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what are the Different Treatments for Adults with Dyslexia?

By Jeany Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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Unlike learning disabilities, dyslexia is generally believed to be a language-based disorder. Symptoms are often not readily visible, but instead may subtly influence such areas as reading, spelling and math. Adults with dyslexia must therefore find ways to cope with their disorders outside of public school systems. One of the first steps is diagnosis, which can help determine the specific area of trouble. Treatment is then often administered individually, and options may include color-coding, the multisensory approach, phonics-based learning and memory tools for directional confusion.

In many cases, determining the specific area of disability is the first step to treating adults with dyslexia. The disorder is often marked by one or more problems in several specific areas, including difficulty with absorbing words while reading; trouble with spelling; reversal of letters and numbers; and problems in math and/or with numbers in general. An initial assessment, therefore, often helps with understanding dyslexia and its possible effects.

Professionals who work with dyslexic adults must often help them manage their conditions. The use of color may be valuable in this, as some researchers believe the glare emitted by white paper contributes to reading difficulties. When adults with dyslexia read from plain paper, they often struggle to memorize and learn the given information. Teachers and tutors may thus incorporate colorful learning tools, such as flash cards, to improve reading skills. Adults with dyslexia may also be encouraged to use highlighters when reading from white paper and colored paper when printing electronic materials.

Color coding is often used to help adults become organized at home as well. For example, color coded labels can be used to denote computer disks, notebooks and file folders. Arranging household items according to color can be another helpful tool. Common goods like books, towels and cleaners can be color coded so they are easier to identify.

Another method that may help to improve reading skills is the multisensory approach. This technique is commonly used on school-aged children, but research indicates it may be successful for treating adults as well. It involves the senses of hearing, vision and touch to improve reading and information processing. For example, an adult may listen to a taped lesson while tracing his or her finger over words as provided in a book.

Phonics-based learning modules may help adults who struggle with spelling, handwriting and reading comprehension. A teacher or tutor may begin this type of treatment with the principles of word structures. Then, words are often pronounced based upon the sounds associated with their letters or letter groups. This eliminates common sight reading but still enables adults to understand the words before them. Several studies have shown that phonics learning activities can increase both reading and language processing skills.

Some adults with dyslexia also struggle to overcome directional confusion. As such, they are likely to mistake right for left and vice versa. Some experts further indicate this is the reason why such letters as "m" and "w" and "p" and "q" are reversed in written missives. Additional symptoms of directional confusion include erroneous distinction between compass directions and "up" and "down."

Memory building tools may be useful for correcting directional confusion. Flash cards, computer software programs and games may be incorporated to improve memory skills. Some adults use their own hands to distinguish right from left. For example, a person who writes with his or her left hand remembers that hand points to the left. Others wear a watch on the right hand and remember that way.

With compass points, adults with dyslexia may elect to use road maps highlighted by landmarks instead of "north" or "south" directions. To illustrate, a person may be instructed to turn on Smith Street in the direction of the pharmacy. Picture drawings may also be useful for helping adults navigate through towns and neighborhoods.

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