What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference. It affects the organization in the brain that controls the ability to process the way language is heard, spoken, read, or spelled. Dyslexia can also manifest in difficulties with working memory, attention, and organization. Dyslexia can be genetic, and ranges on a continuum of mild to severe. It is important to keep in mind that people with dyslexia are not lacking in motivation or intelligence. In fact, they are typically average to above average in intelligence. Furthermore, dyslexia is fairly common. Diagnosis needs to be made by competent psychologists who understand the processing deficits that are linked with the struggles associated with dyslexia.

Difficulty with Oral Language:

  • Late learning to talk
  • Difficulty pronouncing words
  • Trouble acquiring vocabulary and grammar
  • Trouble following directions
  • Confusion with concepts
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet and rhyming

Difficulty with Written Language:

  • Trouble putting ideas on paper
  • Uncertainty with concepts of right or left
  • Handwriting struggles
  • Difficulty with organizing written language
  • Trouble copying
  • Spelling errors
  • Trouble applying rules in daily work
  • Poor proofreading ability

Common Signs and Challenges of Dyslexia

Signs and challenges can look different depending on multiple factors including age. Below we have broken down the most common signs and challenges based on age.

Signs of Dyslexia in Toddlers and Preschoolers:
  • May talk later than most children
  • May have difficulty pronouncing words such as busgetti for spaghetti, mawn lower for lawn mower, etc.
  • May be slow to add new vocabulary words
  • May be unable to recall the right word
  • May have difficulty with rhyming
  • May have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name
  • May have trouble interacting with peers
  • May be unable to follow multi-step directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills may develop more slowly than in other children
  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in the correct sequence
  • Often has difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words
Signs of Dyslexia in Kindergarten through Grade 4:
  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)
  • May be slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • May confuse small words: at – to, said-and, does-goes.
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including:
    - letter reversals – d for b as in dog for bog
    - word reversals – tip for pit
    - inversions – m and w for u and n
    - transpositions – felt and left
    - substitutions – house and home
  • May transpose number sequences and confuse arithmetic signs
  • May have trouble remembering facts
  • May be slow to learn new skills; relies heavily on memorizing without understanding
  • May be impulsive and prone to accidents
  • May have difficulty planning
  • Often uses an awkward pencil grip (fist, thumb hooked over fingers, etc.)
  • May have trouble learning to tell time
  • May have poor fine motor coordination
Signs of Dyslexia in Children in Grades 5-8:
  • Is usually reading below grade level
  • May reverse letter sequences – soiled for solid, left for felt
  • May be slow to discern and to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other reading and spelling strategies
  • May have difficulty spelling; spells the same word differently on the same page
  • May avoid reading aloud
  • May have trouble with word problems in math
  • May write with difficulty with illegible handwriting; pencil grip is awkward, fist-like or tight
  • May avoid writing
  • May have slow or poor recall of facts
  • May have difficulty with comprehension
  • May have trouble with non-literal language (idioms, jokes, proverbs, slang)
  • May forget to hand in homework or to bring in homework
  • May have difficulty with planning and time management
Signs of Dyslexia in Teenagers (high school and college graduates but younger students also):
  • May read very slowly with many inaccuracies
  • Continues to spell incorrectly, frequently spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing
  • May procrastinate reading and writing tasks
  • May avoid writing
  • May have trouble summarizing and outlining
  • May have trouble answering open-ended questions on tests
  • May not adjust well to new setting or to change
  • May have difficulties with foreign languages
  • May work slowly
  • May have poor grasp of abstract concepts
  • May pay too little attention to details or focus too much on them
  • May misread information
  • May not complete assignments; may complete them and not hand them in
  • May have an inadequate vocabulary
  • May have an inadequate store of knowledge from previous reading
  • May have difficulty with planning and time management
Signs of Dyslexia in Adults:
  • May hide their reading problems; many subterfuges
  • May spell poorly; relies on others
  • Avoids writing; may not be able to write
  • Often very competent in oral language
  • Often has good “people” skills
  • Often is spatially talented: engineers, architects, designers, artists, and craftspeople, mathematicians, physicists, physicians, especially surgeons, dentists
  • May be very good at “reading” people (intuitive)
  • In jobs is often working well below their intellectual capacity
  • May have difficulty with planning and organization
  • May have difficulty with time; often too early, late, or forgets appointments.
  • Relies on digital watches; cannot tell time
  • Often entrepreneurs; may have lost one or more businesses they started

The Dyslexic Brain

The human brain was not designed to read; it was built for oral communication. Therefore, speaking comes naturally but reading must be explicitly taught. While some learn to read with ease, for others, it is much more difficult.

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