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Reading Disorder


What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a reading disability. It is the most commonly diagnosed learning disability in the United States. Dyslexia is also called developmental reading disorder.

A child with dyslexia reads at a much lower level than average for his or her age, intelligence, and education. The disorder affects how a child does in school and other daily activities.

How does it occur?

Nobody knows what causes dyslexia. It occurs more in some families. Children with other conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and lead poisoning are more likely to have a learning disability such as a reading disorder.

The disorder is not caused by vision problems. In dyslexia the problem is in the way the brain translates symbols into meaningful language.

What are the symptoms?

Based on what is average for the child's age, intelligence, and education, a child with dyslexia may:

  • guess words
  • rotate numbers and letters, such as "9" and "6" or "b" and "d"
  • change the order of letters in words
  • not look at all the letters in a word
  • lose his place while reading
  • forget common words learned each day
  • read word for word
  • add, delete, or change words in a sentence
  • read slowly

Sometimes children with dyslexia also have problems with speaking, such as mispronouncing words and speaking in incomplete sentences. Research shows that children who start talking later than normal may be more likely to have a reading disorder.

How is it diagnosed?

The disorder is usually detected in children early in grade school by parents or teachers. By the third grade, children with a reading disorder are usually 1 to 2 years behind in reading skills.

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child to rule out medical problems such as hearing or vision problems. He or she will ask about your child's symptoms, medical history, and any family history of learning disorders. The provider may then refer you to a specialist for testing to measure your child's reading level and overall intelligence.

How is it treated?

Reading disorders are usually treated by providing one-on-one instruction in reading skills. Your child may receive special help from his or her teacher in a regular classroom setting ("corrective reading"). It is also helpful for your child to work with a reading specialist ("remedial reading"). This can be done privately or in a small group that meets in a special classroom that may be called a resource room, reading center, or reading lab.

Methods that emphasize the senses, including hearing, vision, and touch are often used to improve reading skills. Many teaching methods can be used. If one approach isn't successful with a particular child, the teacher will try another one.

It is important for family, friends, and teachers to support and encourage children with dyslexia. Praise your child’s efforts, and any gains in reading skills, however small.

How long do the effects last?

It may be hard for children with dyslexia to keep up with schoolwork. The earlier your child receives special help with reading skills, the more likely he or she will successfully complete high school, college, and even graduate school. Teenagers who still have problems may lose interest in reading, making it hard for them to do well in school. Adults with an untreated reading disorder may have fewer career choices.

How can I help my child?

  • Read with your child every day. Let your child select the book. Follow the words with your finger as you read. Explain words and ask questions to be sure your child understands. Have your child draw a picture or write a few sentences about what has been read.
  • Read books about what interests your child (such as sports, art, animals, hobbies, science, and nature). Read together for enjoyment and fun, as well as for learning.
  • Talk about what you are reading and allow your child to interrupt and ask questions. This helps involve the child in the story and also increases understanding of what is read.
  • Write down your child's stories or have him or her write them down (if writing skills are developed). Seeing his or her own words in print helps to connect reading and writing concepts.
  • Read the newspaper together (the comics, TV program listings, a movie ad, or a favorite sports team article).
  • Encourage your child to read all kinds of things, such as labels, signs, magazines, assembly instructions, billboards, Yellow Pages, or Internet information.
  • Let your child help make the grocery list, look for coupons in the newspaper, and find the items in the store.
  • Read a favorite recipe. Together you can buy the necessary ingredients, follow the recipe to make the dish, and then enjoy eating it.
  • Praise your child's efforts at reading and writing. Praise your child for trying.
  • Most school districts have special programs to help children with learning disorders. Find out what services are available through the school district or your community to help children with reading problems.

Written by Psychiatric Professional Services, Inc.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-28
Last reviewed: 2010-06-14

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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