Dyslexia: An Overview

Every child born in this world is unique. Sometimes the uniqueness lies in the way he looks, the way he sings or sometimes the overall nature of the child. Dyslexia is one such kind of uniqueness, where the child has a mind very different from most people. As a parent of a dyslexic child, your challenge is to recognize the symptoms, understand the exclusiveness and find special ways to overcome the difficulties of teaching this child.

What is Dyslexia?
The word dyslexia means difficulty with lexicon i.e. vocabulary, the Greek meaning of lexis being words. Most people believe dyslexia is some kind of disease that impairs the person’s ability to read, write or learn a language. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth as dyslexia is not a disease. It is a developmental difference of the brain in a person that is otherwise normal and very intelligent. This developmental difference, though, causes a child to have difficulty learning languages through the conventional ways.

Dyslexic people often have difficulty reading, spelling, writing, concentrating and sometimes self-organization. As their minds are physiologically different from others, they may find it tricky to remember certain simple words like cat or pencil, though they can see and describe it very easily. They may also read a word differently like "rural" for "ruler" and may spell words differently, such as "aminal" or "esarer," as they have trouble sequencing the letters of the words.

Dyslexia in Children
The first signs of dyslexia in children might be their inability to understand speech and words when spoken to. In toddlers, some non-language dyslexia symptoms might be having regular difficulties getting dressed or putting their foot in the correct shoe. They may fall or trip a bit more and, though they may listen to stories attentively, they themselves avoid reading.

Dyslexic children have been found to be very creative or have some other enhanced capabilities. For instance, your child may be a very good dancer, might learn to play an instrument at a very early age, or could be exceptional at sports. In fact, some of the world’s most prominent figures in art (Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso), movies (Tom Cruise and Robin Williams), sports (Muhammed Ali and Irving "Magic" Johnson), and science (Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison) have been individuals with dyslexia.

Dyslexia Symptoms
Unfortunately, because most schools follow set methods of teaching based on language skills rather than creative bend of mind, it is often not until your child starts school that the symptoms of dyslexia may become apparent. Some common signs that your child may be affected by dyslexia include:

  • Not understanding words by sight
  • Not wanting to read
  • Having troubles holding a pencil in his hands

However, almost all children display some signs of a learning disability during their first year at school, likely because they are adjusting to a new environment. Therefore, if your child does seem to have some dyslexic symptoms, don’t jump to conclusions right away. Speak with your child’s teacher to see if he has noticed any troubles with your child’s learning; often teachers are the first to become aware of a learning disability.

Many times dyslexic children also appear to be lazy and not concentrating on their teachings. Yet, in reality, they are usually straining more than other children as they are in a constant tussle to associate between what they are seeing or hearing and what their thoughts are. As their intellectual abilities are at par with other children, they may also find it a bit frustrating not being able to participate in classroom activities in the same way as others.

If parents and teachers do not give proper attention at these initial stages, it becomes more and more difficult for a dyslexic child to adjust to the outside environment and learn in spite of his disabilities. The child may get lonesome and frustrated and want to avoid going to school where he feels he has to continuously cope with peer pressure. What he really needs is simply a different, specialized way of teaching as well as a way to align his thoughts with what he learns.

Quick Facts About Dyslexia

  • Dyslexia may be mild to severe in different individuals. While some children may never diagnosed because their dyslexia is so mild, others may have problems in forming even simple day-to-day words and sentences. Researchers have found that between 5% and 15% of people suffer from this learning disability in varying degrees.
  • In the past, it was believed that a greater number of boys had this learning disability than girls. Modern research has shown, though, that dyslexia can effect anyone regardless of their sex, though the dyslexia symptoms shown by males and females may be different.
  • Dyslexia as a condition that cannot be changed. A person is born with a brain whose response to visual pictures and verbal sounds is different from the rest of individuals, thus the condition will not alter or reduce with age. It is also not a condition that is affected or caused by environmental factors. However, by using different teaching methods, the mind can be taught things in an unconventional manner and dyslexic individuals can lead a normal life just like others.
  • Dyslexia has been found to be a hereditary condition. If a child has a learning disability, chances are someone else in the family also had this disability, though the severity may have been different.

Causes of Dyslexia
The first and most important thing to know about dyslexia is that ‘bad parenting’ or a ‘bad school teaching system’ does not cause dyslexia. It is an inborn trait of the brain that causes an individual to respond in a different way to what she sees.

The real cause of dyslexia is still not known. Some suggest it is a hereditary neurological disorder while others also link it to hearing problems. Other possible theories include:

    Brain Mapping: Modern techniques of brain scanning have revealed that those who are dyslexic have a number of cells below the surface of their brain rather than above it. These are called the ectopic cells and, at the time of brain development during pregnancy, this group of cells generally moves to the surface. In dyslexic individuals, though, these cells remain below the brains surface. Ectopic cells are usually present on the left and front side of the brain.

    In dyslexic individuals, the area of the brain that is responsible for helping us visualize moving images, the mango cellular system, is smaller. Therefore, when you are reading, the brain should rapidly see each letter, word and sentence and recognize it. However, a dyslexic child takes more time to understand these visuals signals and interpret them.

    It is also known that, usually, a child uses the left-hand side of the brain for language learning and work. But in a child with dyslexia, the right-hand side of the brain functions for language work. This makes it harder to learn as the brain requires much more time to understand and associate words and letters. This is also the reason why a child may quickly get tired of reading or writing.

    Hereditary Factors: Researches have been increasingly trying to link dyslexia with the family factor. It has been seen that, like diabetes, dyslexia may passed along from previous generations to the next. Some even suggest that the disorder is mostly seen in left-handed people. Though there is no surety that a child with a dyslexic parent will also be dyslexic, the chances are always present.

    Hearing Problems: The relation of dyslexia and hearing goes back to the first four or five years of the child’s life, when he is growing and learning many new things at every moment. If a child has frequent colds or throat infections during these years, the ear may get blocked. This is known as the ‘glue ear’ or ‘conductive hearing loss’. When this happens, the brain, which is still in its growth phase, cannot link the sound it hears to the thoughts.

    A child with such a hearing problem is therefore unable to recognize slight differences in sounds and words, like ‘cat’ and ‘bat’ or ‘mouse’ and ‘house’. He will also not be able to learn the way words are broken down into syllables, such as ce-le-bra-ting. This early learning disability due to loss of hearing hampers a child’s language skills.

    Such hearing problems can be treated by inserting a tiny tube into the ear or by removing the tonsils which are in fact the cause for the repetitive infections.

Types of Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia is a learning disorder but it manifests itself differently in different people. Some have more problems visually whereas others may have more difficulty in hearing and understanding words. There may also be other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) that may occur along with or separately with Dyslexia.

  • Semantic Dyslexia, where the child cannot associate words with their meanings.
  • Auditory processing disorder causes problems in the auditory or hearing memory and also where the child cannot remember the sequence of letters or words.
  • Scotopic sensitivity syndrome where the child cannot read black text on white paper.

Other SpLDs can include:

  • Dyspraxia: motor and coordination difficulties, loosing control over balance.
  • Dysphasia: speech delay
  • Verbal Dyspraxia: Difficulty in producing verbal sounds.
  • Dysgraphia: Difficulty in writing
  • Dyscalculia: Problems in understanding simple numerical skills.
  • Autism
  • Attention deficit disorder

A dyslexic child has immense creative abilities. With the proper attention and specialized teaching, your child can certainly outshine your expectations.