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Dyslexia – A common learning disability

by Kamal Salar

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that can affect as many as 17% of all school aged children. In fact, an interesting recent study found that small business owners in the United States are much more likely to suffer from dyslexia than others, with approximately 25 to 30% of these owners having this disability.

This disability is classified as a learning disorder that makes it difficult for sufferers to read or spell. The name comes from the Latin word “dys” which means impaired, and “lexis” which means word. This disorder should not be confused with an intellectual disability. In fact, sufferers are typically highly gifted in other areas.
Causes and Types

It is believed that dyslexia is caused by a neurological abnormality that affects the way sufferers process words. There are several different types of dyslexia. These are broken down into two different subtypes.

Surface Dyslexia usually manifests as an inability to understand irregular words or the sufferer may simply have poor lexical skills. Phonological dyslexia is characterized by those who cannot make out “non-words” and those who cannot use sub-lexical skills. To put it more plainly, these sufferers can read aloud, but get tripped up when it comes to symbols or sounding out specific words.

There are numerous theories as to why these disorders occur. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the more scientifically sound theories. First, there are those who believe that the act of reading is unnatural to human beings, and therefore, there is an evolutionary basis for dyslexia. Since reading has not been common for very long, scientists argue that some of us just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

The theory that there is a phonological cause for dyslexia operates under the belief that there is an underlying impairment in dyslexics who cannot process, store or retrieve speech sounds. In other words, since we typically learn our letters by hearing them, those with dyslexia are at a disadvantage because they cannot properly process the information.

Another theory relies on evidence that visual impairment is the cause of dyslexia. Whether it can be attributed to visual crowding, unstable binocular fixations or poor vergence, scientists who subscribe to this theory believe that there is a breakdown somewhere between the eyes and the brain when it comes to processing words.

Genetic factors have also been blamed as predisposing some people to this disorder. This is backed up with evidence that multiple people in the same families commonly have dyslexia. Boys are more commonly affected than girls and it may be possible that the disability is passed from father to son.

At the end of the day, there are most likely many reasons that people suffer from dyslexia. The human brain is so complex that it may take years for the real reason to be understood. In the meantime, it is important to focus on recognizing the symptoms and treating the disability.


Children with dyslexia will commonly have problems in school. The disability may not present itself until they enter kindergarten. Parents may want to begin teaching their children the basics of reading before this stage so that they can spot any problems early on.

Reading problems are the most common symptoms of dyslexia. Children and adults may have difficulty with just certain words, or the severity may be much higher, including all written words. Spelling issues may also be present in many sufferers and it may seem as though the child is simply a slow learner.

Dyslexics commonly perform very well in other academic areas. Typically, they are very bright and well spoken, showing above average oral capabilities. They may excel in drama, art, music, sports or other non-reading activities.

There are several signs to watch out for that may indicate that a child is dyslexic and trying to hide it. If they are suffering from poor self-esteem or talk about how stupid they are, this may be a sign that there is an underlying problem. Falling behind in their grades for subjects requiring reading and doing well in others that don’t is also a major indication that there is a problem with dyslexia.

Some children may be misdiagnosed as hyperactive, or their teachers may accuse them of zoning out during classes that require reading. Dyslexic children may be more likely to have trouble staying focused, but this should not be confused with hyperactivity or ADD. Other signs include jumbling numbers or being unable to learn how to write. In some cases, the person suffering from dyslexia may “mirror write” without even realizing that is what they are doing.

Dyslexics often report that they see words as being “upside down” or it may seem to them as though the words are dancing on the page. If your child tells you this, this is a good indication that they may be dyslexic. Other common problems include an inability to distinguish between similar letters. For example, your child may have difficulty telling the difference between an “o” and “c.” Letters with similar orientations may also cause problems. Examples include the letters “b,” “p” and “d.” Since this is essentially the same shape, just in a different direction, it can be difficult for a dyslexic child to tell the difference between them.

Other common indications include an inability to connect the letters in a word. Each letter may be recognized, but when it comes to stringing them together or sounding them out, a disconnect occurs. If a child can understand the words the first time, they may find that they need to keep going back, and may re-read the same passage over and over again. This is caused by being unable to remember what they just read.

Your child may also complain of severe headaches or a stomachache when they try to read. This may be psychological in nature but is frequently mentioned when a child thinks the words are “dancing” on the page. The movement they perceive is provoking almost a kind of motion sickness. These symptoms may also be caused by trying to concentrate too hard.

Your child’s teacher may tell you that your child is suffering from “word blindness.” This is an easy way of saying that no matter how many times a word is drilled into your child’s head, they just won’t recognize it when they see it again. This is an antiquated view of dyslexia, but it is still quite prevalent in many schools.

If your child is having difficulty reading but excels in other subjects such as math, this may be a sign that they are not slow, just dyslexic. Children may not want to admit that they have a problem, so parents will need to be vigilant in recognizing these symptoms. Adults with dyslexia may be ashamed that they have difficulty reading or understanding words. There is no need to be ashamed. This is a very common learning disability and there are ways that it can be treated.


There is no known cure for dyslexia, but there are numerous ways that this disorder can be treated. It is best to start as early as possible, but even adults can benefit greatly from treatment. It may be frustrating at first, but these treatments have shown great promise in assisting those with dyslexia.

Specialized phonics have been very successful in helping dyslexics learn how to spell and read. This is a different method than the ones usually taught in schools. The focus is more on creating a correspondence between graphemes and phonemes and helping the child or adult create associations with words. One of the benefits of this method of treatment is that it has been proven to last longer than other methods, giving students a better opportunity at retaining their skills.

The best kind of training is usually given by teachers who have experience in dealing with dyslexic children. Adults may need to find specialized tutors who are well versed in treatment methods. All treatments require a great deal of patience for the student but the payoff comes in unlocking what seemed to be a foreign language and learning the skills that are necessary for today’s world.

If you have dyslexia, there are numerous centres that specialize in its treatment. Check with your doctor to get recommendations for these centres or teachers in the area that know how to deal with dyslexia. If you are suffering from dyslexia and are concerned that you may pass it on to your children, discuss your fears with your doctor. They will be able to help you develop an early treatment program that will help you spot any warning signs and begin working on ways to get around this learning disability.

Dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a very common learning disability that affects the best and the brightest as well as the average folk. There’s nothing wrong with dyslexics and they are not stupid. They just need a little-specialized teaching to help get this disability.


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1 comment

pauline briggins August 10, 2008 - 8:38 pm

I found this information to be very helpful. My son is 9 years old and has had problems in school all of his life, he has had 2 learning assessments done and they just say he’s a slow learner. He is now supposed to go into grade 5 with a reading level of kindergarten,at the end of the grade 4 school year we had a meeting with the school and they suggested that my husband and I put my son in a life skills program because they felt he is unable to learn, over the summer while visiting my sister, she said my son has the exact same symptoms as her son and he has dyslexia.After reading what all of the symptoms are, we are going to demand that they check my son out for this condition. We could have made one of the biggest mistakes of our lives.

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