What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is so much more than letter reversals

It is “best understood as a persistent difficulty with reading and spelling.”[1] It is a neurological problem of genetic or sensory origin, which undermines the mastery of written language. The condition is sometimes referred to as word blindness. It is also called a specific language-based disability, developmental dyslexia or mirror reading. It is so much more than letter reversals.

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty. But it is also a failure to master written language (reading, spelling or writing), in those of at least normal intelligence. Dyslexics often have average to well above average intelligence with high verbal skills and may excel in visual tasks.

The British Dyslexia Association described dyslexia as: “A complex neurological condition … which may also affect numeracy, notational skills (music), motor function and organisational skills. However, it is particularly related to mastering written language.”

Because dyslexic students tend to be bright, dyslexia is often unrecognised by teachers or parents and remains largely untreated. A study of nearly 500,000 students in Florida found that less than 20% of students with a reading impairment were identified as learning disabled by their schools.”[2] Many Dyslexics are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD. These are two very different conditions, and should be addressed differently.

What are some of the key symptoms?

  • Slow reading, low reading comprehension, reading below age level but otherwise appears bright
  • May be verbally fluent but has difficulty expressing thoughts in writing
  • Acoustic confusion – kick/tick car/tar or dad/bad/sad
  • Inaccurate spelling
  • Confusion about directions in space or time (right/left, up/down, months/days R/L handedness)
  • Low awareness word sounds and a difficulty spelling (encoding words)
  • Weak listening, incomplete auditory comprehension, auditory processing issues
  • Visual-spatial learner as a young child, daydreamer
  • Weak balance, symbol confusion ­– bdpq & sometimes g; mw; nu; 69
  • Vision issues – letters move on the page, weak tracking, lose place on page, unclear, eyes sore
  • Poor sequencing of numbers or letters in words when read or written, e.g.: sing-sign; 12-21
  • Anxiety, low self-esteem and depression are common (particularly if bright or adult)

Are there standard tests?

No, but there are many tests, which can eliminate other possible causes of language difficulty. Essentially one looks for a bright student who is struggling with written language. Increasingly educational psychologists now describe dyslexia as a “language-based learning disability” or “language-based learning difference”.

What should you do if you suspect dyslexia?

Seek a sensory assessment to identify the underlying causes of the dyslexia

Sensory solutions to target the causes

There is a range of programs to rebuild and strengthen sensory capacity, which addresses the sensory causes of dyslexia including the Integrated Listening programs, which I offer.

Educational solutions to target the symptoms

Dyslexia can be resistant to traditional teaching or regular tutoring because the causes are sensory. Those with dyslexia learn differently and need to be taught and placed differently. While some schools offer special programs for slow readers, only a handful specialise in students with the sensory issues that underlie dyslexia. Examples are the Gow School in New York State and the Heritage Academy in Canada.

If you found this article interesting and would like to discover how well you listen, why not try my free Listening Scorecard here

  1. [1] Australian Dyslexia Association
  2. [2] Quinn, J., & Wagner, R. (2013). Gender differences in reading impairment and in the identification of Impaired Readers: Results from a large-scale Study of at-risk readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, XX(X) 1–13. DOI: 10.1177/0022219413508323

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash