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Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Dyslexia

Condition Basics

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it hard to read, write, and spell. Children who have dyslexia may read slower than what is expected at their age. Or they may have trouble remembering math facts or words.

Overall intelligence does not seem to be related to dyslexia. But not being able to read well can make many areas of learning harder.

Dyslexia is also called specific learning disability, reading disorder, and reading disability.

What causes it?

Experts don't know for sure what causes dyslexia. But it often runs in families. So it may be passed from parents to children. Some studies have found problems with how the brain links letters and words with the sounds they make.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of dyslexia in children may include difficulty reading or sounding out words. Your child may read slower than what is expected at your child's age. And they may also have a hard time remembering number facts. Having several symptoms of dyslexia may mean that your child should be tested.

How is it diagnosed?

No single test can diagnose dyslexia. A doctor or school professional will ask you and your child's teachers what signs of dyslexia you've noticed. Reading and other tests may help look at your child's learning style and their language and problem-solving skills. This can help check for dyslexia.

How is dyslexia treated?

Treatment involves teaching methods to help your child read better. This includes teaching how letters are linked to sounds to make words, helping the child read aloud, and teaching the child to listen to and repeat instructions. You and your child's teachers and school personnel can help design a learning plan for your child.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of dyslexia may include:

  • Difficulty reading or sounding out words.
  • Having a hard time with spelling or writing.
  • Reading slower than what is expected at your child's age.
  • Difficulty remembering number facts.

Symptoms usually start while the child is school-aged. And the symptoms are not caused by other things like vision problems or other conditions. If your child has one of these symptoms, it doesn't mean that your child has dyslexia. But if your child has several symptoms and reading problems, or if you have a family history of dyslexia, you may want to have your child checked.

Learn more

When to Call a Doctor

If your child struggles with language, reading, and sounding out words, you may want to have your child checked for dyslexia. You can also speak with your child's pediatrician, teacher, or school counselor if:

  • Your child's reading or other language skills aren't improving.
  • Your child seems motivated but isn't learning as expected.

If you have dyslexia and are concerned that your child may have some of the signs of dyslexia, you may want to talk to your doctor or to school staff. Your child is at increased risk for having the condition.

Treatment Overview

Treatment involves a number of teaching methods to help your child read better. These include:

  • Teaching how letters are linked to sounds to make words.
  • Having the child read aloud to a teacher or classroom aide.
  • Teaching the child to listen to and repeat instructions.

United States law requires schools to set up a learning plan to meet the needs of a child with dyslexia. An example of this is an Individualized Education Program (IEP). You, your child's teachers, and other school personnel will have a say in designing the plan. The plan is updated each year based on how well your child is doing and what your child's needs are.

Medicines and counseling usually aren't a part of treatment for dyslexia.

Dyslexia will never fully go away, but early treatment during childhood can help. Support from family, teachers, and friends is also important.

Helping Your Child

Children who have dyslexia may need emotional support for the many challenges they face. Here is a list of ways parents can offer encouragement.

  • Learn about dyslexia.

    Learning more can help you better understand and help your child.

  • Recognize and teach to your child's areas of strength.

    For example, if your child understands more when listening, let your child learn new information by listening to an audiobook. If you can, follow up with the same story in written form.

  • Teach your child to keep trying.

    There may be things your child will struggle with. Help your child understand that struggles can lead to success.

  • Help your child learn how to cope with school.

    Your child may need to learn how to manage their schedule, organize work, and complete multiple assignments and long-term projects.

  • Consider counseling if your child needs more support.

    If you think your child has self-esteem problems related to dyslexia, counseling may help.

Helping your child develop reading skills

You can be a positive force in your child's education. Following is a list of ways parents can help their young children who have dyslexia develop reading skills.

  • Read to your child.

    Find time to read to your child every day. Point to the words as you read. Draw attention to words that you run across in daily life, such as traffic signs, billboards, notices, and labels.

  • Be a good reading role model.

    Show your child how important reading is to daily life. Make books, magazines, and other reading materials available for your child to explore and enjoy independently.

  • Focus on the sounds (phonemes) within words.

    Play rhyming games, sing songs that emphasize rhyme and alliteration, play word games, sound out letters, and point out similarities in words.

  • Work on spelling.

    Point out new words, play spelling games, and encourage your child to write.

  • Help with time and planning.

    Hang up simple charts, clocks, and calendars, so your child can visualize time and plan for the future.

  • Share in the joy of reading.

    Find books that your child can read but that you will also enjoy. Sit together, take turns reading, and encourage discussion. Revisiting words that cause trouble for your child and rereading stories are powerful tools to reinforce learning.

Learn more

Credits

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics