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Dyslexia is a type of learning disability that interferes with a person’s ability to read. Despite having normal or high intelligence, people with dyslexia tend to read at lower levels than expected. People with dyslexia have trouble identifying the sounds of speech and understanding how these sounds relate to letters and words. The condition makes it difficult for a person to associate the letters they read with words.
The condition affects 10 to 15 percent of the population, according to Nemour’s KidsHealth.org. Doctors sometimes refer to dyslexia as “specific reading disability,” as it is major cause of reading failure in school. Dealing with this reading disability often leads to frustration and low self-esteem, especially if it goes undiagnosed or untreated.
Many children have dyslexia but adults who suffer serious brain injuries or dementia can develop the condition.
Reading requires that the brain do some multitasking in that it has to do many things at once, such as scanning the letters of the word. Children usually start learning to read by learning how the speech sounds they make while talking (phonemic awareness) relate to the alphabet letters they see (phonics). Students then learn to blend sounds and letters to make words that they can recognize later. As children practice reading, they learn how to recognize common words automatically, which frees their brains up to comprehend and remember the material they have read.
Kids with dyslexia, on the other hand, struggle at the first step of associating phonics with phonemic awareness. In other words, children with dyslexia have trouble associating the letters, words and phrases they read with the words they speak. Reading never becomes automatic, so most people with dyslexia read very slowly and struggle to comprehend what they have read.
Many who are worried that they have dyslexia can manifest with the following symptoms: they may reverse letters or words, have words moving on the page, take hours to do 20 minutes of homework, avoid reading, or have slow and hesitant reading. These are all symptoms that can be caused by common vision problems.
Our developmental optometrists can evaluate to see if you or your child has a vision problem that often mimics or complicates the diagnosis of dyslexia. Many children actually do have words moving, doubling, or blurring on the page. They may have headaches, eye strain, or even eye pain, when they read. However, often they think that these symptoms are normal. They may also not have the words to verbalize these struggles. Teachers and parents also often do not know to ask children if they are experiencing words moving, blurring, or doubling on the page.
Our doctors will assess over 15 aspects of visual function to determine if you or your child has a specific vision problem that is causing the struggles. If a functional vision diagnosis is found the prognosis is generally very good. After treatment, many of our patients have found a new interest in reading, excel in the classroom and in sports, and talk about how vision therapy has changed their life. Read some of our patients success stories here. If vision is not found to be the cause, our doctors are very familiar with other resources and potential referral sources.
If you think vision issues may be causing difficulties for you or someone you love, call 423-581-2020 to make an appointment with our doctors at Hyde Eye Care Pediatric Department.