What is dyslexia and does dyslexia have a cure? This question has become almost ubiquitous in recent years as dyslexia diagnoses have become more common. In this article, it is my goal to provide answers to the questions: “What is dyslexia?”, “How do you get dyslexia?”, “What are the symptoms of dyslexia?”, “Can you cure dyslexia?”, and “Who has dyslexia?”.
Dyslexia OverviewAccording to the National Institute of Health, dyslexia is a reading disorder that presents itself in people with otherwise normal intelligence. According to the National Institute of Health, roughly 7% of students in the U.S. will be diagnosed with dyslexia (Seminar: Developmental Dyslexia). Yale University describes Dyslexia as “an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader.”” (Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity) . Accordingly, students with dyslexia often read slower than their peers and have trouble with spelling and sequencing tasks. Unexpectedly, however, dyslexic students often have very fast creative problem-solving skills in non-reading academic tasks. This ability to perform some tasks very quickly and others slowly can leave dyslexic students and their families confused. The good news, however, is that with the right tools dyslexic students can use this to their advantage.
How do you get Dyslexia?Dyslexia is genetic, in other words, it travels through families. Accordingly, if you have a family history of dyslexia, it is more likely that you (or your children) will also be dyslexic. While scientists aren’t exactly sure which genes control dyslexia, they have observed a fascinating connection between roughly 6 genes and prenatal neural development (in other words these genes are controlling how your brain develops before you are even born). While you might be developing before you are even born, dyslexia is rarely diagnosed until you begin learning to read. Many students can so skillfully work around their dyslexia, that they are not even diagnosed until high school or college! Dyslexia is diagnosed through something called a “psychoeducational assessment” (often referred to as a “psych-ed” for short). During this assessment, a medical doctor and clinical psychologist will team up to assess a student’s learning style (and general cognitive abilities). By the end of such an assessment, if it is appropriate, the providers will be able to provide a diagnosis of dyslexia.
Dyslexia Symptoms?If you are considering pursuing a “psych-ed” assessment for yourself (or your student), it is important to consider the common symptoms of dyslexia. The Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive article explaining a host of dyslexia symptoms at a host of development stages in THIS ARTICLE. Generally speaking, however, the following symptoms are likely evidence that a student might be struggling with dyslexia.
- Below Grade-Level Reading or Slow Reading
- Sequencing Problems (having a hard time remembering the order of things)
- Spelling Problems
- Foreign Language Difficulties
- Listening Comprehension
- Visuospatial Skills (many of the skills critical for math, architecture, and art)
- “Big Picture Skills” (an ability to work with and understand large and complex systems: computer science, engineering, linguistics, etc.)
- 3 Dimensional Modeling (unusually strong ability to work in 3rd-dimensional space: engineering models, sculpture, etc.)
- Larger than Average Vocabulary
Cure Dyslexia?Because dyslexia offers many strengths to complement its many setbacks, having a “cure” for dyslexia is rarely considered the goal. For most, the goal is to find a way of treating and reducing the negative symptoms of dyslexia, allowing the strengths to shine through. Fortunately, there are a wide array of very effective interventions for dyslexia! If caught early, most of the negative symptoms of dyslexia can be almost completely erased with the following resources.
- Reading Programs (working with a reading specialist trained in the Orton-Gillingham or the Wilson Reading Program will allow your students a multisensory approach that can fundamentally “re-wire” how his/her brain engages with reading for the better!)
- Tutors (Educators with training and experience in dyslexia – like our wonderful educators here at Granite – can help you or your student innovate and create “outside the box” approaches to school)