What is Dyslexia?

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

Children with dyslexia have difficulty acquiring the language skills of reading, writing and spelling despite having adequate skills in other areas of development.

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

What is the difference between a reading delay and dyslexia?

While some children have challenges with reading and writing development, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have dyslexia. Though there is considerable overlap between the signs of a reading delay and the signs of dyslexia, these terms are not used interchangeably. Let’s take a look at the differences and what Speech-Language Pathologists can do to help.

The key difference between a reading delay and dyslexia is that children with dyslexia won’t outgrow their challenges. This does not mean that they will never be able to learn how to read and write. It means that children with dyslexia will need intensive and specialized literacy instruction to overcome challenges. Some children may require additional support at school and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to help them manage schoolwork and meet curriculum expectations.

What is a reading delay

Children with reading delays may have difficulty in one or several areas of reading and writing development. However, they make significant progress when provided with effective instruction related to language, phonological awareness, reading, writing and spelling. With extra support and consistent reading practice, many of these children can achieve grade level literacy skills. Our role as Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) is to assess a child’s reading and writing skills, and identify areas of concern. Based on our findings, we will develop goals that help children improve their literacy skills. It is important to note that a psycho-educational evaluation is not required to determine if a child has a reading delay. SLPs are fully trained in providing reading assessments and intervention.

How is dyslexia evaluated?

Speech-Language Pathologists cannot diagnose dyslexia. A qualified psychologist will complete a psycho-educational evaluation to determine if a child has a reading disorder, such as dyslexia. Once a formal diagnosis is made, SLPs are able to assess the child’s current literacy skills and provide appropriate intervention.

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.

In any situation, literacy instruction will benefit all children who struggle to read and
write. Children with reading delays will receive intervention that targets areas of
weakness while children with dyslexia will require intensive instruction that is
more structured, systematic and cumulative. So whether a child has a reading delay
or dyslexia, SLPs are here to help them overcome any kind of literacy challenge.

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.