Reading may seem easy and automatic for people who master it without difficulty. However, reading is a complex and challenging task for our brains, so we shouldn't be surprised that so many kids struggle with it.
In fact, about 15% to 20% of the U.S. population has a specific reading disability called dyslexia, which is the major cause of reading failure in school. Dealing with this learning challenge can lead to frustration and self-doubt, especially when it goes undiagnosed for a long time.
The good news is that dyslexia can be identified early and kids who have it can be taught to become successful readers.
Most kids begin learning to read by learning how speech sounds make up words (phonemic awareness) and then connecting those sounds to alphabet letters (phonics). Then they learn how to blend those sounds into words and, eventually, they can instantly recognize words they've seen many times before.
Reading is a little like riding a bike: it requires doing many things at once with precise timing. With practice, typical readers gradually learn to read words automatically so they can focus their mental energy on comprehending and remembering what they've read.
Kids with dyslexia, though, have trouble with phonemic awareness and phonics. Research has shown that dyslexia occurs because of subtle problems in information processing, especially in the language regions of the brain. For this reason, reading doesn't become automatic and remains slow and labored. When a child struggles with these beginning steps in reading, comprehension is bound to suffer and frustration is likely to follow.
A common assumption about dyslexia is that letters or words appear reversed; i.e., "was" appears like "saw." This type of problem can be a part of dyslexia, but reversals are very common among kids up until first or second grade, not just kids with dyslexia. The major problem for kids with dyslexia is in phonemic awareness, phonics, and rapid word recognition.
Dyslexia is usually diagnosed during elementary school. In some cases, it doesn't become apparent until a child is older and is expected to read and comprehend longer and more complex material. Continuing problems with advanced reading, spelling, and learning a foreign language may be signs that a bright teenager has dyslexia.
Delays in identifying kids with dyslexia can create a bigger reading problem and a drop in self-esteem. So it's important to recognize symptoms early in elementary school and begin specialized reading instruction right away.
In preschool and elementary school kids, some signs of dyslexia include difficulty with:
Older kids, teenagers, and adults might have these same signs of dyslexia and probably also will:
Dyslexia runs in families. Kids of parents with a history of reading struggles are likely to have problems, too. Children who struggle with learning to talk as preschoolers also are at higher risk for dyslexia. The reading progress of kids with either or both of these factors should be closely monitored.
Dyslexia can only be formally diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation by a reading specialist or psychologist, either at school or in the community. Pediatricians often know the signs of dyslexia and can guide families to proper help. It's important that the person who evaluates a child be properly trained and have experience with dyslexia.
Kids with dyslexia who see their peers reading and making progress may feel "stupid" because it's difficult to keep up. As they move through elementary school, problems can get worse as reading becomes more important to learning.
Kids who have difficulty often avoid reading because it's hard or stressful. As a result, they end up missing out on valuable reading practice and falling further behind their classmates. And their self-esteem may take a beating.
Fortunately, with the proper assistance and help, most kids with dyslexia are able to learn to read and develop strategies that allow them to stay in the regular classroom.
They usually work with a specially trained teacher, tutor, or reading specialist to learn how to read, spell, and manage the condition. Your child's teacher, psychologist, or pediatrician may recommend an academic therapist — also called an education therapist or an academic language therapist — who is trained to work with kids with dyslexia.
In the United States, federal laws entitle kids with dyslexia (under certain circumstances) to special help in public schools, such as specialized instruction, extra time for tests or homework, or help with taking notes. Parents of kids who are diagnosed with dyslexia should discuss these laws and accommodations with school personnel.
Even with appropriate intervention, kids with dyslexia may find school a struggle. It's important to support your child's efforts by encouraging and assisting in reading at home. Also try to give your child opportunities to build confidence and have success in other areas, such as sports, hobbies, art, and drama.
Dyslexia doesn't have to be a hurdle to success. It doesn't mean that you or your child's teachers should lower your expectations for the child. Artists, athletes, scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and statesmen all have been able to achieve great things despite trouble with reading.
If you think your child might have dyslexia, talk with your doctor, your child's teacher, or a reading specialist. The sooner a reading problem is addressed, the sooner your child can get the proper help.
Reviewed by: Laura L. Bailet, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2012
|International Dyslexia Association (IDA) IDA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia.|
|Learning Disabilities Association of America The purpose of this national nonprofit organization is to advance the education and general welfare of children and adults of normal or potentially normal intelligence who manifest disabilities of a perceptual, conceptual, or coordinative nature.|
|National Center for Learning Disabilities This group provides information, resources, and referral services, develops and supports innovative educational programs, seminars, and workshops, and advocates for more effective policies and legislation to help individuals with learning disabilities. Contact them at: National Center for Learning Disablities|
381 Park Ave. S.
New York, NY 10016
|Children and Adults With Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) CHADD is a national nonprofit organization representing children and adults with ADHD.|
|Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) CEC is an international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities and disabilities. Contact CEC: Council for Exceptional Children 1110 North Glebe Road|
Arlington, VA 22201-5704
Phone: (703) 620-3660
Fax: (703) 264-9494
|Nemours BrightStart! This literacy program prepares young children to read. Take the reading readiness screener to see if your preschooler's pre-reading skills are on track. Get tips and ideas for reading aloud, and learn about games, songs, and other tools that can help your child on the path to success.|
|Reading Resources Regardless of your child's age or reading level, almost every community has programs and resources that are helpful.|
|Learning Disabilities Learning disabilities affect the brain's ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information. These problems can make it difficult for a student to learn as quickly as others - but they have nothing to do with a person's intelligence.|
|Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem Self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Here's how you can promote healthy self-esteem in your kids.|
|Helping Reluctant Readers For many kids, reading doesn't come easily. But these simple steps can help them become eager readers.|
|Delayed Speech or Language Development Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.|
|Dyslexia Dyslexia is a problem that makes it difficult for a kid to read. With some help and a lot of hard work, a kid who has dyslexia can learn to read and spell.|
|Understanding Dyslexia Dyslexia is a learning disability in which people have difficulty learning to read, even though they are smart enough and are motivated to learn. Learn more about dyslexia and how to deal with it.|
|Word! Dyslexia Wha tifev eryth inglo ooked lik ethis whe nyo utrie dtoread?|
|Getting Involved at Your Child's School Whether their kids are just starting kindergarten or entering the final year of high school, there are many good reasons for parents to volunteer at school.|
|Learning Problems Having a learning disability doesn't mean you can't learn. The trick will be figuring out how you learn best.|
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