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Reading Disability, specific / Dyslexia

Definition :
Dyslexia is an impairment in your brain's ability to translate written images received from your eyes into meaningful language. Also called specific reading disability, dyslexia is the most common learning disability in children.

Learning disabilities affect about 5 percent of all school-age children in public schools in the United States. The majority of schoolchildren who receive special education services have deficits in reading, and dyslexia is the most common cause.

Dyslexia occurs in children with normal vision and normal intelligence. Children with dyslexia usually have normal speech, but often have difficulty interpreting spoken language and writing.

Treatment for dyslexia may involve a multisensory education program. Emotional support of your child on your part also plays an important role.

A learning disability is a condition that produces a gap between someone's ability and his or her performance. Most people with dyslexia are of average or above-average intelligence, but read at levels significantly lower than expected. Other types of learning disabilities include attention difficulties, an inability to perform well at writing skills, and an inability to perform well at math skills.

Dyslexia seems to be caused by a malfunction in certain areas of the brain concerned with language. The condition frequently runs in families.

When to seek medical advice :
Dyslexia is characterized by a delay in the age at which your child begins to read. Most children are ready to learn reading by age 6, but children with dyslexia often can't grasp the basics of reading in first or even second grade.

Talk with your doctor if your child's reading achievement levels fall below what's expected for his or her age, or if you notice other signs or symptoms of dyslexia.

Symptoms :
Dyslexia can be difficult to recognize before your child enters school, but some early clues may indicate a problem. If your young child begins talking late, adds new words slowly and has difficulty rhyming, he or she may be at increased risk of dyslexia.

Once your child is in school, signs and symptoms of dyslexia may become more apparent, including :

  • The inability to recognize words and letters on a printed page
  • A reading ability level well below the expected level for the age of your child

Children with dyslexia commonly have problems processing and understanding what they hear. They may have difficulty comprehending rapid instructions, following more than one command at a time or remembering the sequence of things. Reversals of letters (b for d) and a reversal of words (saw for was) are typical among children who have dyslexia. Reversals are common for children age 6 and younger who don't have dyslexia. But with dyslexia, the reversals persist.

Children with dyslexia may also try to read from right to left, may fail to see (and occasionally to hear) similarities and differences in letters and words, may not recognize the spacing that organizes letters into separate words, and may be unable to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word.

There's no single test for dyslexia. Diagnosis involves an evaluation of medical, cognitive, sensory-processing, educational and psychological factors. Your doctor may ask about your child's developmental and medical history as well as your family medical history.

Your doctor may also suggest that your child undergo :

  • Vision, hearing and neurological evaluations. These evaluations can help determine whether another disorder may be causing or contributing to your child's poor reading ability.
  • A psychological assessment. This can help determine whether social problems, anxiety or depression may be limiting your child's abilities.
  • An evaluation of educational skills. Your child may take a set of educational tests and have the process and quality of his or her reading skills analyzed by an expert.

Complications :
Your child's inability to read well may not affect achievement in other school subjects, such as arithmetic. However, because reading is a skill basic to most other school subjects, a child who has dyslexia is at a great disadvantage in most classes and may have trouble learning.

Left untreated, dyslexia may lead to low self-esteem, behavioral problems, delinquency, aggression, and withdrawal or alienation from friends, parents and teachers. The degree to which these problems develop may relate to the severity of the condition. Some children have a relatively mild form of dyslexia, but others have a more severe form.

There's no known way to correct the underlying brain malfunction that causes dyslexia. Treatment is by remedial education. Psychological testing will help your child's teachers develop a suitable remedial 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 words spoken — can help him or her process the information. The most important teaching approach may be frequent instruction by a reading specialist who uses these multisensory methods of teaching.

You can help your child learn by reading to him or her often and helping your child pronounce letters and spell out words. If your child learns best by hearing new information first, listen to books on tape with him or her and then read the same story in written form together.

If your child has a severe reading disability, tutoring may involve several individual or small-group sessions each week, and progress may be slow. A child with severe dyslexia may never be able to read well and may need training for vocations that don't require strong reading skills. Children with milder forms of dyslexia often eventually learn to read well enough to succeed in school.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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