Dyslexia is a specific type of learning disability that results in difficulties with word reading, decoding, and spelling. Dyslexia is often related to deficits in phonological processing. Phonological processing involves the skills needed to process the sounds within language.
The International Dyslexia Association of Ontario estimates that approximately five to 20 per cent of the population has dyslexia. In fact, dyslexia is considered the most common form of learning disability.
While the core deficits in dyslexia are at the individual word-level, difficulties with word reading can also lead to difficulties with reading comprehension, as children must focus so hard on sounding out and recognizing the individual words that they miss out on the overall meaning of what they are reading.
There are many myths and misunderstandings about dyslexia. First, dyslexia is not related to intelligence. Individuals with learning disabilities are typically of average to above average intelligence.
Second, dyslexia does not simply involve reversing or mixing up letters in reading and writing. Letter reversals are very common in young children and typically resolve after a few years of literacy instruction. Difficulties with letter orientation and order are quite common in individuals with dyslexia, but these difficulties stem from a limited understanding of the sounds within words, not because of a vision or visual-perception issue.
For example, children with dyslexia may jumble up letters in their spelling words because they cannot remember the specific combination of letters that make the sounds within the word. Similarly, they may mix up their “b” and “d” because they struggle to match the correct sounds with the letters.
Treatment for dyslexia involves structured literacy intervention that focuses on the development of phonological awareness, phonics, and word recognition.
If you suspect that your child may have dyslexia, the first step is to talk to their teacher to learn about availability of and eligibility for reading groups within the school.
If you are seeing little gain from classroom instruction and/or intervention groups, it may be worth seeking out a psychoeducational assessment to determine if a learning disability, such as dyslexia, is present.