What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based disability that is neurobiological in origin. This means it is genetic in origin and linked to the brain's neurological functioning. Dyslexia is a phonologically based disability, so people with dyslexia will demonstrate challenges with sound-based activities, holding information in their phonological memory, and/or with their ability to rapidly retrieve and use information that they have stored in their memory (i.e. quickly recognizing letters and saying their names or sounds). Dyslexia most often impacts a child's reading and spelling abilities, but can also impact their overall written expression. Additionally, children with dyslexia can have co-morbid challenges within speech and language skills, fine motor skills, math fact fluency, sequencing skills, rote memory skills, working memory, processing speed, executive functioning, attention/impulsivity (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
How do you get Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is brain-based (neurobiological in origin). People are born with dyslexia but they can be impacted at various levels depending on their experiences, educational experiences, and a variety of other factors. People with dyslexia have differences in brain structure, including size of the lobes, activity within the lobes, and amount of gray and white matter present. When people take brain scans of people with dyslexia while they are reading they will note activity within different areas of the brain than people without dyslexia.
Dyslexia is genetic. If you have dyslexia it is possible it will be passed onto your children. In addition, if you have a child with dyslexia there is a 50% chance that your other children may have dyslexia as well. This does not need to be scary information - there is much research out there about how to identify dyslexia and how to help remediate challenges resulting from dyslexia. However, people with dyslexia also have strengths associated with this disability that often helps them be labeled as creative, or out-of-the-box thinkers. In fact, there are many unique and incredible individuals who have had dyslexia, including Albert Einstein. 40% of the world's self-made millionaires have a history of dyslexia.
Can Dyslexia be cured?
Dyslexia is lifelong and people will continue to experience a degree of impact throughout their lifetime. However, with appropriate supports and instruction we can meet the needs of almost all learners.
How Common is Dyslexia?
1 in 5 people have symptoms of dyslexia, therefore 20% of the population. People are impacted across various degrees, so about 10% of people with dyslexia may be able to function in academic settings without requiring specialized support. Children with dyslexia are present in every classroom. These children will present a range of signs and symptoms, some may even read above grade-level expectations but demonstrate challenges primarily in spelling due to the spectrum of impact.
What are some signs of Dyslexia?
What do I do if I think my child has Dyslexia?
Early intervention is essential for children with dyslexia. The earlier children get support, the higher the chances for successful remediation. Children who begin receiving support after the 3rd grade demonstrate more reading challenges and slower rates of progress. It becomes increasingly more difficult to close the gap.
If you think your child may have dyslexia, it is important to ask for help as soon as possible. Ask your child's school about their rates of progress, and consider requesting an evaluation for special education services. Dyslexia is a subcategory of SLD (Specific Learning Disability) under IDEA 2004. Schools are required to provide FAPE (a free, appropriate, public, education) to students attending public school. Evaluations for the purpose of identifying whether a child requires special education services are included within these requirements. Therefore, public schools are required to provide educational evaluations at no cost to parents if there is a sufficient evidence of a disability.
If you have a family history of dyslexia, it is important to share this information with your child's school. If you have another child with dyslexia, sharing their history can help alert the school to possible cases within their siblings. After the school completes an evaluation, they will meet with you to discuss the results and will determine whether your child is demonstrating deficits consistent with dyslexia. Some states do not use the word 'dyslexia' and instead will only specify a 'learning disability'. It is important to recognize dyslexia in order to help your child receive the supports they need. If your child demonstrates these challenges and is found eligible for special education services, your child's school will work with you in order to develop an individualized education plan (IEP) that will help guide instruction in order to meet their needs.
If your child has dyslexia and is impacted within the areas listed above it is important that they be provided with multi-sensory reading instruction that is direct, systematic, explicit, and individualized, or a structured literacy approach. Schools may use programs such as Wilson Reading Systems, Barton, Sonday, Spire, Take Flight, and more. They may use the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which allows teachers to create unique lessons for your child rather than following a specific curriculum. Throughout all of these approaches and curriculums multi-sensory strategies are a focus and will help your child learn the explicit rules of reading and spelling while building their orthographic mapping skills. While they receive this instruction, they may use accommodations within the classroom to help them complete their grade-level work, for example, audiobooks or speech-to-text software. Schools can also work with you to help develop strategies that you can use at home to help support your child's learning.
Finding people who are certified to use the above programs or approaches to tutor your child after school is another way to help support your child. It is essential that the educators working with your child are appropriately trained in providing these supports and instruction. You can find tutor lists online through Orton-Gillingham Academy and The International Dyslexia Association, but also right here at Empowered Literacy!
If our availability does not meet your needs, we will be happy to connect you to other tutors to help your child find appropriate support. Please feel free to contact me with questions or for additional support.
International Dyslexia Association
The Reading League
Florida Center for Reading Research
Made By Dyslexia
Shaywitz, S., 2012. Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: A.A. Knopf.
Rawson, M., 2008. The Many Faces of Dyslexia. Baltimore, Md.: The International Dyslexia Association.
Grigg, K. (2018, January). The Creative Brilliance of Dyslexia [Video] Ted Conferences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYM40HN82l4
Definition of Dyslexia. (2018, July 16). Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/
DYSLEXIA BASICS. (2020, May 18). Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://dyslexiaida.org/dyslexia-basics-2/
“The Dyslexia Toolkit.” Reading Rockets, NCLD, 17 Dec. 2014, www.readingrockets.org/guides/dyslexia-toolkit