Even if you don’t suffer from dyslexia, chances are you know someone who does. Although it isn’t often openly discussed, dyslexia is the most common learning disability – it affects more than 15 percent of the population. And that number could be higher. Between 70 and 80 percent of people with reading difficulties might suffer from dyslexia.
But sadly, dyslexia often tends to go undiagnosed. That means those affected head into their adulthood without understanding why they find reading difficult. Letting dyslexia go unnoticed can leave individuals struggling with many aspects of everyday life.
Here are a few fast facts about dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a Learning Disability and a Cognitive Disorder
Dyslexia is commonly called a learning disability, but it’s technically classified as a cognitive disorder in which one has trouble reading, writing and pronouncing words. Those with dyslexia have difficulties identifying speech patterns and decoding letters, words, and symbols.
When dyslexia appears in childhood, it’s called developmental dyslexia. If the condition appears or is triggered later in life, it’s referred to as acquired dyslexia or alexia. Surprisingly, dyslexia can even develop as the result of an illness or injury, like a stroke.
Today, one in 10 people suffer from varying degrees of dyslexia. And this learning disability can have a detrimental affect not just on individuals’ ability to read and write, but also reading comprehension, memorization, mathematics, and foreign languages.
Understandably, this means that dyslexia can lead to a host of other issues that can in turn affect a person’s career, relationships, and sense of self-worth if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Dyslexia Symptoms Can Begin in Early Childhood
The symptoms of developmental dyslexia can appear at a very early age. One of the first signs is when a child is late in learning how to speak, crawl or walk compared to their peers.
Young children with dyslexia may have difficulty expanding their vocabulary, remembering nursery rhymes, telling left from right, or identifying colors, letters or numbers. They may also show signs of poor hand-eye coordination and a short attention span. Many children suffering from dyslexia are later found to also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is thought to affect around 30 percent of people who are diagnosed with dyslexia.
Often, the signs of dyslexia go unidentified until a child reaches school age. Then, teachers notice their symptoms, particularly as they learn to read and write. Children with dyslexia tend to have difficulty identifying and combining the phonetic sounds of the alphabet, understanding basic rules of spelling or sentence structure, and comprehending what they read no matter how many times they go over it. They may also struggle with reading aloud, identifying rhyming words, or have difficulty with sequences like the days of the week or the months of the year.
Some of the symptoms of dyslexia can even be physical. Many children complain of headaches or “seeing movement” on the page when they read. They can even be more prone to ear infections, food sensitivities, and autoimmune conditions.
As dyslexic children get older, their struggles can increase as their workload gets heavier. Teenagers and adults with dyslexia may mispronounce names or words, have difficulty memorizing or summarizing what they’ve read, may not comprehend idioms or jokes, and will often avoid situations in which they’ll be expected to read or write. It’s not uncommon for the disability to go undiagnosed into adulthood.
Experts Don’t Know What Causes Dyslexia
Experts can’t pinpoint an exact root cause of dyslexia. The disability is thought to be affected by a number of factors. Everything from genetic history to environmental risks could cause it.
Dyslexia has been found to run in families. Research at the Yale School of Medicine has linked dyslexia to a defect in the DCDC2 gene, which is associated with reading ability and language impairment. This means parents may pass a gene related to dyslexia down to their children.
Dyslexia is also found to be more common in babies that are born prematurely or with a lower-than-average birth weight. Infants who were exposed to nicotine, drugs or alcohol during pregnancy may also be more at-risk for dyslexia.
There Are a Number of Misconceptions About Dyslexia
Despite the fact that dyslexia is a common learning disability, there are still a number of misconceptions about the condition.
Contrary to what some may think, dyslexia is in no way caused by poor parenting or teaching. It also isn’t connected to a child’s lack of discipline, desire to learn, or intelligence level. Many dyslexic individuals have incredibly high IQs but struggle in school due to their frustrations.
And dyslexia doesn’t have to hold people back in terms of success. Many people suffering from dyslexia have gone on to become highly successful scientists, politicians, and artists. It’s even thought that some of the greatest minds of all time, including Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein, may have suffered from dyslexia.
Another common misconception is that dyslexics simply see letters or words reversed or out of order. However, this actually isn’t a defining characteristic of dyslexia at all.
There’s no evidence to support the idea that letters or words appear out of order to dyslexics. One research study found that when people with and without dyslexia were asked to copy a series of unfamiliar Hebrew letters, dyslexic individuals were able to recreate the letters just as successfully as their non-dyslexic peers. This demonstrates that they do not see letters or symbols any differently.
Diagnosing Dyslexia Can Take Time
Dyslexia is usually diagnosed through a series of oral language, reading comprehension, word recognition, spelling, vocabulary, and phonological tests. A physician may also inquire about family history, prenatal or birth conditions, or cognitive, behavioral and emotional patterns.
Dyslexia can be difficult to diagnose, particularly because of the stigma surrounding educational struggles. Some individuals manage to go through their entire school career and into adulthood without a diagnosis.
However, while it’s easier to treat dyslexia during childhood, it’s never too late to get help.
There Are Ways to Overcome Dyslexia
The first step towards overcoming a learning disorder like dyslexia is to take a different approach to the education process. Today, most schools are equipped to teach students with dyslexia and offer an alternative curriculum that incorporates non-traditional teaching methods to help students with learning disabilities.
Dyslexia education often involves a more in-depth method of learning. Understanding phonetic sounds and letters is often done in a multi-sensory way that includes sight, hearing, and touch. For example, a student may learn better when listening to an audio book or physically tracing the shapes of letters as they say them.
Extra time and attention from aides, teachers, and parents can also go a long way. It’s recommended that parents of kids with dyslexia encourage their children by reading aloud with them, providing them with a tidy, designated homework space, staying in close contact with their teachers about their progress, and limiting their screen time.
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Even adults may need to take measures to cope with their disability in adulthood. One way that some dyslexics cope is by switching over to a “dyslexic friendly font”, which tends to be sans serif with wider spaces between letters, words, and sentences to allow individuals to read quickly and more easily.
While there is no known cure for dyslexia, there can be a positive outcome. Once the disability is identified, steps can be taken to overcome it. And no matter how late in life you might find out, there are ways to cope.