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Dyslexia - Topic Overview

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it hard to read, write, and spell. It occurs because the brain jumbles or mixes up letters and words. Children with dyslexia often have a poor memory of spoken and written words.

Having dyslexia does not mean that your or your child's ability to learn is below average. In fact, many people with dyslexia are very bright. But not being able to read well can make many areas of learning difficult.

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

What causes dyslexia?

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

Dyslexia is not caused by poor vision, and people with dyslexia do not see letters and words backward.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of dyslexia in children who are too young for school include:

  • Talking later than expected.
  • Being slow to learn new words.
  • Problems rhyming.
  • Problems following directions that have many steps.

After a child begins school, the signs of dyslexia include:

  • Problems reading single words, such as a word on a flash card.
  • Problems linking letters with sounds.
  • Confusing small words, such as "at" and "to."
  • Reversing the shapes of written letters such as "d" for "b." For example, the child may write "dat" instead of "bat."
  • Writing words backward, such as "tip" for "pit."

If your child has one of these signs, it does not mean that he or she has dyslexia. Many children reverse letters before age 7. But if your child has several signs and reading problems, or if you have a family history of dyslexia, you may want to have your child checked for the problem.

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

A doctor or a school professional (such as a reading specialist) will ask you what signs of dyslexia you and your child's teachers have seen. He or she will ask your child questions too. Your child may be offered to take reading and skill tests. Tests may include those that look at your child's personality and how he or she learns, solves problems, and uses words. Your child may also have an IQ test.

These tests can help find out if your child has dyslexia or another learning problem.

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