Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading. Also called specific reading disability, dyslexia is a common learning disability in children. Dyslexia occurs in children with normal vision and intelligence. Sometimes, dyslexia goes undiagnosed for years and isn't recognized until adulthood.
There's no cure for dyslexia. It's a lifelong condition caused by inherited traits that affect how your brain works. However, most children with dyslexia can succeed in school with tutoring or a specialized education program. Emotional support also plays an important role.
Dyslexia symptoms can be difficult to recognize before your child enters school, but some early clues may indicate a problem. Once your child reaches school age, your child's teacher may be first to notice a problem. The condition often becomes apparent as a child begins learning to read.
Teens and adults
Dyslexia is characterized by a delay in the age at which a child begins to read. Most children are ready to learn reading by kindergarten or first grade, but children with dyslexia often can't grasp the basics of reading by that time. Talk with your doctor if your child's reading level is below what's expected for his or her age or if you notice other signs or symptoms of dyslexia.
When dyslexia goes undiagnosed and untreated, childhood reading difficulties continue into adulthood.
Dyslexia has been linked to certain genes that control how the brain develops. It appears to be an inherited condition — it tends to run in families.
These inherited traits appear to affect parts of the brain concerned with language.
Dyslexia risk factors include:
Dyslexia can lead to a number of problems, including:
Children who have dyslexia are at increased risk of having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vice versa. ADHD can cause difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, which can make dyslexia harder to treat.
Preparing for your appointment
You may first bring up your concerns with your child's pediatrician or family doctor. The doctor may refer your child to a specialist, such as an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) or a doctor who specializes in brain and nervous system disorders (neurologist) to ensure that another problem isn't at the root of your child's reading difficulties.
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions ahead of time can help you make the most of your appointment. For dyslexia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
There's no one test that can diagnose dyslexia. Your child's doctor will consider a number of things, such as:
Treatments and drugs
There's no known way to correct the underlying brain abnormality that causes dyslexia.
Dyslexia is not generally treated with drugs. However, if your child has another condition that occurs along with dyslexia, such attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he or she may be prescribed medications.
Dyslexia is treated through education, and the sooner intervention begins, the better. Psychological testing will help your child's teachers develop a suitable teaching program.
Teachers may use techniques involving hearing, vision and touch to improve reading skills. Helping a child use several senses to learn — for example, by listening to a taped lesson and tracing with a finger the shape of the letters used and the words spoken — can help him or her process the information.
A reading specialist will focus on helping your child:
If your child has a severe reading disability, tutoring may need to occur more frequently, and progress may be slower. A child with severe dyslexia may never be able to read well. However, academic problems don't necessarily mean a person with dyslexia will be unable to succeed. Students with dyslexia can be highly capable, given the right resources. Many people with dyslexia are creative and bright, and may be gifted in mathematics, science or the arts. Some even have successful writing careers.
You play a key role in helping your child succeed. Take these steps:
Coping and support
Emotional support and opportunities for achievement in activities that don't involve reading are important for children with dyslexia. If your child has dyslexia:
Last Updated: 2011-08-23
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