p’ are used in the word ‘shop’.

Surface dyslexia

Surface dyslexia is described as the inability to read words that are spelt differently from how they’re pronounced (homophones). This means they will make mistakes once the visual appearance (the spelling) is not in accordance with the rules of pronunciation. For instance, ‘yacht’ or ‘island’.

Deep dyslexia

People with this type of dyslexia represent a loss of capacity to read, often because of a head trauma or a stroke that affects the left side of the brain. It is identified by two things: grammatical errors and difficulty reading non-words.

Developmental dyslexia

Developmental dyslexia is caused due to a defect in the temporal lobe of the brain. In this case, there is a defect in the large-sized nerve cells located in the hypothalamus of the brain called the magnocellular neurons. Since these cells are a part of the visual cycle, this affects the visual ability of the child in an unusual manner. Thus, despite having normal sensory organs (eyes, nose, ear), the child suffers from difficulty in reading and learning. The oral and non-verbal reasoning powers of the child remain intact.

Developmental disabilities mistaken for dyslexia

Other learning disabilities which are mistaken for dyslexia are:

  1. Dyscalculia
  2. Dysgraphia
  3. Dyspraxia
  4. Left-right confusion
  5. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Dyscalculia

Individuals with dyscalculia may have poor comprehension of arithmetic symbols, may struggle with memorising and organising numbers, have difficulty telling time or have trouble counting.

Dysgraphia

A person with dysgraphia may have problems including scribbled handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spelling and difficulty while composing, writing as well as thinking and writing at the same time.

Dyspraxia

Medically known as Developmental Coordination Disorder, the child is unable to maintain physical coordination. The signs of dyspraxia in infants present as a delay in developmental milestones like sitting, crawling and self-feeding.

Left-right confusion

Most children develop a firm grasp of left and right by the time they are 7-8 years old, but individuals with this disorder may have trouble distinguishing right from left, have trouble with directions or reading maps throughout their lives. It is mostly accompanied by other learning disabilities like dyslexia and dyscalculia.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviour. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active. The condition begins in childhood and can persist through adolescence and adulthood.

Signs and symptoms of dyslexia in different stages of life

A prominent sign of dyslexia in people is trouble in rapidly naming things like letters, numbers and colours when they see them. Called rapid automatized naming (RAN), a dyslexic person can say names but it takes them longer to name many in a row. 

According to the Dyslexia Association of India, signs of dyslexia can vary in different age groups.

Kindergarten, Playschool, Pre School

Signs that could be seen in children with dyslexia in this age group are:

  • Unclear speech
  • Difficulty hearing and pronouncing sounds
  • Frustration
  • Confusion in directional words like 'up/down', 'in/out' or 'left/right'
  • Difficulty remembering nursery rhymes
  • Unable to remember instructions given in a sequence
  • Inclination towards constructional toys like puzzles and Lego blocks
  • Increased creativity like good at origami and drawing
  • Difficulty with rhyming words, for instance 'cat mat fat'

Children under 10

Signs that could be seen in children with dyslexia in this age group are:

  • Difficulty learning to spell and write their own name
  • Difficulty reading, spelling or writing
  • Inability to blend sounds to make a word, for instance, by blending the sounds of alphabets ‘m’, ‘o’ and ‘m’ to pronounce the word ‘mom’
  • Finding it difficult to add new words to their vocabulary
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Slow worker
  • Difficulty dealing with mathematics, like numbers and multiplication tables
  • Confusion in directional words like 'up/down', ‘in/out’ or ‘left/right’
  • Persistent reversing of numbers and letters (e.g. 15 for 51, ‘b’ for 'd')
  • Difficulty learning alphabets, days of the week, colours, shapes etc.
  • Difficulty telling or retelling a story in the correct sequence
  • Frustration
  • Low self-esteem

Children 9-13 years of age

Signs that could be seen in kids with dyslexia in this age group are:

  • Speech difficulty
  • Confusion in directional words like 'up/down', ‘in/out’ or ‘left/right’ 
  • Repeated mistakes in reading with a poor understanding of the text
  • Writing slowly
  • Difficulty copying from blackboard or textbook
  • Difficulty taking down notes while listening to oral instructions
  • Notebooks filled with bizarre spellings, with either letters missed or in the wrong order
  • Difficulty repeating polysyllabic words
  • Low self-esteem
  • Increased frustration

High school children aged 13-18 years

Signs that could be seen in children with dyslexia in this age group are:

  • Inaccurate reading without understanding
  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Frustration
  • Confusion in directional words like 'up/down', ‘in/out’ or ‘left/right’
  • Confusion in taking down verbal instructions or telephone numbers
  • Difficulty planning or writing essays
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language

Causes of dyslexia

Dyslexia involves trouble connecting sounds with letters that represent those sounds. For instance, the alphabets ‘c’, ‘a’ and ‘t’, which sound differently when pronounced separately, combine to form the word ‘cat’. 

Here are the possible reasons for dyslexia in a person:

1. Scientists claim that dyslexia runs in families. There is a high possibility that if a parent has dyslexia then their child is likely to have it too. 

2. Researchers have also found a difference in the brain functioning of those with dyslexia than those with normal reading skills through brain MRI scan. They found that in a non-dyslexic brain, there are three centres which work together to help us read: 

  • The centre in the middle part of the brain, help the ears to assess the sound representation of the language.
  • The centre in the back of the brain helps the eyes to recognise the words by sight. This centre helps the eyes to remember the word as a picture.
  • The centre in front of the brain helps the mouth to pronounce the words.

It found that in dyslexic people, the centres present in the middle and back part of the brain were not stimulated. This makes it difficult for them to read and write properly.

Managing children with dyslexia

Researchers have established that with the help of structured literacy intervention, the brain activity of a dyslexic person can be increased.

Treatment for dyslexia involves dealing with problems associated with reading and spelling, and treating any underlying psychological disorders.

Educational amendments for dyslexia

The ability to identify and process the sounds of words is called phonics. A major concern while managing dyslexia is improving phonemic awareness. The ways to improve phonics are:

  • Identify sounds in the words that we speak. Make a child aware that even short words like "bat" are made up of three sounds - ‘b’, ‘a’, ‘t’.
  • Start right at the beginning; combine alphabets to make words, and slowly with time, use those words to create elaborate sentences and so on.
  • Once the child learns to make words, build a vocabulary of recognised and understood words for them.
  • Encourage them to read aloud to develop reading accuracy, speed and fluency.
  • Use a multi-sensory method to teach the child that involves using various senses at the same time. For instance, ask the child to see the letter ‘a’ written in the book, then ask them to say it aloud and write it in the air while saying, all at the same time.

Parental support for children with dislexia

You play a key role in helping your child succeed. Parents can help their young children by following these measures:

  • Accept the situation: Do not ignore the fact that your child has dyslexia. Talk to your child's doctor to know how you can help. You can also talk to your child's teacher about how the school can help. Always remember: early management can help improve your child’s ability.
  • Read with your child: Read aloud to your child. You may try listening to audiobooks, and can then discuss them later with him or her. 
  • Encourage reading: Read books with your child and discuss what's happening or what may happen. This will encourage their interest in books. Encourage your child to read as this would improve their vocabulary and listening skills.
  • Make it fun: Read books in front of your child, so that it encourages them to read as well. Use books about topics that your child finds interesting so that reading becomes pleasurable and not a chore. Make sure that reading takes place in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

The way of management for adolescents and teenagers can be different than young children. Parents can help older children by following these measures:

  • You can use computers to deal with children at this stage. Computers can act as a better visual environment for improved learning and working. 
  • Online word processing programmes that check spellings and autocorrect facilities can help your child find mistakes while writing. 
  • Speech recognition softwares, which translates speech into written text in computers, can help children improve their verbal and writing skills. 
  • Similarly, text-to-speech software, where a computer reads the text as it appears on the screen of the computers, can help a child improve their reading skills.
  • You can give your child a digital recorder to record a lecture and then listen to it later to understand it better.
  • Help your child use images and keywords to create a visual representation of a subject or plan. So, instead of making notes of a subject, make flowcharts or diagrams related to the subject. This helps the child memorise better.

Takeaways about dyslexia

As discussed, dyslexia is far from a disability. The key to managing dyslexia in children is to identify the exact learning difficulty, and then create an environment where a child can grow and thrive.

Even though it is a lifelong condition, dyslexia can be managed effectively by modifying their learning experience to suit their needs. Quite often, children with dyslexia do not show any signs of their difficulty by the time they mature into adulthood. All that a child with dyslexia needs is the right learning environment, and plenty of support from parents and teachers.

Dr. Anil Kumar Kumawat

Dr. Anil Kumar Kumawat

Psychiatry
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Dharamdeep Singh

Dr. Dharamdeep Singh

Psychiatry
6 Years of Experience

Dr. Ajay Kumar...

Dr. Ajay Kumar...

Psychiatry
14 Years of Experience

Dr. Saurabh Mehrotra

Dr. Saurabh Mehrotra

Psychiatry
24 Years of Experience

References

  1. Hulme, Charlesa; Snowling, Margaret J Reading disorders and dyslexia. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2016 December; 28(6): 731-735
  2. Stein J. What is Developmental Dyslexia? Brain Sci. 2018 Feb 4;8(2):26. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8020026. PMID: 29401712; PMCID: PMC5836045.
  3. Schulte-Körne G. The Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Dyslexia. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010 Oct;107(41):718-26; quiz 27. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2010.0718. Epub 2010 Oct 15. PMID: 21046003; PMCID: PMC2967798.
  4. Dyslexia Association of India [Internet]. India. Dyslexia
  5. Science Direct (Elsevier) [Internet]; Surface Dyslexia
  6. National Institute of Mental Health [Internet] Bethesda, MD; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Basics. National Institutes of Health; Bethesda, Maryland, United States
  7. National Health Service [Internet] NHS inform; Scottish Government; Dyslexia
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