It always kind of surprises me that knowledge about dyslexia is not more common, especially as it affects roughly 20% of the global population. Although it is no longer formally recognized in the DSM-V, approximately 1 in 5 people across the globe have dyslexia.
The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as :
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
This definition was adopted by the board of directors at the International Dyslexia Association in 2002. It is also used in the educational codes of the following states: New Jersey, Ohio, and Utah.
But what does that all mean?
Simply put, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability (also known as a specific learning disability) that causes difficulty with reading, spelling, writing, and word pronunciation. Language-based learning disabilities refer to various difficulties that pertain to the use and understanding of language, including when presented in verbal and written forms (through both reading and writing).
The brains of people who have dyslexia work differently than those of people who do not have this disorder. For starters, people who have dyslexia typically have difficulty with the phonological component of language, meaning they struggle with their knowledge of the rules governing speech sounds, especially when put into further connected speech/text including for syllables, words, and sentences.
People who have dyslexia also typically have considerable difficulty with mastering the alphabetic principle, meaning that they have a poor phonemic representation of sounds and letters in their brain. This is showcased by their difficulty with mastering knowledge of sound to letter correspondence (simply put, matching letters to sounds).
Not only do people who have dyslexia struggle with phonics rules knowledge, different areas of their brain are activated while reading when compared to typically developing readers. The difference in brain connectivity, coupled with the deficit in phonological knowledge, are part of the reason people with dyslexia struggle with reading and spelling.
In addition, there is a strong genetic component to dyslexia. If a parent has dyslexia, there is a high likelihood that their children will in fact have dyslexia, and this is especially true if other family members (such as a sibling) are also diagnosed. It is common for a person diagnosed with dyslexia to have an immediate family member who also has the reading disorder.
The severity of one’s dyslexia falls on a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. The range of where people diagnosed with dyslexia fall varies across individual, and can even vary across siblings. The more severe one’s dyslexia happens to be, the more evidence-based intervention that person will need with regard to remediating their reading skills.
While there is no cure for dyslexia, receiving the appropriate intervention from a professional skilled in remediation of language-based learning disabilities can teach invaluable strategies to the struggling reader. Intervention for someone who has dyslexia should be individualized, explicit, structured, sequential, cumulative, language-based, and multi-sensory in nature. It should also focus on remediating the phonological deficits that are characteristic to this disorder, while also improving overall reading fluency and accuracy.
With a strong background in both educational therapy and speech-language pathology, we at Blossoming Minds Therapy are uniquely qualified to work with people diagnosed with dyslexia, and other language-based learning disabilities.