Dyslexia, also known as specific learning disorder with reading impairment, is a learning disorder that is characterized by a difficulty reading due to an inability to identify speech sounds and how they relate to words. Dyslexia affects between 3-20% of the population depending on the definition used. Popular culture teaches that a person with dyslexia see’s words backwards, but this is actually not always the case and just because someone doesn’t see words backwards doesn’t mean they don’t have dyslexia. It has been suggested that it may be better to think of dyslexia as a general difficulty in reading, writing and understanding or identifying words and or sounds that doesn’t reflect someone’s intelligence. The symptoms of dyslexia include:
- Difficulty reading or reading at a level below what is expected for your age.
- Difficulty understanding what you hear.
- Difficulty with time management
- Trouble comprehending rapid instructions
- Problems identifying similarities or differences between letters and words.
- Trouble understanding jokes or expression. For example: Piece of cake meaning easy.
- And many others.
There are products are available to supposedly help people with dyslexia read and learn. Many of these products focus on difficulties with vision. Even though there is little to no evidence that these therapies work, almost half of University students with dyslexia still use them. In the scientific community, there is a large consensus that vision problems are not the cause of dyslexia but most of this information has been disregarded or is unknown to the general public. It is understood by researchers that the abnormal eye movements of someone with dyslexia are a result of the disorder, not a cause of it. Recently, a study from the UK confirmed that there was no association between vision problems in the children and dyslexia.
The researchers measured 10 variables that defined the visual acuity in over 5800 children. These included the ability of the children to focus their eyes and their eye alignment. Of these 5800 children, about 3% (172) of them had significant dyslexia and the number of children who had vision problems in the 10 measured variables was no higher in the children with dyslexia or the children without dyslexia. In fact, 4 out of every 5 children with dyslexia had normal vision. Researchers agree that vision problems do not cause dyslexia but there is currently no accepted theory as to why these people struggle with reading.
These results mean the plethora of remedies currently being sold to correct vision problems as a way to treat dyslexia more than likely do not work. Coloured lenses and eye training have failed to show any ability to improve dyslexia. Instead therapies, according to the researchers, should be focused on teaching people with dyslexia to understand how words and letters string together to form words and sounds. This approach is similar to the phonics lessons you may have gotten in elementary school. This treatment regime has the strongest support for improving dyslexia but is still not recognized by many organizations and there needs to be national guidelines set up in order to provide these children with the best possible treatment option. Where can you go for this kind of support and treatment? Speech language pathologists are the best option to help you, or someone you know with dyslexia begin to learn and recognize the letters and words that look for foreign to them.
Photo Credit: Tiberiu Ana. Flickr