Dyslexia Explained – Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Dyslexia Explained

One of the most common learning disabilities, dyslexia is a language-based condition that impacts the lives of many. Dyslexia has the potential to cause children to have difficulty performing in school and in early employment opportunities. When dyslexia is appropriately identified and addressed, both young people and adults lead productive and satisfying lives while managing the effects of this condition. Dyslexia first becomes noticeable in school-aged children, yet the presentation of these symptoms changes over the lifespan.

Contrary to what some people believe, dyslexia has no impact on a person’s intelligence. In fact, individuals with dyslexia often demonstrate frustration with their symptoms due to their desire to succeed in tasks such as reading and writing. While dyslexia manifests due to changes in early brain development, there is also a genetic link that is inherited from family members. This condition causes children, adolescents, and adults to experience a range of symptoms, which vary from person to person.

Dyslexia symptoms

Specific symptoms of dyslexia will vary depending on the context that each person is in. For example, children with dyslexia often demonstrate more difficulty learning to pronounce certain words, while adults frequently have trouble completing simple writing tasks associated with their job. General signs and symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty completing school assignments.
  • Poor performance in timed tasks, due to difficulty grasping the concept of time.
  • Impaired orientation, or difficulty identifying directions (right and left, up and down).
  • Poor memorization skills with phone numbers, names, and lists.
  • Difficulty reading, writing, and spelling.
  • Confusing the order of letters, words, or numbers after 5 or 6 years old.
  • Difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as drawing, cutting, or crafts.

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Dyslexia diagnosis

If teachers, counselors, or coaches suspect that a child has dyslexia, the first step is for children to undergo basic medical tests to ensure there are no medical concerns at the root of their learning issues. Once a child passes a vision and hearing test, they are often referred to a learning specialist or counselor who will assist them in a variety of educational tests to measure their intelligence (through an IQ test) and performance in the areas of language, reading, spelling, and writing. The results from these tests will inform educational professionals of patterns that are present and what areas are being impacted the most by the child’s learning difficulties.

The results from these evaluations are typically relayed to a child’s pediatrician to assist in making an official diagnosis. Since this condition impacts both children and adults, a diagnosis of dyslexia will be made by a pediatrician, or a doctor specializing in the care of children. Adults are able to consult their primary care physician or internal medicine physician to discuss the possibility of a dyslexia diagnosis and associated treatments. Adults will be asked to report to their doctor how they feel their learning issues impact their ability to perform daily lifestyle activities as this will help make a definite diagnosis.

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Dyslexia treatments

Unlike other diagnoses, dyslexia is not able to be treated through standard medical interventions, such as prescription medications. However, there is a range of allied health treatments that are greatly beneficial in improving the quality of life and level of functioning of children and adults.

Children, adolescents, and young people who are in the educational system will receive accommodations in order to assist in their classes. Accommodations are certain tools, programs, or opportunities that make learning easier for individuals with disabilities or certain conditions. Some young people benefit from accommodations such as:

  • Receiving additional time to take tests and complete certain assignments.
  • Pre-recorded audio files or typed notes of lectures.
  • Audiobook recordings for textbooks.
  • Computer programs that read text aloud.
  • Graphic organizers to serve as memory aids.
  • Large-print books to improve focus when reading.

These tools give individuals with dyslexia the added support they need to excel in academic tasks. These accommodations are even available for high school and college students, since this condition has an impact on young adults, as well.

Individuals with dyslexia also benefit from tutors, reading specialists, or counselors who assist children individually in learning how to improve their reading and writing skills. Those with dyslexia also benefit from additional training in phonics, or the learning of letter sounds that are used for speech and language. This type of customized tutoring helps children to improve their awareness of language to assist in their comprehension and application of these concepts in their academic coursework.

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Conclusion

Individuals living with dyslexia are able to lead a full and productive life while succeeding in academic and work settings. Educational accommodations and similar modifications within work environments assist individuals in achieving their goals and fulfilling the expectations set forth by the roles they assume.

The prognosis for dyslexia is mixed, largely due to the variation in treatments for this condition. Individuals who engage in tutoring and consistently use accommodations are more likely to show improvements across academic areas. However, there is still a portion of individuals who do not seek assistance or utilize modifications provided to them. In these instances, there is not a positive prognosis for an improved level of functioning.

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Brittany Ferri, MS, OTR/L, CCTP, CLT
Brittany Ferri is a registered and licensed occupational therapist with clinical experience in mental health, cognitive rehab, and complementary health. She is the founder of Simplicity of Health, LLC where she provides wellness education, consulting, health writing, program development, and teletherapy for children and adults. Brittany is passionate about health promotion and disease prevention for all, which has led her to publish several books educating others about wellness. She has authored a textbook called "Effective Occupational Therapy Documentation", a children's book called "Why is there a person in my computer?" that educates kids about teletherapy, and "Complementary Health Approaches for OTs", which is coming in the fall of 2020. She is also a PhD candidate in Integrative Mental Health from Saybrook University, as well as an adjunct professor at Nazareth College. Check out her website at https://www.simplicityofhealth.com

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