Dyslexia is a disorder involving difficulty in learning to read words, letters and other symbols. Dyslexia literally means ‘trouble with words’. It is the term used to describe difficulties with spelling, writ-ing and reading. The challenges can come in many different forms and are not limited to reversals of letters and words, a common miscon-ception.
Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 individuals, many of whom remain undiag-nosed and receive little or no intervention services. For some indi-viduals who have never been diagnosed, dyslexia is a hidden disability which may result in underemployment, difficulty navigating academic environments, difficulty on the job, and reduced self-confidence. Even those who have been diagnosed are likely to strug-gle with reading or writing in some aspects of their lives. Dyslexia is a specific reading disorder and does not reflect low intelli-gence. There are many bright and creative individuals with dyslexia who never learn to read, write, and/or spell at a level consistent with their intellectual ability.
What are the Characteristics of Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is characterised by oral distortions or omissions. Both oral and silent reading show notable slowness and errors in comprehen-sion. Some of the key characteristics of Dyslexia are listed below:
• Dyslexia is a learning disorder and it is associated with difficulties acquiring reading skills. The main characteristics of Dyslexia are the inability to distinguish between common letters and the inability to associate common phonemes with letter symbols.
• Children with Dyslexia often have difficulty visually distinguishing between confusing or similar letters, such as b and d, or p and q. This could lead to a difficulty correctly reading words, such as reading gall instead of ball.
• Another common characteristic of Dyslexia is the inability to track word lines. Children may read the same line twice; they may jump over and skip words, or skip lines when reading. In more serious cases children may report that the lines start to “move on the page” or get “washed out” and “blend into each other”.
• Associated symptoms of Dyslexia may include difficulties with writing, low self-esteem, behavioural difficulties (particularly acting out during class), attentional problems, anger and frequent headaches after the school day.
What Causes Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is not a visual disorder, it is a reading disability caused by a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. It is a neurological disorder. The deficit is in a small part of the brain that is involved in reading and trans-mitting written information between the sensory system and the brain. New research from the UK finds that about half of genes that influence a child’s reading ability can also affect their math capability.
How is Dyslexia diagnosed and treated?
You may have heard about tinted lenses helping dyslexics. That is an example of a specific problem (a sensitivity to the contrast of black text on a bright white background) that can cause reading difficulty. The tinted glasses or overlays do help those children, but it is some-thing seen with only about 5% of dyslexics.
A lot of very bright visual learners trying to store whole words in memory, rather than decoding. That leads to lots of guessing or switching of the short words. Around 50% of dyslexics fall into this group. Dyslexia is a complex disorder and testing requires a detailed approach. A thorough assessment of Dyslexia involves:
1. Evaluation of the child’s developmental history and background.
2. Detailed evaluation of reading skills.
3. Assessment of current intellectual level.
4. In most cases it is also useful to evaluate the child’s cognitive proc-esses associated with Dyslexia.
5. To screen out the possible presence of a sensory deficit, it is neces-sary to evaluate the child’s visual abilities.
Dyslexia Australia supports a multi-sensory based approach to dys-lexia in a caring, patient, flexible and supportive environment. Dys-lexia Australia offers a Davis Dyslexia Correction® Program, which is suitable for students and adults aged 8-80 who are experiencing challenges in reading, writing and comprehension.
Dr. Ashraf Mina
Principal Scientist | NSW Health Pathology
Ph.D., M.Sc.(Clin Biochem), B.Sc.(Hons), Grad Dip (Biochem Nutrition), Grad Dip (Micro), MACMSR, MAIMS.
\Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR), Westmead Hospital.
Senior clinical lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Sydney University.