What Is Dyslexia?

— National Center for Learning Disabilities
Updated on Jul 9, 2011

As with other learning disabilities, dyslexia is a lifelong challenge that people are born with. This language processing disorder can hinder reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes even speaking.  Dyslexia is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness. It is also not the result of impaired vision. Children and adults with dyslexia simply have a neurological disorder that causes their brains to process and interpret information differently.

Dyslexia occurs among people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds. Often more than one member of a family has dyslexia. According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15 percent of Americans have major troubles with reading.

Much of what happens in a classroom is based on reading and writing. So it's important to identify dyslexia as early as possible. Using alternate learning methods, people with dyslexia can achieve success.

What are the Effects of Dyslexia?

Dyslexia can have different effects on different people, depending on the severity of the learning disability and the success of efforts to develop alternate learning methods. Traditionally dyslexia causes problems with reading, writing and spelling and those problems manifest themselves differently in each person. In fact, some children with dyslexia show few signs of difficulty with early reading and writing, but have more trouble with later complex language skills, such as grammar, reading comprehension, and more in-depth writing.

Dyslexia can also make it difficult for people to express themselves clearly. It can be challenging for them to use vocabulary and to structure their thoughts during conversation. Others struggle to understand when people speak to them, not because they don’t hear, but because of their difficulty processing verbal information. This is particularly true with abstract thoughts and non-literal language, such as idiomatic expressions, jokes and proverbs.

All of these effects can have a big impact on a person's self-image. Without help, children often get frustrated with learning. The stress of dealing with schoolwork often makes children with dyslexia lose the motivation to continue and overcome the hurdles they face.

What are the Warning Signs?

The following are common signs of dyslexia in people of different ages. If you or someone you know displays these signs, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a learning disability. But if troubles continue over time, consider testing for dyslexia.

Young Children School Age Children Teenagers & Adults
Trouble with: Trouble with: Trouble with:
*Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, and blending sounds into speech *Mastering the rules of spelling *Reading at the expected level
*Pronouncing words, for example saying"mawn lower" instead of "lawn mower" *Remembering facts and numbers *Understanding non-literal language, such as idioms, jokes, or proverbs
*Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words *Handwriting or with gripping a pencil *Reading aloud
*Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week or similar common word sequences *Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relying heavily on memorization *Organizing and managing time
*Rhyming *Reading and spelling, such as reversing letters (d,b) or moving letters around (left, felt) *Trouble summarizing a story
  *Following a sequence of directions *Learning a foreign language
  *Trouble with word problems in math *Memorizing


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