A Guide to Dyslexia

“I see some things clearer than other people do because I have to simplify things to help me and that has helped others.” – Sir Richard Branson, business magnate and author with dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding skills. These difficulties result from deficits in the phonological component of reading, or the ability to process the sounds of written and spoken language. Dyslexia exists on a continuum from mild to severe and manifestations change over time. While dyslexia occurs in children with both normal vision and intelligence, this learning difficulty is speculated to derive from differences in the areas of the brain that control, process, and understand language and speech. It is not the result of low intelligence, letter or word reversals, or vision difficulties. Dyslexia typically affects a person’s ability to read, but it can also hinder writing, spelling, math, and other capabilities.


The causes of dyslexia vary, but research today focuses on hereditary factors. Studies show that the differences related to dyslexia are linked to specific genes involved in the development of the regions of the brain that process reading, writing, and language. Though the medical community hasn’t yet pinpointed the exact causes of dyslexia, additional factors that are known to correlate are premature birth, low birth weight, or exposure to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.

Early Signs and Symptoms

Dyslexia symptoms appear to affect both a child’s cognitive and developmental functions. With several different levels of severity, early signs of dyslexia can be challenging to interpret. The child’s teacher is often the first to notice symptoms associated with dyslexia as they are most prevalent in the classroom when a child begins to learn to read. Signs and symptoms of dyslexia may include:

  • Difficulty decoding single words
  • Struggling to learn the connection between sounds and letters
  • Having trouble memorizing, spelling or differentiating small words
  • Late or delayed talking
  • Speech impairment
  • Lack of reading comprehension

It’s very common for children and teens to read at different levels, but a child with dyslexia often experiences unexpected difficulties learning to read that persist even when provided appropriate instruction and intervention. Talking to the child to better understand the root of these symptoms can also be helpful.

Tests and Treatment

Though this condition can be identified at any age, dyslexia often goes undiagnosed and untreated as a learning disorder. People with dyslexia can be creative and intelligent and are sometimes unaware that they interpret things differently. There are several tests online that try to align answers with symptoms, but only trained healthcare professionals, doctors, or learning specialists have authority to diagnose dyslexia.

Many options exist to treat dyslexia. Early attention, observation, and detection is the best formula for limiting the long-term effects of this learning difficulty. Many children identified with dyslexia can be taught to read with early identification and explicit, comprehensive reading instruction. However, dyslexia is lifelong and its impact persists through adulthood. Through differentiated core instruction, early intervention, and evidence-based teaching methods, most children with dyslexia still succeed in the classroom.

One of the most well-known teaching methods, the Orton-Gillingham approach, focuses on a language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, and cumulative approach for teaching the connection between sounds and letters. Many programs designed for students with dyslexia reflect the influence of Orton-Gillingham. There is substantial evidence that a structured literacy approach that explicitly and systematically teaches students to decode words is more effective for all readers. For students with dyslexia, depending on the severity, the key factors for successful outcomes are the level of intensity, time on task, differentiation, and explicit attention to the structure of language.

How Hill Learning Center Can Help

We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and attention challenges into confident, independent learners. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step.

Sources: EverydayHealth, Understood, Yale Center

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