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Reading Disorder (Dyslexia)

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a reading disability. It is very common. Dyslexia is also called developmental reading disorder.

A child with dyslexia reads at a much lower level than average for his or her age, intelligence, and education. The disorder affects how a child does in school and other daily activities.

What is the cause?

The exact cause is not known. It is not caused by vision problems. In dyslexia the problem is in the way the brain translates letters and sounds.

Like other learning disorders, it tends to run families. Children are more likely to have a reading disorder if they have fetal alcohol syndrome, lead poisoning, or certain birth defects.

What are the symptoms?

Based on what is average for the child's age, intelligence, and education, a child with dyslexia may:

  • Guess words
  • Rotate numbers and letters, such as "9" and "6" or "b" and "d"
  • Change the order of letters in words
  • Not look at all the letters in a word
  • Forget common words learned each day
  • Read word for word, lose his place, and read slowly
  • Add, delete, or change words in a sentence
  • Have trouble understanding what he reads

Sometimes children with dyslexia also have problems with speaking, such as mispronouncing words and speaking in incomplete sentences.

Parents usually notice this disorder when their child starts school.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child will also have hearing and vision tests.

If your healthcare provider thinks your child may have a speech disorder, your child may need to see a specialist. The specialist will test your child's reading level and overall intelligence and advise you about treatment. Your school district may also provide testing services for your child.

How is it treated?

Reading disorders are usually treated by providing one-on-one instruction in reading skills. Your child may receive special help from his or her teacher in a regular classroom or work with a reading specialist in a special classroom.

Most school districts have special programs to help children with learning disorders. Find out what services are offered through the school district to help children who have a hard time with reading.

By high school, some children will have improved their skills and will no longer have a hard time reading. Teens who continue to struggle may limit their career choices. It is very important to get treatment for your child as early as possible.

How can I help my child?

  • Find out what services are offered through the school district or your community to help children with reading problems.
  • Read with your child every day. Let your child select the book. Follow the words with your finger as you read. Explain words and ask questions to be sure your child understands. Have your child draw a picture or write a few sentences about what has been read.
  • Read books about what interests your child, such as sports, art, animals, or science. Read together for fun, as well as for learning.
  • Talk about what you are reading and allow your child to stop and ask questions. This keeps your child interested and helps him understand what you are reading.
  • Write down your child's stories or have him write them down. Seeing his own words in print helps to connect reading and writing concepts.
  • Encourage your child to read all kinds of things, such as labels, signs, magazines, Yellow Pages, or web sites.
  • Let your child help make the grocery list, look for coupons in the newspaper, and find the items in the store.
  • Read a favorite recipe. Together you can buy the ingredients, follow the recipe to make the dish, and then enjoy eating it.
  • Praise your child's efforts at reading and writing. Praise your child for trying.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-24
Last reviewed: 2014-11-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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