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Learn more about dyslexia this Dyslexia Awareness Month

October 12, 2022
6 minutes
Personal Health
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October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia is the most common neurocognitive disorder, affecting 80-90 percent of those with learning disabilities—and roughly 20 percent of the overall population. 

  • But what is dyslexia? 
  • What causes it?
  • Who’s at risk? 
  • And what are the challenges people with dyslexia face? 

Keep reading to learn more about dyslexia and the steps you can take to support those that have it.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder and is sometimes referred to as a reading disability. It tends to impact our ability to read because it affects how people identify speech sounds—and how those sounds relate to words and letters. 

This is what’s known as decoding.

Decoding often results in those with dyslexia reading at a lower level than their classmates despite having normal levels of intelligence. 

What causes dyslexia? 

Dyslexia occurs due to differences in parts of the brain that process language. It doesn’t affect intelligence, hearing, or vision, however.

What causes dyslexia?

Dyslexia is caused by differences in parts of the brain that help us read. 

What causes these differences?

Usually dyslexia runs in families. It’s linked to certain genes that affect how our brain processes language and reading. If your family has a history of disabilities related to reading and learning you may have an increased chance of having dyslexia. 

What are the challenges?

  • What are the challenges of having dyslexia in our current education system?
  • How can it impact day-to-day life?

The biggest impact dyslexia may have on children is making it difficult to learn in traditional classroom settings

Because reading is a common skill utilized throughout all parts of our educational system, a child may have a hard time learning at the same rate as peers if they’re unable to read at the same level. 

This difficulty to learn can create longer term problems in adulthood if not addressed due to the potential social, economic, and educational impacts dyslexia creates. 

If a child or adolescent doesn’t get the support they need as they grow up, they’re less likely to be able to read and interpret language easily as an adult. This can have a negative impact on growth, learning, and even self-esteem. 

Dyslexia can contribute to people experiencing negative feelings about themselves, including shame, aggression, low confidence, and anxiety. They may mistakenly believe they're unintelligent, although dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence at all. Because of this, emotional support can play a role in helping people with dyslexia thrive.

People with dyslexia usually succeed just fine in school with a specialized program or tutoring. And adults with dyslexia can continue to benefit from additional support and resources. 

Signs of dyslexia 

What are common signs of dyslexia?

Dyslexia symptoms may become more apparent with age. As a child is exposed to learning environments, signs may emerge more frequently. 

Some common signs of dyslexia in preschool-age children include: 

  • Talking late 
  • Learning new words slowly 
  • Problems forming words correctly
  • Confusing words that sound similar 
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games
  • Problems remembering or naming letters, colors, and numbers

Once a child starts grade school, symptoms may become more apparent, making them easier to identify. Symptoms a child in school might experience include

  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Difficulty spelling, reading, and learning
  • Problems remembering certain sequences
  • Reading well below the expected reading level 
  • Issues processing and understanding what’s heard
  • Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
  • Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words

Lastly, teenagers or adults may exhibit the following signs—many of which are similar across all life stages. They include:

  • Problems with spelling
  • Slow reading and writing
  • Difficulty summarizing a story
  • Trouble learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty doing math word problems
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Difficulty reading, including reading out loud
  • Mispronouncing names or words, or having problems retrieving words
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing 

Treatment options

What are the treatment options for dyslexia?

Treatment for dyslexia largely depends on age and focuses on the learning problems the condition creates. It usually involves adjusting learning environments and educational techniques to meet the specific needs of an individual with dyslexia. 

If schools, teachers, and parents provide extra support in kindergarten and first grade, children are often able to improve their reading, writing, and learning skills. 

However, if dyslexia isn’t addressed early on, children may have difficulty learning the skills needed to read well and learn. Because of this, they’re more likely to fall behind their peers in development. 

Parents can play a big role in the development of a child, and they also play a significant role in the success of a child with dyslexia. 

 Here’s how you can help your child if they have this condition: 

  • Address the problem early on. If you suspect anything, visit your healthcare provider and seek early intervention and help to improve success.
  • Try reading out loud to your child when they're young. You can try reading stories, or listening to recorded books.
  • Work with your child's school and talk to the teacher about how you can work together to help your child succeed.
  • Set aside time every day to read with your child. Children must practice to improve their reading skills. Have them read out loud to you and encourage them to read on their own.

If you’re an adult experiencing dyslexia, there are a few things you can do to support your success. 

  • Consider getting assistance with reading or writing. Although stigma and potential social implications may make this feel challenging, it can help get you the support you need, connect you with new friends, and make it easier to learn. 
  • Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may be eligible for additional training and accommodations from your employer or academic institution. Getting support can foster growth and development, help you do your job better, and aid you in reaching your goals.  

Successful figures with dyslexia

The learning difficulties associated with dyslexia have nothing to do with intelligence or someone’s ability to succeed. In fact, some of the most gifted figures in science, math, and arts had dyslexia, including Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Pablo Picasso.

Albert Einstein experienced delayed verbal development and dyslexia symptoms in early childhood—and went on to receive the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics and created “the world’s most famous equation,” E=mc2

Henry Ford spent his childhood struggling to read, then used his strong talent and interest in engineering to build one of the biggest automobile companies in the world. 

During his early years at school, Pablo Picasso struggled to keep up with his peers. He went on to become one of the 20th-century’s most influential artists.  

How to support Dyslexia Awareness Month

If you have a friend, coworker, child, family member, or classmate that deals with dyslexia, there are ways you can help.

  • Learn more about dyslexia to better understand what people with the condition experience.
  • Help your child or loved one learn, share encouragement, and aid their development during each step in their journey. 
  • Share what you learn and spread awareness to help more people understand how it affects individuals’ lives. 
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