Dyslexia Is Forever
WebMD News Archive
Despite improvements in the diagnosis and management of dyslexia, many adolescents and young adults with the disorder continue to have reading problems.
Jan. 7, 2000 (Atlanta) --Despite improvements in the diagnosis and
management of dyslexia, many adolescents and young adults with the disorder
continue to have reading problems. The results of a long-term study, published
in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, explain how
disabilities in dyslexia are persistent.
"The belief that children with dyslexia will eventually outgrow it is
simply not true," says lead author Sally E. Shaywitz, MD, of Yale
University. Shaywitz tells WebMD that while many bright young adults with
dyslexia learn to read words accurately, they remain slow readers for a reason.
"The same phonological deficit responsible for initial reading difficulties
remains and accounts for persistent problems," Shaywitz tells WebMD. In
other words, children who were diagnosed as dyslexic early in their school
careers were still dyslexic later on, even though they may have learned to
overcome it to some degree.
Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by problems in expressing or
receiving oral or written language. Difficulties may be expressed in reading,
spelling, writing, speaking, or listening. According to the International
Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is not the result of low intelligence. The term
but describes a different kind of mind -- often gifted and productive -- that
learns differently. The National Institutes of Health estimates that
approximately 15% of the U.S. population are affected by learning disabilities,
many with dyslexia.
For this study, children were recruited from the Connecticut Longitudinal
Study, a representative group of almost 500 children entering public
kindergarten in 1983. When the students reached the ninth grade, those with
persistent reading disabilities were compared with average and superior
readers. Each child received a comprehensive assessment of academic, language,
and other cognitive skills.
Over the study period, researchers found that deficits in phonological
awareness and coding continued in the dyslexic group. Phonological awareness
allows people to notice, comprehend, and manipulate the individual sounds in a
word. Phonological coding deficits interfere with reading rate, accuracy, and
spelling. Therefore, dyslexics are not 'cured,' nor do they 'catch up,' in the
development of reading skills as they progress in school.
In 1998, Shaywitz and other researchers reported in the journal Pediatric
News that dyslexics have disruptions in the language system in the
brain during reading. According to Shaywitz, brain imaging performed on adults
showed underactivation in posterior regions of the adult brain and relative
overactivation in anterior regions, providing further evidence that dyslexia is
a neurobiologic disorder.
"This is the next step that we had to reach for educators to say that
dyslexia is real," Shaywitz said in an interview at the time of the study.
"If [brain imaging] holds true for children, [it] may someday be used to
diagnose the disorder in young children before it impairs academic