What is dyslexia?

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[Skip to the bottom of this page for a video.] Commonly misunderstood, dyslexia is much more than letter reversals or slow reading. It is not something that is "outgrown" or overcome by "trying harder."  And it has no connection to an individual's intelligence. (In fact, it is not uncommon to be both "gifted" and dyslexic.) Decades of research have shown that dyslexia is a brain-based difference that affects approximately 15% of the population - that's 4-6 kids in an average 3rd grade classroom.  However, with early screening, early diagnosis, evidence-based reading intervention, and appropriate accommodations, dyslexic individuals can (and do!) become highly successful students and adults. 

With dyslexia, there is typically a wide gap between intelligence and school achievement. Additionally, an individual with dyslexia may experience deficits in areas of memory storage, sequencing and retrieval. 

How is dyslexia identified?

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Dyslexia is difficult to diagnose with certainty before the age of 5 or 6, but early clues such as delayed speech, left/right confusion, or trouble rhyming may signal a potential problem down the road. Once in school, difficulties with reading and spelling are the most common symptoms, but there are a wide range of other indicators. 

Common signs include:

  • Difficulty reading aloud - skips small words, guesses based on first letter, trouble sounding out words
  • Poor spelling - memorizes spelling words for test but forgets them within a week or so
  • Mixes up sounds in words (such as hekilopter or pasketti)
  • Trouble copying accurately from the board
  • Confusion with regard  to directionality (right/left) or time sequence (yesterday/tomorrow)

Review this more extensive list: if you recognize struggles in three or more of these areas, contact us to discuss whether screening would be appropriate. 

What can help?

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For those with dyslexia, reading and spelling is most easily learned through methods that are structured, sequential, and multi-sensory. Orton-Gillingham was the first teaching approach designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds and is still considered the most effective approach today. This kind of instruction has been proven to rewire the brain so that it is able to process language more effectively. 

What impact does dyslexia have on individuals?

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Dyslexia can affect individuals in many areas of their personal lives:

  • Academically, individuals with dyslexia have higher high school drop out rates, often experience a lasting distrust of schools and teachers, and are less likely to pursue and/or complete higher education. 
  • Individuals with dyslexia are more likely to suffer from emotional and behavioral difficulties. These include low self-esteem, shame, anxiety, depression, and aggressive/delinquent behavior. Students with learning disabilities like dyslexia are three times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • Family systems are often stressed by dyslexia, and studies show an increased risk for physical abuse within families where dyslexia is present.
  • Studies show an increased risk of substance abuse among individuals with learning disabilities, especially among lower income populations.
  • Individuals with dyslexia are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. 

What impact does dyslexia have on society and the community?

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The impact of dyslexia on individuals reverberates throughout the community. 

  • Adults with dyslexia are more likely to live in poverty and to rely on government -funded assistance programs such as food stamps, medicaid, and other social services. Because dyslexia is hereditary, it often results in generational cycles of poverty.
  • Low literacy has documented links to poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs.
  • Dyslexia is significantly more prevalent among incarcerated populations, placing higher demands on detention facilities for adults and juveniles. 85% of youth in juvenile detention facilities have learning disabilities that make them eligible for special education services. 

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