A Look at Dyslexia

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Medical Specialties:

Family practice, Pediatrics, Psychiatry

Clinical Definition:

Dyslexia is a neurologically based learning disorder, which impairs comprehension and processing of written language. Dyslexia usually is characterized by difficulty with spelling, phonological processing and fluent and accurate recognition of words. Although intelligence level is usually normal, the ability to read is impaired.

In Our Own Words:

Dyslexia is a common learning disorder, which causes difficulty reading. Dyslexia is not related to intelligence level, and a person with dyslexia may have a rich vocabulary and no problems understanding oral communication. Older children with dyslexia may have trouble reading, writing and spelling words; kindergarteners may be slow to recognize the letters and learning to read. The extent of difficulty a person has with dyslexia and learning to read varies. The exact cause of dyslexia has not been identified, but the condition is sometimes inherited.

More Information About Dyslexia

Dyslexia is the most common learning disorder and affects a person's ability to read and write. Furthermore, dyslexia often affects a person's short-term memory and results in problems deciphering spoken language. As mentioned above, people with dyslexia typically have average--or above average--intelligence and no physical or visual problems.

Nevertheless, many people with dyslexia also have ADHD. Dyslexia affects about 5 percent of all people and is equally common among boys and girls.

Although evidence supporting interventions is lacking, many approaches have been tried to help people with learning disorders like dyslexia. Some remedial approaches to reading include intensive word-attack strategies that help children recognize the relationship between letters and sounds.

Furthermore, a child with dyslexia may receive help with visual tracking. Another approach to helping children with dyslexia involves using teaching strategies that incorporate vision, touch and sound.

Overall, dyslexia is easily diagnosed by education specialists, and it's best that this condition is diagnosed and treated early. Earlier treatment has been shown to provide greater benefit to those with dyslexia. Unfortunately, no cure exists for dyslexia, and children with this condition carry it through adulthood. However with proper treatment, such as tutoring and special education, many people with dyslexia go on to learn to read.

It's believed that people with dyslexia have a problem with information processing. Here are 3 specific theories that explain how dyslexia may work:

  • The rapid auditory processing theory posits that in people with dyslexia there's a problem with the perception and processing of short, rapid and varied sounds.
  • The phonological hypothesis proposes that there's a defect in the storage, retrieval and representation of speech sounds.
  • The visual theory proposes that there's a defect in the magnocellular portion of the visual system, housed in a structure of the brain called the thalamus. This defect slows processing and leads to phonomic problems, or problems recognizing, hearing and understanding phonemes, the smallest units of sound on which language is based.


US Department of Health and Human Services. Learning Disabilities: Condition Information. Assessed October, 2013.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes. Dyslexia Information Page. Assessed October, 2013.

International Dyslexia Association. Dyslexia Basics. Assessed October, 2013

Cleveland Clinic. Learning disabilities; What you Need to Know. Assessed October, 2013.

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