What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a complex language problem. It has to do with the way the brain works, not with vision. It involves not being able to break a word down into the sounds that make it up, and not being able to write and think about the sounds in a word. Kids with dyslexia have brains that work differently to process language. They have problems translating language to thought (in listening or reading) and thought to language (in writing or speaking).
How common is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability (LD); 80 percent of students with LDs have dyslexia . It affects more boys than girls .
Why is early diagnosis and treatment so important?
When dyslexia is not found and treated early on, it tends to snowball. As kids get more and more behind in school, they may become more and more frustrated, feeling like a failure. Often, self-esteem problems lead to bad behavior and other problems. When dyslexia is not noticed or not treated, it can cause adult literacy problems. By identifying dyslexia early, your child will get the help they need to reach their potential.
- Get more facts about how reading and learning disabilities affect literacy, education, jobs and earnings from the National Institute for Literacy .
What if I suspect my child might have a reading disability?
If you suspect your child may have dyslexia, do not wait! Have your child evaluated. Your child should not have to fail for a couple years before being able to getting the right kind of help. You and your child's teachers can help your child overcome reading difficulties.
What are the signs of a reading problem in the early years?
Here are some warning signs that your child might have a reading disability:
- Doesn't know how to hold a book
- Can't tell the difference between letters and squiggles
- Can't recognize own name
- Only says a small number of words
- Doesn’t like rhyming games and can’t fill in the rhyming word in familiar nursery rhymes
- Can't tell the difference between the sounds that make up a word (phonics)
- Slow to name familiar objects and colors
- Can’t remember the names and sounds of the letters
- By the end of kindergarten, can’t write most of the consonant sounds in a word (it’s normal for vowels to be missing until later)
1st and 2nd grades:
- Has trouble pronouncing new words and remembering them
- Has trouble blending sounds together to say words
- Says reading is easier for their classmates
- Falls way behind their classmates
- Can't figure out unknown words
- Avoids reading
- Resists reading aloud
2nd and 3rd grades:
- Starts to withdraw
- Has some troubling behavior
- Seems to guess at unknown words
- Does not get meaning from reading
What do I need to know about how my dyslexic child will learn to read?
There is more than one best way to teach reading. Different children learn in different ways. It is important that your child learn to read in the way that will work best for them.
Find out what teaching method the school is using to teach your child to read, and why. If the method is not working, work with the teacher to change it.
Here are some resources for helping kids with LDs improve their reading skills:
- ERIC Digest: Beginning Reading and Phonological Awareness for Students with Learning Disabilities
- ERIC Digest: Academic Interventions for Children with Dyslexia Who Have Phonological Core Deficits
- Great Schools provides content from Schwab Learning, including A Parent's Guide to Reading Basics, a guide to understanding, identifying, and addressing reading problems. Phone: 1-800-230-0988.
- Children with LD as Emergent Readers: Bridging the Gap to Conventional Reading. This article is written more for teachers and is a little technical, but it might be useful for parents, too.
- Phonological Awareness Acquisition and Intervention—this practice alert for teachers provides information and resources.
- Assistive technology tools to help with reading—from greatschools/Schwab Learning.
- Reading Problems in Middle School and High School—article with audio.
- The Reading and Dyslexia homepage from LDOnline is a great jumping-off point.
- Researchers have mapped the physical basis of dyslexia—from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
- Research finds kids who have trouble reading have a disruption in the part of their brain involved in reading phonetically—also from the NICHD.
- For Kids: Dyslexia.
- For Teens: Understanding Dyslexia.
- For Parents: Understanding Dyslexia.
- For Teachers: Teaching How-To’s for Reading from Teaching LD, the Web site of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD), one of 17 special interest groups of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), an international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.
- The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) offers an international network that brings professionals in the field of dyslexia and parents together for a common purpose. Phone (800) ABC-D123 for general information or (410) 296-0232 for detailed information.
- The Michigan Dyslexia Institute (MDI) presents public awareness programs, and maintains a hotline at 517-485-4000 for free information. They also offer workshops and conferences, and have an online catalog. MDI is a partner with the Dyslexia Association of America in a national movement to provide services to persons with dyslexia throughout the United States.
- The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress administers a free library program of recorded materials circulated to eligible borrowers (including people with reading disabilities) by postage-free mail.
- Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) is a fee-based, membership program that lends recordings of educational books in a range of subjects at all educational levels—from kindergarten to post-graduate and professional. Here is their individual membership application.
- HELP Read is free text-reader software that will read web pages and other text aloud.
- Check out the book Overcoming Dyslexia, by Sally Shaywitz
Related topics on YourChild:
- Learning Disabilities
- Reading and Your Child—includes child, adult and family literacy contacts.
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Developmental Milestones
- Developmental Delay
- Siblings of Kids with Special Needs
- Getting Involved in Your Child's Education
 Carnine D. IDEA: focusing on improving results for children with disabilities. Testimony in Hearing before the Subcommittee on Education Reform, Committee on Education and the Workforce, United States House of Representatives. March 13, 2003. Available at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/108th/edr/idea031303/carnine.htm. Accessed 18 May 2005.
 Rutter M, Caspi A, Fergusson D, Horwood LJ, Goodman R, Maughan B, Moffitt TE, Meltzer H, Carroll J. Sex differences in developmental reading disability: new findings from 4 epidemiological studies. JAMA. 2004 Apr 28;291(16):2007-12.
Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, R.N. Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan
Updated June 2008
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