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About Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

Reading is complex. It requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order, and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs we can read and comprehend.

People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step, all the other steps are harder.

Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.

Dyslexia is also very common, affecting 20 percent of the population and representing 80– 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities. Scientific research shows differences in brain connectivity between dyslexic and typical reading children, providing a neurological basis for why reading fluently is a struggle for those with dyslexia.

Dyslexia can’t be “cured” – it is lifelong. But with the right supports, dyslexic individuals can become highly successful students and adults.

(This section is taken from the most scientifically valid and clinically accurate information available and presented in the book Overcoming Dyslexia, © Sally Shaywitz. )

 

Symptoms of Dyslexia

The Preschool Years


  • Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
  • Difficulty learning (and remembering) the names of letters in the alphabet
  • Seems unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
  • Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
  • Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like catbatrat
  • A family history of reading and/or spelling difficulties (dyslexia often runs in families)

© Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, p. 122

 

Kindergarten & First Grade


Difficulties

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog
  • Does not understand that words come apart
  • Complains about how hard reading is; “disappears” when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Cannot sound out even simple words like catmapnap
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound

Strengths

  • Curiosity
  • Great imagination
  • Ability to figure things out; gets the gist of things
  • Eager embrace of new ideas
  • A good understanding of new concepts
  • Surprising maturity
  • A larger vocabulary than typical for age group
  • Enjoys solving puzzles
  • Talent for building models
  • Excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him

© Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, pp. 122 – 123

Second Grade through High School


Reading

  • Very slow in acquiring reading skills. Reading is slow and awkward
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out the word
  • Doesn’t seem to have a strategy for reading new words
  • Avoids reading out loud

Speaking

  • Searches for a specific word and ends up using vague language, such as “stuff” or “thing,” without naming the object
  • Pauses, hesitates, and/or uses lots of “um’s” when speaking
  • Confuses words that sound alike, such as saying “tornado” for “volcano,” substituting “lotion” for “ocean”
  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar or complicated words
  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions

School and Life

  • Trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists
  • Struggles to finish tests on time
  • Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Poor spelling
  • Messy handwriting
  • Low self-esteem that may not be immediately visible

Strengths

  • Excellent thinking skills: conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction
  • Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization
  • Ability to get the “big picture”
  • A high level of understanding of what is read tohim
  • The ability to read and to understand at a high level overlearned (or highly practiced) words in a special area of interest; for example, if he or she loves cooking they may be able to read food magazines and cookbooks
  • Improvement as an area of interest becomes more specialized and focused—and a miniature vocabulary is developed that allows for reading in that subject area
  • A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary
  • Excels in areas not dependent on reading, such as math, computers and visual arts, or in more conceptual (versus fact-driven) subjects, including philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience and creative writing

© Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, pp. 123–125