Dyslexia affects approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population and represents 80 to 90 percent of all learning disorders. Despite its prevalence, many people with dyslexia experience a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or go completely undiagnosed.
It creates challenges in processing written and spoken language and is usually first noticeable in childhood, sometimes even as young as preschool age.
Signs of dyslexia include:
Reversing sounds when pronouncing words.
Slow reading speed.
Difficulty recognizing letters.
Trouble putting information in sequential order.
Avoiding reading tasks and processing challenges when reading.
1. Dyslexia Myths
There are several pieces of misinformation regarding dyslexia, which can be detrimental to those attempting to navigate the process of identifying and managing this condition. These dyslexia myths often include:
Myth: The main sign of dyslexia is reading and writing letters backward. Fact: While this can occur, it is not always true, nor does it mean that a child definitely has dyslexia.
Myth: It doesn’t affect intelligent people. Fact: In fact, dyslexia and intelligence level are not related. People with all ranges of intelligence can have dyslexia.
Myth: It is based on vision problems. Fact: It is considered an auditory disorder.
Myth: Signs of dyslexia will not be apparent until elementary school. Fact: Children in preschool (and sometimes even younger) can exhibit signs such as being late talkers.
Myth: The problem can be fixed by trying harder or simply reading more. Fact: This is not true. Those struggling with this disorder need targeted intervention.
Myth: It is something that kids will outgrow. Fact: It is a lifelong condition.
Myth: It is not an actual condition. Fact: Several decades of research proves otherwise.
2. Testing for Dyslexia
For children with suspected dyslexia, testing and evaluation are essential to getting the correct diagnosis and necessary intervention. There are a multitude of tests to assess reading, written and oral language, motor skills, social skills and intelligence. Although testing is an integral part of a dyslexia assessment, so is early educational history, family history and language and speech development information.
In addition to leading to a correct diagnosis and treatment, assessments are essential for documentation. Proper documentation is needed to gain approval for special education. It is important to note that testing and other assessment tools should be overseen by a qualified professional — most commonly a licensed educational psychologist or speech-language pathologist (SLP). Sometimes a neurologist may be the appropriate clinician.
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3. Often Mistaken for Other Conditions
Dyslexia can and has been mistaken for other conditions, such as ADHD and autism. However, dyslexia is a learning disorder, while ADHD and autism are developmental disorders. The reason for the diagnosis misidentification happens because ADHD, autism and dyslexia share certain similarities — although the way the symptoms present themselves will differ.
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Although someone can have both dyslexia and another condition, such as ADHD or autism, they are distinct diagnoses. People with ADHD and dyslexia can encounter memory and motor skill deficits, problems with information processing speed and potential self-esteem issues. Compare this to those on the autism spectrum and people with dyslexia, who can experience symptoms such as having a genetic basis and impairments with language and reading.
4. Dyslexia Help
Although there is no “cure,” there are therapies that can help dyslexia. These include intensive and multisensory methods focusing on spelling, phonics, reading comprehension and vocabulary. Everyday practice of writing and reading skills leads to greater improvement. The Orton Gillingham method is the most well-known and considered to be the most effective.
In the U.S., schools are legally required to help students with dyslexia — and often do so through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Suppose a student is eligible for special education. In that case, the IEP will detail a specific instruction plan and any other services that will be made available to meet the student’s personalized needs.
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