Thomas Harford of Columbia says many people believe dyslexia is simply getting letters mixed up — a reading disability. In reality, however, dyslexia is a complex neurological disorder that affects the way the brain organizes information pertaining to language. This can include such difficulties as not being able to process the way a language is heard, spoken, read or written, adds Tom Harford of Columbia. The scale for rating the severity ranges from mild to severe cases, according to Tom Harford of Columbia, and is a fairly common diagnosis among school-aged children.
Thomas Harford of Columbia says The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines dyslexia as “a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.”
Dyslexia in children can involve problems with oral language abilities such as being a late talker, difficulty in pronouncing words, or difficulty in learning the alphabet and rhyming, says Thomas Harford of Columbia. It can involve problems with reading such as problems learning letters and sounds or trouble with reversing the order of letters when learning to read. It can also present in children as written language deficiencies as in the case of handwriting issues and spelling errors. Tom Harford of Columbia says it can also present as unrelated problems such as inconsistency in schoolwork or difficulty putting thoughts into words.
Cases involving the onset of dyslexia in adults usually result from brain trauma, Tom Harford of Columbia says, while at other times we’ll find dyslexia in adults that was never diagnosed as a child. It can be inherited, he adds, since recent studies have identified a number of genes that predispose the individual to this condition. However, just having the gene doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have dyslexia.
There is no treatment, says Tom Harford of Columbia, so instead, we work on the specific problem the student is having. Usually, this means modified teaching methods to meet the needs of the individual with dyslexia. “This means teaching them in a way that their brain can understand,” he says.
Dyslexia is a disability in all but 4 states, says Thomas Harford of Columbia, but even if the states don’t recognize it, federal law, including the Department of Education, recognizes it for Individual Education Plans (IEPs). “These are the special education plans schools are required to use with a child who presents with a disability like this,” Tom Harford adds.
Still, most dyslexics go undiagnosed, says Tom Harford of Columbia, so if your child is having trouble reading, get an evaluation while your child is still young. If we can identify the disability earlier in age, this allows the greatest chances of success later in life, he adds.