Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language.
People with dyslexia have normal intelligence and usually have normal vision. Most children with dyslexia can succeed in school with tutoring or a specialized education program. Emotional support also plays an important role.
Though there's no cure for dyslexia, early assessment and intervention result in the best outcome. Sometimes dyslexia goes undiagnosed for years and isn't recognized until adulthood, but it's never too late to seek help.
Signs of dyslexia can be difficult to recognize before your child enters school, but some early clues may indicate a problem. Once your child reaches school age, your child's teacher may be the first to notice a problem. Severity varies, but the condition often becomes apparent as a child starts learning to read.
Signs that a young child may be at risk of dyslexia include:
Once your child is in school, dyslexia signs and symptoms may become more apparent, including:
Dyslexia signs in teens and adults are similar to those in children. Some common dyslexia signs and symptoms in teens and adults include:
Though most children are ready to learn reading by kindergarten or first grade, children with dyslexia often can't grasp the basics of reading by that time. Talk with your doctor if your child's reading level is below what's expected for his or her age or if you notice other signs of dyslexia.
When dyslexia goes undiagnosed and untreated, childhood reading difficulties continue into adulthood.
Dyslexia tends to run in families. It appears to be linked to certain genes that affect how the brain processes reading and language, as well as risk factors in the environment.
Dyslexia risk factors include:
Dyslexia can lead to a number of problems, including:
Children who have dyslexia are at increased risk of having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vice versa. ADHD can cause difficulty sustaining attention as well as hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, which can make dyslexia harder to treat.
There's no single test that can diagnose dyslexia. A number of factors are considered, such as:
There's no known way to correct the underlying brain abnormality that causes dyslexia — dyslexia is a lifelong problem. However, early detection and evaluation to determine specific needs and appropriate treatment can improve success.
Dyslexia is treated using specific educational approaches and techniques, and the sooner the intervention begins, the better. Psychological testing will help your child's teachers develop a suitable teaching program.
Teachers may use techniques involving hearing, vision and touch to improve reading skills. Helping a child use several senses to learn — for example, listening to a taped lesson and tracing with a finger the shape of the letters used and the words spoken — can help in processing the information.
Treatment focuses on helping your child:
If available, tutoring sessions with a reading specialist can be helpful for many children with dyslexia. If your child has a severe reading disability, tutoring may need to occur more frequently, and progress may be slower.
In the United States, schools have a legal obligation to take steps to help children diagnosed with dyslexia with their learning problems. Talk to your child's teacher about setting up a meeting to create a structured, written plan that outlines your child's needs and how the school will help him or her succeed. This is called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Children with dyslexia who get extra help in kindergarten or first grade often improve their reading skills enough to succeed in grade school and high school.
Children who don't get help until later grades may have more difficulty learning the skills needed to read well. They're likely to lag behind academically and may never be able to catch up. A child with severe dyslexia may never have an easy time reading, but he or she can learn skills that improve reading and develop strategies to improve school performance and quality of life.
You play a key role in helping your child succeed. Take these steps:
Success in employment can be difficult for adults struggling with dyslexia. To help achieve your goals:
Academic problems don't necessarily mean a person with dyslexia can't succeed. Capable students with dyslexia can be highly successful, given the right resources. Many people with dyslexia are creative and bright, and may be gifted in math, science or the arts. Some even have successful writing careers.
Emotional support and opportunities for achievement in activities that don't involve reading are important for children with dyslexia. If your child has dyslexia:
You may first bring up your concerns with your child's pediatrician or family doctor. To ensure that another problem isn't at the root of your child's reading difficulties, the doctor may refer your child to a:
You may want to ask a family member or friend along, if possible, for support and to help you remember information.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment:
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Questions to ask your doctor may include:
Feel free to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to focus on. Your doctor may ask: