What is Dyslexia?

The term dyslexia comes from 2 Greek words:
1. “dys” meaning difficulty
2. “lexia” meaning language

Dyslexia is a disorder in individuals who have difficulty acquiring the language skills of reading, writing and spelling despite having average to above average intelligence.

Dyslexia is solely a language-based learning issue. It is not directly associated with:

  • intellectual abilities
  • vision
  • hearing
  • emotional regulation
  • socio-cultural factors (e.g., lack of opportunities, bilingualism, etc.)

Characteristics of dyslexia

Individuals with dyslexia may have some or all of the following:

  • delays in speech and language development
  • weak vocabulary knowledge
  • difficulty with learning the alphabet, rhyming, blending sounds, matching letters to sounds
  • difficulty recognizing common sight words
  • difficulty learning spelling rules
  • difficulty reading words and phrases accurately and fluently
  • difficulty learning mathematics
  • reversal of letters and numbers that are similar in form (e.g., b-d, p-q, M-W, 6-9, etc.)
  • confusion with sequence of letters within words (e.g., from-form, was-saw, etc.)
  • listening comprehension is superior to reading comprehension
  • difficulty following oral and written instructions
  • increased level of frustration especially during reading and writing tasks
  • difficulty absorbing and retaining information

How is dyslexia evaluated?

An evaluation should be completed to rule out other common causes of reading and writing difficulties.

Here are the steps to take in order to obtain a comprehensive evaluation:

  1. Speak to a medical doctor to rule out any physical concerns.
  2. Schedule a visit with an optometrist to rule out vision problems.
  3. Complete a psycho-educational assessment with a psychologist who has experience working with individuals with dyslexia.

How is dyslexia treated?

Individuals with dyslexia will not outgrow the disorder; therefore participation in a remedial reading program is essential.

Currently, there are several effective programs available to help learners (e.g., Orton-Gillingham, STAR, Spalding Method). But essentially, any multisensory instruction is considered the best, most reliable way to treat dyslexia; thereby tapping into a learner’s visual, auditory and tactile (touch and movement) senses to facilitate learning. The combined use of senses while learning offers more ways to absorb new information and more ways to recall it when needed. For example, an individual who is learning letter sounds might trace a letter with their finger on a textured surface while looking at the letter and saying the sound aloud. This multisensory technique will lead to better recall of letter sound knowledge enhancing one’s ability to read words accurately and fluently.

Speech-Language Pathologists are able to teach individuals multisensory techniques and customize a reading program that meets their learning needs. Many of these techniques can be used at home and at school for continued practice.

Learning how to read and write is possible for individuals with dyslexia. It takes time and effort, but with the right support and treatment approach, both children and adults can become proficient readers and writers.