17 Facts About Dyslexia

Most children look forward to learning to read, a process whereby they learn to transform what are essentially abstract squiggles on a page into meaningful letters, then sounds, then words, and then entire sentences and paragraphs. Reading represents a code: specifically, an alphabetic code. A great number of children are able to break the code after a year of instruction. For at least one in five children, however, the experience is very different.

For them, reading, which seems to come effortlessly for others, appears to be beyond their grasp. These children, who understand the spoken word and love to listen to stories, struggle to decipher the same words when they are written on a page. They read slowly and haltingly, and words that they read correctly in one sentence may be misread in a subsequent sentence. Reading aloud may be particularly painful. Eventually they grow frustrated and disappointed.

The term dyslexia is often used to describe a serious reading difficulty. Over the years, the term has been given a variety of definitions, and for this reason, many teachers have resisted using the term at all. Instead, they have used such terms as “reading disability” or “learning disability” to describe conditions more correctly designated as dyslexia. Although there is no universally recognized definition of dyslexia, the one presented by the World Federation of Neurology has won broad respect: “A disorder manifested by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and sociocultural opportunity.”

According to the International Literacy Association, however, “… there is no empirical basis for the use of the term dyslexic to distinguish a group of children who are different from others experiencing difficulty in acquiring literacy.” Accordingly, dyslexia is simply another name for students on the lowest end of the reading continuum.

While a lot of uncertainty continues to surround dyslexia, here are some facts:

1.) The term dyslexia was coined from the Greek words dys, meaning ill or difficult, and lexis, meaning word.

The term refers to persons for whom reading is simply beyond their reach. Spelling and writing, due to their close relationship to reading, are usually included.

2.) Symptoms of dyslexia include…

letter reversals (confusing b and d); putting letters in the wrong order (reading ‘felt’ as ‘left’); elisions (reading ‘cat’ for ‘cart’); spelling words as they sound; reading very slowly and hesitantly; reading with poor comprehension; and poor handwriting.

3.) Dyslexia is a common problem.

According to a Yale study 1 out of 5 people suffer from dyslexia, and 80 to 90 percent of children with learning disabilities are dyslexic.

4.) Dyslexia, like hypertension, can vary in severity.

The terms mild, moderate and severe are commonly used to describe the degree:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
none mild moderate severe total
Mainstream classroom Need specialized services


> Most adults show some blips and would be levels 1 or 2.
> Levels 4 or 5 have difficulty in spelling and punctuation. If they maintain high levels of discipline, they can be successful.
> Levels 6 or 7 have difficulty with spelling and reading textbooks. They can sometimes finish college, but it takes tremendous effort.
> Levels 8 or 9 find academic learning almost impossible. It takes 2-3 times longer to finish assignments. They need constant help. .

5.) Dyslexics do not see letters and words backward.

Reversals and mirror writing are the results of a processing deficit.

6.) Students with dyslexia often have difficulties with spelling. 

Spelling proficiency is related to visual memory capacity, says Richard Gentry in his book Breaking the Code: The New Science of Beginning Reading and Writing. 

7.) There are two main types of dyslexia.

Reading difficulties related to visual-processing weaknesses have been called surface dyslexia, visual dyslexia and dyseidetic dyslexia, while reading delays associated with auditory-processing difficulties have been referred to as phonological dyslexia, auditory dyslexia and dysphonetic dyslexia.

8.) Dyslexia is linked to slow processing speed.

University of Science and Technology in Trondheim gave two simulated driving tests to six dyslexic volunteers and 11 other people. They were shown road signs as they drove on simulated country and city roads at different speeds.

The researchers found that dyslexics were 20 percent slower to react to traffic signs during the rural drive and 30 percent slower to react in the city than the nondyslexic controls.

9.) Many dyslexics have trouble with sequencing…

i.e. perceiving something in sequence and also remembering the sequence.

A study, published in the Journal of General Psychology, compared 33 dyslexic and 33 control eight- to twelve-year-old children and found the dyslexic children to be inferior to controls on tasks involving visual sequential memory and auditory sequential memory.

Another study, published in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, compared 24 readers with auditory dyslexia and 21 with visual dyslexia to 90 control group participants and revealed auditory sequential memory impairments for both types of readers with dyslexia, and multiple strengths for good readers.

10.) Dyslexics often have deficits in auditory working memory.

Ahissar and team tested dyslexic and nondyslexic musicians on auditory processing and auditory memory. Dyslexic musicians scored as well as their nondyslexic counterparts in auditory processing tasks, and better than the general population, but performed much worse on tests of auditory working memory, including memory for rhythm, melody and speech sounds. Moreover, these abilities were intercorrelated, and highly correlated with their reading accuracy, which means that the dyslexic musicians with the poorest auditory working memory tended to have the lowest reading accuracy.

11.) Research has shown that dyslexics also suffer from poor long-term memory.

A study, published in Dyslexia, compared performances of 60 dyslexic children to that of 65 age-matched normal readers on verbal, visual-spatial and visual-object tasks. Results documented a generalized impairment of long-term memory capacities in dyslexic children and the results did not vary as a function of children’s age.

12.) Dyslexics often have poor coordination,…

poor fine-motor control and poor hand-eye coordination.

13.) Latest research shows that dyslexia is not tied to IQ.

Using brain imaging scans, neuroscientist John D. E. Gabrieli at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that there was no difference between the way poor readers with or without dyslexia think while reading. Research results indicated that poor readers of all IQ levels showed significantly less brain activity in the six observed areas than typical readers. But there was no difference in the brains of the poor readers, regardless of their IQs.

14.) Study after study has shown that the dyslexic’s brain differs from the normal reader’s brain.

These brain differences are often viewed as the causes of dyslexia. New studies suggest that the cause-effect relationship is reversed, in other words, that these brain differences are not the cause of reading difficulties, but the result.

In one study, published online in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers analyzed the brains of children with dyslexia and compared them with two other groups of children: an age-matched group without dyslexia and a group of younger children who had the same reading level as the children with dyslexia. Although the children with dyslexia had less gray matter than age-matched children without dyslexia, they had the same amount of gray matter as the younger children at the same reading level.

Lead author Anthony Krafnick said this suggests that the anatomical differences reported in left-hemisphere language-processing regions of the brain appear to be a consequence of reading experience as opposed to a cause of dyslexia.

15.) Contrary to popular belief, Albert Einstein was probably not dyslexic.

It is often said that Einstein only started talking at the age of four, which is then described as a “sign” that he was dyslexic.

According to Einstein’s biographers this is simply not true. When he was two-and-a-half years old, Einstein was introduced to his newborn sister. Expecting a toy, he asked, rather disappointedly, “Where are the wheels?” Einstein entered school at the age of six, and against popular belief did very well. When he was seven his mother wrote, “Yesterday Albert received his grades, he was again number one, his report card was brilliant”. By the time he was nine-and-a-half, Einstein was accepted at the very prestigious and highly competitive Luitpold Gymnasium, a sure indication that his academic performance was above average. At the age of twelve Einstein was reading physics books. At 13, after reading the Critique of Pure Reason and the work of other philosophers, Einstein adopted Kant as his favorite author. About this time he also read Darwin.

16.) One school of thought says that dyslexia is a condition that cannot be cured…

but endured, and on the other extreme there are those who say diagnoses of dyslexia are a complete waste of time. Because the brain is plastic, Edublox’s point of view is that dyslexia is not a DISability, but an INability.

For many years people thought that the brain cannot change, let alone improve. People were told that when there was something wrong with a person’s brain, it could not be fixed. Scientists firmly believed that each person was born with a certain number of brain cells and if any of them were injured, there was no way to reverse the damage. Problems like dyslexia, which are linked to the brain, were therefore regarded as beyond cure.

Today we know better.

New connections can form and the internal structure of the existing synapses can change. New neurons, also called nerve cells, are constantly being born, particularly in the learning and memory centers. In fact, approximately 700 new neurons are daily being formed in each half of the brain. Neurons die each day too, keeping the overall number more or less balanced, with a slow loss of cells as we age. A person who becomes an expert in a specific domain, will have growth in the areas of the brain that are involved with his/her particular skill.

17.) Cognitive training is probably the most effective treatment for dyslexia.

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