Definition & Overview
What do Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci have in common? Aside from being some of the most famous people in the fields of history and science, they also showed signs of being dyslexics.
Although dyslexia is often described as a reading problem, it may also manifest in poor writing skills. Thus, today it is considered more of a learning disability than a struggle in reading alone.
Dyslexia is very common and has been around for a very long time. In fact, in the United States, around 80% of those who read poorly are believed to have dyslexia. Moreover, the percentage of incidence is similar regardless of the ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background.
Despite the presence of extensive research and various studies on dyslexia, it remains to be one of the most misunderstood disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a learning phase that children will outgrow at a certain age. It is a lifelong condition, and it can be severe. But there are already several highly effective treatments and techniques used to deal with it properly.
Until now science cannot clearly cite the main reason for dyslexia, but there are many theories.
One of these is heredity. Various studies have found that people who have a family member or a relative who has dyslexia, have an increased risk of developing the condition. Meanwhile, some experts are convinced that those who have dyslexia underutilize the left hemisphere of their brain, which contains sections responsible for learning how to spell and read.
Most believe that dyslexics have problems in processing phonemes, the smallest division of sound when words are spoken. Reading and writing become complicated processes since the brain needs to string letters to form words, and then sentences, or paragraphs in order to interpret them correctly..
Most of the signs and symptoms of dyslexia start to appear while people who have this condition are still young. These include the following:
- Creative and intelligent
- Struggle to read and write but can be extremely articulate
- Excel in speaking
- Bad handwriting
- Delay in learning how to speak
- Difficulty in learning a new language, especially foreign
- Confusion in writing and reading letters, words, and numbers
- Difficulty in coping with schoolwork
- Difficulty in determining directions
- Extended hearing
- Strong imagination
- Problems with vision (though results may say otherwise)
- Often described as clumsy or have trouble being uncoordinated
- Have good visual-spatial ability
Children and adults with dyslexia may also develop social skill problems because they are believed to have:
- Poor self-esteem
- Feeling of isolation
Dyslexia is difficult to diagnose because it doesn’t have any physical manifestation. In addition, there’s no single or definite examination or assessment tool used by experts to diagnose the condition. Because of these, many people are left undiagnosed.
However, experts are now using the following examinations to diagnose dyslexia:
Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children – it’s divided into two major categories, supplementary and core, with more than 15 subtests.
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale – measures the cognitive ability and intelligence of young children; this can help diagnose any developmental problems or delay.
Benton Visual Retention Test – assesses both the visual memory and perception of children as young as eight years old; it may also be used to diagnose dyslexia in adults.
For a proper diagnosis, one of the first steps is to seek an appointment with a general practitioner who will perform the initial tests. He or she may then recommend any specialist depending on the findings.
There’s no cure for dyslexia, and there’s no single form of treatment for it. Proper diagnosis is crucial in determining the actual weakness of the child, and later on, in formulating specialized customized treatment plan.
While some children can cope in a regular classroom setting, most don’t. Thus, parents are encouraged to put their children in a school with special education classes or those that offer supplemental learning activities and trainings designed to specifically help children with dyslexia. Some of the popular learning methods are Orton Gillingham and Slingerland.
Children with dyslexia may have to consult a language and reading therapist, as well as a neuro-psychologist. They may also have to work closely with counselors and their teachers.
The disability can have a profound effect on the attitude and behavior toward learning and school. Thus, it’s very important that the parents are able to fully support their children and never make it an excuse to stop writing, reading, and speaking.