From Academic Kids

Dyslexia is a cognitive deficit in which a person's reading and/or writing ability is significantly lower than that which would be predicted by his or her general level of intelligence. People are diagnosed as dyslexic when their reading problems cannot be explained by a lack of intellectual ability, inadequate instruction, or sensory problems such as poor eyesight. Because reading is a complex mental process, dyslexia has many potential causes. From a neurophysiological perspective, dyslexia can be diagnosed by close inspection of the morphology of the brain, usually upon autopsy. Dyslexia is also associated with phonological difficulties, such as enunciation.


Variations and related disorders

Dyslexia is a learning disorder. Its underlying cause may be neurological in nature, but from there, the systems involved splay out into visual, language, etc. FMRI has been use to demonstrate differences in the dyslexic brain patterns, but much research still needs to be done to apply this information. The disorder can be partially compensated for with appropriate therapy.

In addition to the typical forms of dyslexia, there are numerous related disorders:

  • Scotopic sensitivity syndrome is a form of dyslexia which makes it very difficult for a person to read black text on white paper, particularly when the paper is slightly shiny.
  • Dyspraxia- a neurological disorder characterised by a marked difficulty in carrying out routine tasks involving balance, fine-motor control, and kinesthetic coordination.
  • Verbal Dyspraxia- a neurological disorder characterised by marked difficulty in the use of speech sounds, which is the result of an immaturity in the speech production area of the brain.
  • Dysgraphia- a neurological disorder characterised by distorted and incorrect writing.
  • Dyscalculia- a neurological disorder characterised by a problem with learning fundamentals and one or more of the basic numerical skills. Often people with this disorder can understand very complex mathematical concepts and principles but have difficulty processing formulas and even basic addition and subtraction.

Facts and statistics

Between five and 15 percent of the population can be diagnosed as suffering from various degrees of dyslexia. As previously mentioned, dyslexia can be substantially compensated for with proper therapy, training and equipment.

Most researchers agree that there is a fairly even gender balance amongst dyslexics, and that the fact that it is reported more in males is because of selection factors and bias.

Dyslexia's main manifestation is a difficulty in developing reading skills in elementary school children.Those difficulties result from reduced ability to associate visual symbols with verbal sounds. While motivational factors must also be reviewed in assessing poor performance, dyslexia is considered to be an inborn trait and rarely arises from environmental factors after the brain had matured beyond its especially plastic condition during infancy.

Some have disagreed with these findings, however, and believe that while dyslexia may sometimes be inborn it is often attributable to lack of phonics training when learning to read, and also attributed to the preponderance of the whole language system.

Researchers studying the brains of dyslexics have found that during reading tasks, dyslexics show reduced activity in the left inferior parietal cortex.

Physiology and treatment

Even a few weeks of intense phonological training (often involving breaking down and rearranging sounds to produce different words) can help noticeably improve reading skills. Unlike in normal adults, phonological training shows an increase in the activity in the right temporoparietal cortex.

This part of the brain works in spatial tasks and may be the main compensatory structure in phonological training. This is the sister region of the left temporoparietal cortex responsible for visual motion processing which is underactive in many dyslexics. The earlier the phonological regimen is taken on, the better the overall result. Advanced brain scans could identify children at risk of dyslexia before they can even read, although it is thought that simple tests of balance could do the same. It has also been shown that early diagnosis and treatment can almost completely redidiate the symptoms of dyslexia.

The most important thing that can be done for the child is to make sure the child is kept active. You can do this by giving them simple jobs to do around the home such as cleaning the house. This helps imporove their concentration and their motivational skills.

One hypothesis for some of the symptoms of dyslexia is a lack of overall short-term memory. Typically a dyslexic will not remember your name, and will suffer an undue amount of difficulty in transcribing (for example) a phone number. These problems could be attributed to difficulty in laying down short-term memories.

It is not that uncommon for dyslexics who have trained themselves to cope with their affliction, to develop uncannily efficient visual memories which aid in reading and comprehending large quantities of information much faster than is typical. Adversely, some dyslexics may show a natural dislike of reading and, in consequence, compensate by developing unique verbal communication skills, inter-personal expertise, and leadership skills. Different people adopt different strategies for living with the same affliction.

A popular hypothesis for the reading difficulties experienced by dyslexics is strabismus, which is difficulty in bringing both eyes into focus on the same point. Such problems explain why dyslexics often confuse the sequence of written letters or numbers, as the end of the word is literally being seen first by one eye, then the beginning of the word is seen by the other eye. Studies in which young children are taught reading skills while wearing an eyepatch have shown very promising results. This is based upon the theory that, because children benefit more from learning to read than being confocal, the former should take precedence over the latter.

In 1979, anatomical differences in the brain of a young dyslexic were documented. Albert Galaburda of Harvard Medical School noticed that language centers in dyslexic brains showed microscopic flaws known as ectopias and microgyria. Both affect the normal six-layer structure of the cortex. An ectopia is a collection of neurons that have pushed up from lower cortical layers into the outermost one. A microgyrus is an area of cortex that includes only four layers instead of six.

These flaws affect connectivity and functionality of the cortex in critical areas related to sound and visual processing. These and similar structural abnormalities may be the basis of the inevitable and hard to overcome difficulty in reading.

Several genetic regions on chromosomes 1 and 6 have been found that might be linked to dyslexia. In all likelihood, dyslexia is a conglomeration of disorders that all affect similar and associated areas of the cortex. With time, science is likely to identify and classify all individual suborders with benefits to our understanding of how low-level genetic flaws can affect the wiring of the brain and enhance or reduce a particular component of human mental capacity.

Some studies have concluded that speakers of languages whose orthography has a strong correspondence between letter and sound (e.g. Korean and Italian) have a much lower incidence of dyslexia than speakers of languages where the letter is less closely linked to the sound (e.g. English and French). (Source: )

Whether today's models of dyslexia are correct or not, the main lesson of dyslexia is that minor genetic changes affecting the layering of the cortex in a minor area of the brain may impose inborn limitations on the overall intellectual function. At the same time, dyslexia shows that the brain exhibits a strong ability to compensate for its inborn or acquired limitations, and intense training can often result in miraculous turnabouts.

Lack of public support

In the United States and in the United Kingdom, some people say that there is a lack of adequate support and a general lack of interest in the learning disabilities of children in public schools. This has recently lead to legal action by private parties against public schools in the United States and state schools in the United Kingdom.

In English law, the failure of schools to diagnose and provide remedial help for dyslexia became grounds for personal injury litigation in 1999 following a House of Lords decision in the case of Pamela Phelps. Students with dyslexia in Higher Education may receive support funded via the Disabled Students Allowance. Support can take the form of IT equipment (software and hardware) as well as personal assistance, also known as non-medical helper support. Dyslexic students will also be entitled to special provision in examinations such as additional time to allow them to read and comprehend exam questions.

The British Disability Discrimination Act also covers dyslexia.

"In some cases, people have 'coping strategies' which cease to work in certain circumstances (for example, where someone who stutters or has dyslexia is placed under stress). If it is possible that a person's ability to manage the effects of the impairment will break down so that these effects will sometimes occur, this possibility must be taken into account when assessing the effects of the impairment."
[Paragraph A8, Guidance to the Definitions of Disability]


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es:Dislexia fr:Dyslexie he:דיסלקציה is:Lesblinda ms:Dyslexia nl:Dyslexie no:Dysleksi ja:読字障害 pl:Dysleksja pt:Dislexia sv:Dyslexi


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