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What Is Developmental Dyslexia?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated May 17, 2024
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Developmental dyslexia, also known simply as dyslexia, is a common reading disorder. Often diagnosed in children, developmental dyslexia is characterized by the brain’s inability to properly process symbols and letters, making reading difficult. There is no known cure for dyslexia. Treatment for developmental dyslexia generally requires the individual to work closely with his or her teachers and, in some cases, a reading tutor.

A diagnosis of dyslexia is generally not made until a child demonstrates difficulty in school. Considering there is no definitive test for developmental dyslexia, the key to a diagnosis is ruling out other conditions that may impair one’s ability to learn. An extensive medical history of the child is often considered along with other factors, including his or her social skills, academic ability, and where he or she is developmentally. A vision exam is almost always performed to rule out any vision issues that could interfere with the child’s ability to process information he or she reads.

Children with dyslexia demonstrate difficulty recognizing and making sense of letters, words, and sentences. Some can exhibit signs of delayed or impaired language development, including difficulty speaking. Many are unable to distinguish sounds because the brain processes letters in reverse. One's pronunciation and ability to understand sentence cohesion are also affected. Difficulty may occur with making appropriate associations between words so what one reads makes sense.

Associated with the part of the brain that processes language, developmental dyslexia is considered a hereditary condition. Some medical organizations, including the Mayo Clinic, speculate the condition may be triggered by a genetic mutation that occurs as the brain develops. It is entirely possible for several members of a single family to develop dyslexia. Also known as developmental reading disorder (DRD), dyslexia has nothing to do with the level of one’s intellectual ability. Although individuals with developmental disabilities may demonstrate signs of dyslexia, the condition may affect any child.

In most cases, children with developmental dyslexia will not demonstrate symptoms until they start school. Once they start learning to read and write, the difficulty they experience while learning may cause them to become withdrawn. Oftentimes, children with dyslexia are unable to derive proper meaning from simple words and sentences. Some individuals are unable to rhyme, have pronounced difficulty with pronunciation or distinguishing words. If signs of dyslexia are ignored, the individual can experience reading issues that carry over into adulthood.

Children with developmental dyslexia often benefit from a special curriculum and one-on-one attention from an instructor. Sometimes, an individual may also require outside tutoring. A consistent approach to the individual’s education is essential, including positive feedback. Developmental dyslexia can be a challenging condition, therefore, counseling may also be necessary for both the child and his or her family to nurture healthy coping skills.

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