Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities, and various symptoms affect as much as 15 to 20 percent of the population, according to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). What’s more, the National Institutes of Health reports that dyslexia is identifiable from ages 5 and 6 with 92 percent accuracy.
Because earlier intervention results in fewer and less severe long-term effects, it’s important for parents to identify the condition as soon as possible. Here are a few facts about dyslexia that will help parents identify the condition, as well as some important information on when, where and how to screen for it.
What is Dyslexia?
The term is used quite often in popular media, and many have assumed dyslexia to be a condition that causes people to read backwards. While letter and word reversal are common among dyslexics, these symptoms do not define the condition as a whole. In fact, plenty of children with dyslexia don’t display those particular symptoms at all.
In short, dyslexia is a learning disability that encompasses a variety of difficulties with language skills. Reading, writing and speaking are complex tasks that require our brains to carry out a dizzying number of tasks, and differences in neuron structure make these tasks more difficult for dyslexics’ brains. Overall, dyslexia represents 80 to 90 percent of all cases of learning disabilities.
Dyslexia Risk Factors
Researchers haven’t determined the exact causes of dyslexia, but the condition is approximately 50 percent inherited. Population data also suggest that if one parent is dyslexic, their boys will have about a 75 percent chance of having the condition, while their girls will have a 25 percent chance.
Aside from hereditary factors, several environmental conditions may impact a child’s likelihood of being dyslexic. These conditions include premature birth and low birth weight, exposure to drugs and alcohol during pregnancy and other factors that influence brain development.
Spotting the Signs
Hereditary conditions may lead parents to investigate dyslexia, but it’s important that they look out for true signs and symptoms. The most prominent sign is difficulty reading or writing, particularly in children who exhibit no other apparent learning disabilities. Dyslexia is not linked to low IQ, contrary to popular belief, and, in fact, many of history’s geniuses are believed to have been dyslexic. Among grade school-aged children, more specific signs include:
- Trouble sounding out new words
- Confusion or boredom with books
- Inability to remember details from books
- Mixing up the orders of letters and words
- Confusing left and right
- Far greater oral comprehension than reading comprehension
When Should You Test?
Early intervention can reduce difficulties later in life, and it’s important that parents screen potentially dyslexic children as soon as possible. Most schools begin to teach reading and writing around age 5, and this is an ideal time to be on the lookout for symptoms. It’s never too late to test, however, and warning signs don’t always appear until later in childhood.
How to Get Screenings
There are a variety of places where parents can take their children to get screened by licensed professionals, and people frequently look to their primary care physicians for guidance and referrals.
As for the screenings themselves, most tests measure several reading-related skills, including:
- Phonological awareness: isolating and vocalizing sounds within written words.
- Decoding: applying the rules of phonics to new words, rather than simply memorizing words.
- Fluency and comprehension: answering questions related to the content of sentences and paragraphs.
- Rapid naming: naming common letters, numbers, objects and colors as they appear on a page.
If you’re concerned that your child is struggling with dyslexia, it’s important to screen as soon as possible. To help, Fisher-Titus Medical Center’s Pediatric Therapy Department is offering dyslexia assessments for English-speaking children at least six years of age. Our comprehensive tests are performed by certified speech-language pathologists who can assess your child’s reading, writing, spelling, comprehension and memory.
To obtain a comprehensive assessment, simply ask your primary care physician for a “dyslexia assessment” referral. Physicians and patients can also call the Fisher-Titus Rehabilitation Department at (419) 660-2700 for more information or to schedule an appointment.