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Dyslexia: A language-based learning disability

What is dyslexia

Dyslexia refers to difficulties that impact a child’s ability to read, write and spell. Dyslexia is a language-centric neurological learning disability. The term ‘dyslexia’ stems from Greek words: dys= lack of and lexicon = word. Dyslexia hence implies difficulties in learning ways to read words and dealing with the written language.

Most often dyslexia runs in families. Dyslexia can affect a child all his life, well into their adulthood.  Dyslexia broadly now includes difficulties in acquisition of literacy, discrepancies in outcomes of education and cognitive processes. However, dyslexia can impede a child’s broad learning domains by their inability to read.

Dyslexia doesn’t mean that a child has learning ability is below average. Often, most of the children and adults are very brilliant. Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney were all dyslexic!

In India, 3-10% of the population is estimated to be dyslexic.  Possibly, 10 -15% of the children suffer from some form of dyslexia. These figures can be higher given the various languages we have in our nation.

Dyslexia

What causes dyslexia?

The definite causes of dyslexia are still to be pinpointed by researchers. However, the following factors possibly play a role in causing dyslexia:

  • Genetics: If dyslexia runs in your family, research points that 40% of the siblings of children with dyslexia can face the same issues of reading. Certain genes are believed to play a role in processing language and reading.
  • Brain makeup and activity: The brain of dyslexics is quite different from the normal individuals. The ‘planum temporale’ region in the brain is implicated with the role of language comprehension. Usually, this region is larger in the dominant hemisphere of normal people, while it is of the same size in dyslexic individuals in both the hemispheres.

Usually the different areas in the brain work in a predictable manner for comprehension of language. However, in dyslexic individuals, these areas of the brain do not work in the said manner. Dyslexics need to use other parts of the brain to compensate for this function.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

The symptoms and signs of dyslexia vary from individual to individual.  The commonly reported dyslexia sign and symptoms include:

dyslexia-2In preschool children, the warning signs to be on lookout include:

  • Issues in recognising alphabets
  • Delayed development of speech
  • Problems in expressing themselves
  • Issues with appreciation or understanding rhyming words

School children

Dyslexia is well obvious when the kids start going to school and focus on reading and writing.

The symptoms of dyslexia in school children can include:

  • Inconsistent and unpredictable spellings
  • Confusions in the order of alphabets in words
  • Difficulties in holding the pencil
  • Reading inconsistencies or slow reading
  • Visual disturbances while reading
  • Poor and slow writing speed
  • Issues with copying written matter and take longer duration in completion of written work
  • Trouble with following instructions
  • Poor phonological awareness

Teens and adults

Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, the other symptoms can include

  • Problems while expressing in writing
  • Problems in planning letter, essay or reports
  • Poor spelling
  • Avoiding reading and writing
  • Difficulties in remembering phone numbers and (Personal Identification Numbers) PINs

 How is dyslexia diagnosed?

Early diagnosis in children is vital for the efficient outcome of educational interventions. Identification of dyslexia may, however, prove difficult for parents and teachers as the symptoms and signs of dyslexia are not always obvious.

If your child’s progress in reading and writing is bothering you, begin by first talking to their teacher. Take your child to your doctor. There could be medical issues affecting their learning like problems of vision, hearing and other conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

When no obvious health reasons are found for their poor progress in learning to read and write, other approaches will be required.

Dyslexia assessment can be done by a trained professional or a psychologist specialising in learning disabilities. Other conditions like ADHD, depression anxiety and any other issues can also be detected during such assessment.

How is dyslexia managed?

An array of educational interventions are available which can assist children with their reading and writing. Such specialist programs are more effective initiated at an early age.

Educational intervention: A wide variety of educational interventions are available which can be had in mainstream or specialised schools. These interventions are highly structured and meant for small groups which are delivered in small steps emphasising more on the practice of what has been learnt.

Also, the focus is more on phonics. Use of multisensory teaching is also encouraged.

Use of computers and other electronic gadgets are being increasingly accepted with the availability of spellchecking and ease of use. Adults also use similar interventions but go on to use electronic organisers, computers and mind maps.

What steps can be taken at home for dyslexia?

At home, as a parent, you can:

  • Read aloud to your children which will enhance their listening skills and vocabulary.
  • Encourage your child to read a para and then you read – shared reading.
  • Repetition is key to reinforcing the children’s understanding.
  • Learning should be not imposed, instead it should be a pleasurable experience to the child
  • Provide an ambient environment for learning and emotional support and encourage their learning.

Consult a top Psychiatrist

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References

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  • Ramaa S. Two decades of research on learning disabilities in India. Dyslexia. 2000;6:268–83.
  • NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dyslexia/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed 2 June 16.
  • Understanding Dyslexia. Understood.org. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/understanding-dyslexia. Accessed 2 June 16.
  • What is Dyslexia. dyslexiaindia.org. http://www.dyslexiaindia.org.in/what-dyslexia.html. Accessed 2 June 16.
  • Famous People with the Gift of Dyslexia. Dyslexia.com. http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm. Accessed 2 June 16.

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