What Is Dyslexia? symptoms and causes

What is dyslexia? In this article we look at everything related to this disorder that hinders learning and communication, especially at school age.
What Is Dyslexia? symptoms and causes
Leticia Aguilar Iborra

Written and verified by la psicóloga Leticia Aguilar Iborra.

Last update: 21 April, 2023

Dyslexia is a persistent and specific character disorder that affects learning. Reading, writing, and decoding of any language symbols are affected, making it difficult for individuals to understand what they’re reading.

These aren’t the only difficulties of dyslexia; it can lead to another series of problems that can affect personal and academic life, and then work in adulthood.

Not all people have the same severity of dyslexia, since it can also have a hereditary component. However, evaluation and diagnosis are essential in order to prevent other problems related to learning and development, especially in school-age children.

What is dyslexia?

There is currently no concept that accurately defines dyslexia. In general terms, it could be said that it’s the difficulty in learning to read and write, despite the fact that the children receive a normal education, have an appropriate level of intelligence, and have an optimal socioeconomic level.

The International Dyslexia Association defines it as a specific learning difficulty with a neurological basis. This definition encompasses difficulties with reading accuracy and fluency and problems with decoding and spelling.

Dyslexia in children

Dyslexia is usually noticeable at preschool ages. It can remain throughout adult life, early work being necessary for recognition and acceptance. Therefore, establishing learning guidelines for proper functioning in adult life is essential.

Children with dyslexia often start to speak later than others. In addition, their level of oral comprehension and verbal fluency are lower. Words that are phonetically similar are confused (for example, p with b ), also being exchanged in the spelling of words that are similar (for example, b with d).

Reading problems in dyslexia.
Children with dyslexia have a series of difficulties that get in the way of their formal educational development.

Characteristics and symptoms of dyslexia

Dyslexia can manifest itself in various ways, differing from one person to another. Still, some of the more general features and symptoms are as follows.

Language and communication

People with dyslexia may have difficulty understanding instructions, making it difficult for them to follow rules. Also, double meanings and jokes are often not understood. They have difficulties when expressing an idea or acquiring new concepts.

The problems in language and communication affect their social interaction. This leads to withdrawal and other mood-related disorders.

Reading and writing

When it comes to reading, patients with dyslexia may have problems decoding linguistic signs. They confuse the pronunciation of words, affecting reading fluency. Their writing is somewhat erratic: letters that aren’t very legible, either excessively large or small.

Dyscalculia is another frequently associated problem. There are difficulties in decoding mathematical symbols, leading to problems with mathematics at school.

Executive functions

Executive functions are defined as the set of cognitive abilities responsible for organizing and planning tasks. They may be affected in individuals with dyslexia. This means the tasks that need planning and the structuring of steps often cause them problems.

Motor and spatial coordination are also affected. People with dyslexia may have trouble distinguishing left from right, here from there, top from bottom, front from back. They tend to be more clumsy than other children in tasks that involve motor movements, such as physical exercise or sports activities.

Origin of dyslexia

In biological studies, the analysis of brain structure and function deficiencies and the analysis of genetic components stand out, since dyslexia can be hereditary.

Cognitive studies have brought to light two hypotheses: visual deficit and hearing deficit. Regarding the first, it’s conceived as a kind of blindness for words, with the visual processing system being responsible for the difficulties of perception and memory.

In parallel, a possible deficiency at the hearing level is also mentioned, responsible for difficulties in word segmentation and short-term verbal memory.

This implies that individuals with dyslexia may experience attention problems. In some cases, it’s confused with other disorders that are common to observe in the classroom, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Types of dyslexia

The following types of dyslexia are usually differentiated:

  1. Acquired: After a disorder or lesion in some of the brain areas responsible for the acquisition of literacy skills.
  2. Phonological: The person shows difficulties in decoding the grapheme-morpheme mechanism, using lexical reading. In other words, there’s usually no problem reading familiar words, but there is when it comes to pseudowords or unknown words.
  3. Superficial: The phonological route is usually used, so they’re unable to recognize the word as a whole.
  4. Mixed: difficulties in the two routes of reading processing: phonological and visual.
Child with dyscalculia.
Dyscalculia is associated with this condition, as well as attention disorders.

What is the treatment for dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a chronic disorder that needs to be detected as soon as possible in order to establish skills that can correct the process. Personalized intervention programs help establish alternative thinking strategies to adapt to the learning system.

The interrelationship between dyslexia and ADHD is very frequent, and an exhaustive evaluation is very important for a correct diagnosis, otherwise the case won’t be addressed correctly. Concentration problems must be taken into account for treatment.

However, despite the great source of resources and research dedicated to dyslexia, it’s necessary to establish protocols in the classroom for correct intervention. An erroneous diagnosis that doesn’t cover individual needs implies that the needs of the child aren’t being addressed in the educational environment, leading to the imposition of labels such as “he is lazy”. This fails to take into account the associated attention and concentration problems.

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