By Sarah Fowler
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and we at Worldwide Speech want to educate and advocate!
What is dyslexia?
You may have heard of dyslexia as a condition in which people see letters/numbers backward or mixed up. This might look like reading dad, as bad (e.g., substituting /b/ for a /d/). However, this is an oversimplified and inaccurate description of dyslexia. While letter reversals may be seen in students with dyslexia, it is not a defining characteristic. Letter reversal, in fact, typically fades out before age 7.  So, what exactly is dyslexia?
Before addressing the definition of dyslexia, it’s important to know that two skills are required for reading: word recognition (e.g., word reading, non-word reading), and listening comprehension (e.g., narrative comprehension, receptive language skills.). Word recognition is comprised of sound knowledge (e.g., phonological awareness), alphabetic principles, and letter knowledge. Often, those who struggle with word recognition alone have dyslexia, whereas students who struggle with listening comprehension and word recognition may have a developmental language disorder. Therefore a formal evaluation is necessary to determine the root cause of reading difficulties.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that presents as a cluster of symptoms that lead to difficulty with both oral and written language skills (e.g., reading, writing, pronouncing words).  Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling/decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component in language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities. In layman’s terms, having dyslexia affects the way sounds and letters are stored in the brain. While neurotypical brains store a crisp, clear phonological representation of letters, brains with dyslexia contain a “foggy” representation, making word recognition more difficult. Thus, dyslexia is a phonological/language deficit rather than a visual deficit. 
Some other common comorbidities / related disabilities are:
- Dysgraphia: A learning disability that affects writing, leading to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper
- Dyscalculia: Students who have visual-spatial difficulties and language processing difficulties). 
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD and Dyslexia often coexist, though one disorder doesn’t cause the other
- Articulation Disorders: Students with Dyslexia may also have difficulty producing age-appropriate speech sounds
The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown. It is highly hereditary but no single gene has been found. Studies have shown differences in the way the brain of a person with dyslexia develops and functions. People with dyslexia often have difficulty with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word (phonological awareness task), and/or learning how letters represent those sounds. It is not due to a lower IQ, or motivation to learn. 
Dyslexia presents differently person-to-person. The main difficulty is with reading words that are directly tied to processing and manipulating sounds. Some students may learn early reading/spelling tasks, but have more difficulty with higher-level skills such as grammar, textbook reading, and writing essays. Dyslexia often affects self-image, and students may become reluctant to engage in reading tasks.
15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability, 70-80% of which have deficits in reading. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. 
Are you a visual learner? Check out the video below to learn more about dyslexia.
We also love the video below for the POV of a person with dyslexia
What to do if you suspect your child is a struggling reader?
Feel free to read our previous blog post, “What to do if Your Child is a Struggling Reader” for more information! To summarize the information from this blog, early intervention is key! Do not take the “wait-and-see” approach. Early intervention can only be helpful, not hurtful. You want to make sure your child catches up before switching from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
Worldwide Speech Reading Intervention
If you are looking for online reading interventionists, look no further! Amy Greer from Worldwide Speech is certified for the IMSE Orton Gillingham program. Stay tuned for an interview with Amy later this week!
Changing the conversation
This year, the international dyslexia associate wants us to pose the question: What would it be like if we thought of dyslexia as a gift rather than a disability?
As we near the end of today’s post, I’d like to share one more video. I highly recommended watching it in its entirety! We must educate ourselves so that we can advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves.
- Books on Dyslexia
- Dyslexia Learning Games & Activities
- DYSNIE! Dyslexia at Disney
- PUTTING A NAME ON IT: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia
- How to Help a Dyslexic Student in a General Education Classroom
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