Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Students with dyslexia may experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can vary at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment — and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations or extra support services.
Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn. With appropriate teaching methods, students with dyslexia can learn successfully. Dyslexia occurs in people of all socio-economic backgrounds and intellectual levels, and often runs in families.
What are the signs of dyslexia?
Individuals with dyslexia often have difficulty acquiring and using written language. It is a myth that individuals with dyslexia “read backwards,” although spelling can look quite jumbled at times because students have trouble remembering letter symbols for sounds and forming memories for words. Other problems experienced by people with dyslexia include:
Learning to speak
Learning letters and their sounds
Organizing written and spoken language
Memorizing number facts
Reading quickly enough to comprehend
Persisting with and comprehending longer reading assignments
Learning a foreign language
Correctly doing math operations
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
A comprehensive evaluation of dyslexia can be conducted by trained school or outside specialists.It typically includes intellectual and academic achievement testing, as well as an assessment of the critical underlying language skills that are closely linked to dyslexia. These include receptive (listening) and expressive language skills, phonological skills including phonemic awareness, a student’s ability to rapidly name letters and numbers and a student’s ability to read lists of words in isolation and words in context.
If a profile emerges that is characteristic of readers with dyslexia, specialized instruction is needed. The school may agree to an individualized intervention plan, which should include appropriate accommodations, such as extended time.
Academic therapy can start prior to formal testing. There is no benefit to the child if special instruction is delayed for months while waiting for an involved testing process to occur. Interventions can be documented in the assessment when it occurs.
What are the rights of a person with dyslexia?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act define the rights of students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. These individuals are legally entitled to special services to help them overcome and accommodate their learning problems, such as educational programs designed to meet the needs of these students. The acts also protect people with dyslexia against discrimination.
How is dyslexia treated?
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. With proper help, many people with dyslexia can learn to read and write well. Early identification and treatment is key to helping individuals with dyslexia achieve in school and in life. Most people with dyslexia need help from a teacher, tutor or therapist specially trained in using a multisensory, structured language approach.
Many individuals with dyslexia need one-on-one help so that they can move forward at their own pace. In addition, students with dyslexia often need a great deal of structured practice and immediate, corrective feedback to develop automatic word recognition skills. For students with dyslexia, it is helpful if their outside academic therapists work closely with classroom teachers.
Students may also need help with emotional issues that sometimes arise as a consequence of difficulties in school. Mental health specialists can help students cope with their struggles.
Moats, L. C., & Dakin, K. E. (2008). Basic Facts About Dyslexia and Other Reading Problems. Baltimore: The International Dyslexia Association.
Shaywitz, S. (2020). Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: Knopf.