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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurological problem of genetic origin which makes the acquisition of language skills extremely difficult. The condition is sometimes referred to as word blindness, specific language based disability, developmental dyslexia and mirror reading.

A commonly accepted description of this condition is the failure to learn to read, write, spell or compute with normal proficiency despite conventional instruction, a culturally adequate home, proper motivation, intact senses, normal intelligence and freedom from gross neurological defect. Dyslexics often have average to well above average intelligence with high verbal language skills and may show special talents in areas that require visual, spatial and motor integration.

Dyslexia is not a disease, but a specific language difficulty characterized by problems in expressive or receptive, oral or written language. It is usually recognized when a child is of school age. Frequently because the student is bright, dyslexia is unrecognized by teachers and parents and consequently not addressed. The problem is inside the brain, but it doesn’t mean the person is dumb. Plenty of smart and talented people struggle with dyslexia.

A dyslexic person might have any of the following problems:

  • She might see some letters as backwards or upside down;
  • She might see text appearing to jump around on a page;
  • She might not be able to tell the difference between letters that look similar in shape such as o and e and c ;
  • She might not be able to tell the difference between letters that have similar shape but different orientation, such as b and p and d and q ;
  • The letters might look all jumbled up and out of order;
  • The letters and words might look all bunched together;
  • The letters of some words might appear completely backwards, such as the word bird looking like drib ;
  • The letters and words might look o.k., but the dyslexic person might get a severe headache or feel sick to her stomach every time she tries to read;
  • She might see the letters o.k., but not be able to sound out words — that is, not be able to connect the letters to the sounds they make and understand them;
  • She might be able to connect the letters and sound out words, but not recognize words she has seen before, no matter how many times she has seen them — each time she would have to start fresh;
  • She might be able to read the words o.k. but not be able to make sense of or remember what she reads, so that she finds herself coming back to read the same passage over and over again.

How Does Reading Happen?

To understand dyslexia, it helps to understand reading. Reading is a real workout for your brain. You need to do the following steps — and all at once:

  1. Understand the way speech sounds make up words.
  2. Focus on printed marks (letters and words).
  3. Connect speech sounds to letters.
  4. Blend letter sounds smoothly into words.
  5. Control eye movements across the page.
  6. Build images and ideas.
  7. Compare new ideas with what is already known.
  8. Store the ideas in memory.
  9. Phew! Kids who have dyslexia struggle with the beginning steps, so that makes doing the rest of the steps even harder. It’s no surprise, then, that trying to read and dealing with dyslexia makes a kid’s brain really tired really fast.

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