The term dyslexia is derived from the Greek language and broadly means difficulty with words. It is a very common type of learning difficulty that is associated with problems reading and spelling words. The severity of symptoms vary from very mild to severe. Most people are diagnosed during childhood, when problems reading and writing become apparent despite adequate intellectual ability and teaching.
What causes it?
There are various different theories on what causes dyslexia, but most agree that it is a genetic condition, which changes the way the brain processes information and is passed down through families. If you suffer from dyslexia, the likelihood of your child inheriting it is 40-60%. This theory is further supported by the fact that identical twins are usually both affected by it.
The phonological processing impairment theory explains how dyslexia affects reading and writing. In speech, humans have the natural ability to distinguish between phonemes (the smallest units of sound that make up words) and reassemble them together so they make sense. With reading a writing, it is a little different. These skills require the ability to recognise the letters in a word, then using those to identify the appropriate phonemes and then assembling them to make a word. This is known as phonological processing. It is believed that people with dyslexia find this process more difficult than others.
It is also thought that the reason why people with dyslexia find phonological processing more difficult than others is that some parts of their brain function in a different way. MRI scans have revealed that activity levels in the left hemisphere of the brain are lower in people with dyslexia when they are reading.
It is important to emphasise that dyslexia has nothing to do with intellect and that sufferers show a normal range of intelligence.
What are the symptoms?
Dyslexia often becomes apparent in early childhood with problems putting together sequences, for instance, such as numbers or coloured beads. Some toddlers may mix up their words, have problems with rhyming, clapping rhythms or show a lack of interest in reading and writing and delayed speech development. Over the cours of growing up, these symptoms can seriously affect the child’s self-esteem.
How is it treated?
While there is no cure for dyslexia, there are treatments available to manage the condition. It is important to have dyslexia diagnosed by a psychologist or a dyslexia specialist to figure out the best treatment. Teaching methods can be tailored appropriately to help the child learn better and instruction on phonemic, fluency and comprehension provided. Using colour overlays, mind maps (diagrams using images and keywords to create visual representation) and voice-recognition software among many other things can also help in later life.
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