Project Description

Dyslexia Fast Facts

Dyslexia affects an estimated 15-20% of the entire US population. As many as 70% to 80% of reading-based learning disorders are thought to be caused by dyslexia. Dyslexia affects the language centers of the brain, but it does not affect other areas. The result is that people with dyslexia do not have below-average intelligence or other cognitive abilities.

About a third of children diagnosed with dyslexia also struggle with some form of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Both boys and girls seem to suffer from dyslexia at approximately the same rate, although some studies have indicated a higher rate of the disorder in boys.

Dyslexia affects an estimated 15-20% of the entire US population. As many as 70% to 80% of reading-based learning disorders are thought to be caused by dyslexia.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, from the Greek dys for difficulty and lexia for language, is a brain-based learning disorder that affects the brain’s language processing areas. A person with dyslexia has trouble associating written characters with spoken sounds. This makes it difficult for the sufferer to learn to read since the dyslexic brain can’t make a connection between the letters on a page and the spoken words they represent.

Beyond reading difficulties, dyslexics also tend to have trouble remembering and mentally organizing information.

Symptoms of Dyslexia

Although there are early warning signs of dyslexia, the problem often shows up once a dyslexic child starts school. Symptoms of the disorder in school-age children include:

  • Reading skills that are below those expected for their age
  • Difficulty recognizing or sounding out an unfamiliar written word
  • Poor spelling
  • Difficulty distinguishing the difference between individual letters and words
  • Slow performance of writing-based tasks
  • Difficulty remembering the proper sequence of telling a story or solving a problem
  • Problems processing spoken language or sounds
  • Difficulty distinguishing rhyming words
  • Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers, and colors

In older children, adolescents, and adults, dyslexia can show up in difficulties with a broader range of tasks that depend on processing written language, such as:

  • Learning a foreign language
  • Solving math problems
  • Memorizing facts
  • Understanding language-based jokes or figures of speech
  • Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
  • Slow and labor-intensive reading and writing
  • Problems spelling
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Mispronouncing names or words, or problems retrieving words
  • Trouble understanding jokes or expressions that have a meaning not easily understood from the specific words (idioms), such as “piece of cake” meaning “easy”
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Difficulty summarizing a story

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

What Causes Dyslexia?

While scientists have a good idea of which parts of the brain are affected by dyslexia, it’s not yet clear what’s going wrong in those areas of a dyslexic brain. The uncertainty makes it difficult to find the cause (or causes) of the disorder.

Although researchers have not discovered what causes dyslexia, they do know some things that don’t cause it. Dyslexics do not have vision or hearing problems that make them unable to see or hear language correctly, and there is no other physical trigger for the disorder. Dyslexia is also not part of a bigger cognitive problem; dyslexics don’t have below-average intelligence, and some, in fact, have above-average intelligence.

The root of the disorder seems to lie in a problem that surfaces while a child’s brain is developing early on. The cause of the developmental abnormality remains unknown, but a few risk factors seem to play a role.

  • Family history. Children with a family history of dyslexia are at increased risk of having the disorder themselves.
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure of the mother to nicotine, alcohol, or other toxins during pregnancy

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Is Dyslexia Hereditary?

Children who have a history of dyslexia in their families have a much greater risk than the general population of having the disorder. Studies have demonstrated that a child whose parent has dyslexia has between a 40% and 60% chance of being dyslexic.

Environmental factors could play a role in the prevalence of dyslexia within families, but studies of identical twins–who are genetically identical to one another–suggest that genetic similarities are at least part of the reason for increased risk in some families.

Researchers have not yet been able to determine which genes or gene variants might contribute to the risk of developing dyslexia. Studies have narrowed the possibilities to a handful of likely culprits. The process of neurological development that results in dyslexia is complex, however, and it’s likely that there is not a single genetic cause for the disorder. It’s more likely that an interplay of multiple genes and environmental factors is to blame.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is Dyslexia Detected?

The learning problems caused by dyslexia are most often noticed when they begin to interfere with a child’s schoolwork, but some signs may be apparent much earlier. Early detection of the disorder can help the child learn to cope and ensure that he or she gets adequate support at home and school from the very beginning. Dyslexic children who get support when they are in kindergarten or before are more likely to perform better later.

In general, the earliest signs of dyslexia surface in the areas of language development. Warning signs include:

  • Starting to speak later than usual
  • Difficulty in learning new words once speech begins
  • Confusing words (especially those that sound alike)
  • Mixing up sounds when pronouncing words
  • Difficulty remembering the words to songs or rhymes

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

Dyslexia doesn’t have a physical cause, so there is no physical exam or laboratory test that can detect the presence of the disorder. Instead, a doctor will focus on assessments of a child’s developmental and educational performance to determine whether the child’s symptoms are consistent with dyslexia. There will also probably be an effort to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms.

  • Developmental history. Your healthcare provider will ask questions about your child’s language development and current language skills. He or she will also ask about the child’s medical history to rule out other health factors that could contribute to the symptoms.
  • Family history. The provider will look for a family history of dyslexia, as well as other environmental factors that could be significant.
  • Physical and neurological exams. These exams will check the child’s vision, hearing, and neurological functions to rule out physical problems other than dyslexia that could be causing the symptoms.
  • Psychological assessments. The provider may also administer exams or questionnaires meant to rule out psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety that could be responsible for learning difficulties.
  • Cognitive and educational assessments. These exams and questionnaires will be aimed at accurately assessing the child’s language and reading skills to pinpoint exactly where the learning difficulties lie.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is Dyslexia Treated?

There is no known way to change a dyslexic brain so that the difficulties with language processing go away. Treatment is instead focused on helping the sufferer to compensate for the language disability to minimize its impact. For the most part, the disorder is treated by developing educational plans that support the dyslexic’s skills. Different individuals respond to different approaches, so individualized education plans are essential.

Some common treatment approaches include:

  • Using other senses, such as hearing or touch, to support the child’s language-learning skills.
  • Teaching the child to better recognize the smallest components of written language so that word-recognition skills can improve.
  • Using out-loud reading to improve the child’s language-processing skills.
  • Focusing on vocabulary building so the child has a broader range of reliably recognizable words.
  • Formulate an Individual education plan:

In the United States, schools have a legal obligation to take steps to help children diagnosed with dyslexia with their learning problems. Talk to your child’s teacher about setting up a meeting to create a structured, written plan that outlines your child’s needs and how the school will help him or her succeed. This is called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Does Dyslexia Progress?

When dyslexia goes undiagnosed and untreated, difficulties with language processing can interfere in many other areas of learning, leading to escalating and long-lasting developmental and social problems.

Long-term complications of dyslexia can include:

  • Broad learning difficulties. When a child has trouble reading, he or she is likely to have trouble with most other academic pursuits.
  • Social difficulties. Problems with learning can have a negative impact on other aspects of a child’s life, too. If the child lags behind his or her peers academically, he or she can be vulnerable to depression, anxiety, bullying, and social isolation.
  • Life-long consequences. Language-processing struggles can impact adults, too. Learning difficulties can hinder an adult’s career prospects, and ongoing language problems can get in the way of job performance. The result can be long-term financial and social challenges.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is Dyslexia Prevented?

Just as there’s no known cure for or cause of dyslexia, there is no known way to prevent the disorder. However, parents of a dyslexic child can take steps to support the child’s early learning and hopefully limit the negative impact of the disorder in the future.

  • Look for warning signs and seek help early. Early detection and treatment of dyslexia is the single biggest factor ineffective management of the disorder.
  • Start reading aloud to the child very early on. Read to the child as an infant, and continue to read throughout their childhood. Consistent reading may help to foster better language-processing abilities.
  • Support, encourage and facilitate the child’s reading. Make reading a routine part of the child’s life, and do everything possible to make reading a pleasant experience.
  • Make sure the child is getting support at school. Work with the school to develop an individualized educational plan, and remain involved as the plan is carried out.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Dyslexia Caregiver Tips

Dyslexia affects children when they’re still too young to comprehend the effects of the disorder. Therefore, it’s up to their parents and caregivers to be sure the disorder is treated appropriately. Keep these tips in mind as your child enters school and confronts the consequences of the disorder.

  • Be positive and encouraging. Dyslexia can have a brutal impact on a child’s self-esteem. Make sure your child knows that dyslexia isn’t a sign of low intelligence. Focus on the child’s skills and strengths, instead of on their difficulties.
  • Be supportive of your child’s educational goals. Structure your home life so that your child has a quiet, distraction-free place and time to study. Make reading and studying a regular part of the day, and place limits on technology and other distracting activities.
  • Be involved with your child’s school. It’s important for your child to get support from professional educators at school, but it’s also important for you to be an advocate for your child. Be aware of how your child’s educational plan is progressing, and don’t hesitate to express any concerns you may have.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Dyslexia Brain Science

To try to better understand the neurological basis of dyslexia, researchers have used an imaging technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to produce a visual representation of brain activity. An fMRI scan uses a magnetic field to make an image that shows patterns of activity in different parts of the brain. The results of fMRI studies show a consistent difference in brain activity in dyslexic subjects as compared to that in subjects without dyslexia. The studies have pinpointed the parts of the brain affected by the disorder, and fMRI research has also suggested that there may be two types of dyslexia, one genetically triggered and one caused by environmental factors.

Other studies have tried to discover precisely what’s going wrong in the parts of the brain affected by dyslexia. One suspected possibility is that dyslexic brains are unable to produce adequate amounts of a chemical called acetylcholine. This chemical is a neurotransmitter, a compound that helps brain nerve cells function and communicate with each other. A deficiency of this chemical (or some other neurotransmitter) might help to explain why connections between language processing centers in a dyslexic’s brain don’t function properly.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Dyslexia Research

Scientists are working on several research projects to expand on what is known about Dyslexia. The research will improve knowledge about the factors that increase the risk for Dyslexia, as well as the causes, and best treatments and cures, and will aid people living with Dyslexia and their caregivers.

We are currently gathering the information required to support projects such as Improving Response to Intervention in Students With or at Risk of Reading Disabilitiesand Effects of TBS on Reading in Adult Struggling Readers Stage: Recruiting and Efficacy of a Two-Year Intensive Reading Intervention for Middle School English Learners With Reading Difficulties (TCLD).

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

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