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Dyslexia - Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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Dyslexia - Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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Having problems reading words and sentences that other kids of the same age learn comfortably can be a sign of dyslexia.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Parth Nagda

Published At February 26, 2020
Reviewed AtDecember 6, 2022

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, also called reading disability, is a type of learning disorder that results in difficulty reading. Reading problems are due to difficulty identifying the sounds of different words and letters. It is caused when the part of the brain that processes language is affected. Such people have normal intelligence and vision. With the help of specialized teaching programs and emotional support, most kids with dyslexia can succeed in school. Early diagnosis and intervention can help dyslexic kids adjust better. In some cases, dyslexia is not diagnosed until adulthood, but language skills can still be improved.

What Are the Types of Dyslexia?

There are many subtypes of dyslexia. The common types include:

  1. Phonological Dyslexia - It is otherwise called dysphonetic dyslexia or auditory dyslexia. The individual has problems breaking down words and matching sounds to their letters.

  2. Rapid Naming Deficit - The kid will take time to recognize a letter or number.

  3. Surface Dyslexia - It is sometimes called dyseidetic dyslexia. Here, the individual cannot remember what the word looks like, making it hard to memorize and learn the word.

  4. Visual Dyslexia - The individual might have an unusual visual experience while looking at words.

  5. Double Deficit Dyslexia - Here, the individual cannot isolate sounds of letters and numbers and cannot name them.

Dyslexia can also be divided into:

  1. Primary Dyslexia - It is the most common type, which is caused due to damage to the cerebral cortex (the left side of the brain).

  2. Secondary Dyslexia - It results from problems in brain development in the fetus.

  3. Trauma Dyslexia - It is caused by injury to the parts of the brain that control reading and writing.

Difficulty learning math is called dyscalculia and not dyslexia.

What Causes Dyslexia?

The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, but researchers believe the following two factors are contributing to dyslexia.

  • People with dyslexia were found to have defects in the DCDC (doublecortin domain containing) gene by a team at the Yale school of medicine.

  • In a few cases, people acquire this condition after they are born. The common causes are brain injury, other trauma, and stroke.

Almost 80 % of kids with learning disabilities have dyslexia, according to the university of Michigan health system.

Risk Factors:

The following factors can increase the risk of dyslexia:

  • A family history of learning disabilities.

  • Low birth weight.

  • Premature birth.

  • Exposure to drugs, smoking, infection, or alcohol during pregnancy (as it can affect the brain).

  • Defects in the parts of the brain that control reading.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia?

The signs of dyslexia are apparent only when the kid starts to learn how to read. The teacher might be the first person to notice these signs. Here is a list of some early clues and signs a dyslexic person shows as they age.

In Toddlers - (these are not specific)

  • Talking late.

  • Learning how to do new things slowly.

  • Problems pronouncing and forming words properly.

  • Difficulty playing rhyming games.

  • Inability to name letters and numbers correctly.

  • Problems with learning nursery rhymes.

In School Kids - (signs and symptoms become more apparent)

  • Difficulty understanding and processing instructions.

  • Reading skills are lower than other kids of the same age.

  • Difficulty forming a sentence.

  • Difficulty remembering the sequence of things.

  • Inability to find the right word.

  • Spelling the same word differently every time.

  • Taking longer than usual to complete reading or writing tasks.

  • Trying to avoid tasks that involve reading.

  • Inability to differentiate letters, words, numbers, and their sounds.

  • Difficulty in the pronunciation of new or unfamiliar words.

In Adults -

  • Problems reading things aloud.

  • Spelling mistakes.

  • Labored reading and writing.

  • Trying to avoid activities and tasks that involve reading.

  • Mispronouncing names and words.

  • Inability to summarize an essay or novel.

  • Difficulty understanding idioms.

  • Problems memorizing.

  • Difficulty learning a new language.

  • Time management problem.

The severity of symptoms of dyslexia can vary from mild to severe.

How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

Dyslexia is tricky to diagnose. The following are some of the factors that are considered while diagnosing this disability:

  • The doctor will take a complete history of the kid’s development, educational problems, and past medical history. The doctor will ask about any such learning disabilities that run in the family.

  • The doctor will ask about the child’s behavior at home.

  • The parents, child, and teachers might have to fill out a sheet with many questions, which will help the doctor understand the problem in detail.

  • The child’s language and reading ability will be tested with a number of tests.

  • The doctor will then conduct neurological tests, which include vision, hearing, and brain tests. This is done to determine if the reading problem is due to another underlying problem.

  • The doctor will also try to determine the presence of other psychological problems like social problems, anxiety, or depression.

  • A reading expert will analyze the child’s reading skills with the help of various educational tests.

What Are the Various Treatment Options for Dyslexia?

There is no cure for dyslexia, as the underlying brain defect cannot be treated. But prompt and appropriate treatment early on will improve the outcome drastically.

Various educational techniques can help treat dyslexia. To help develop a suitable teaching technique, psychological tests are conducted. Based on the results, the teacher can use hearing, vision, or touch to improve the child’s reading skills. These techniques help the child:

  1. Recognize the smallest sounds (phonemes) that make up words.

  2. Relate these sounds to the letters and words.

  3. Understand what they are reading.

  4. Build a vocabulary.

  5. Speak fluently with the correct reading accuracy and speed.

A reading specialist can also help dyslexic children.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) - Many schools are legally obliged to help dyslexic kids. Special classes or special teaching techniques are adopted by the teachers to help such kids succeed in their curriculums.

Diagnosing and treating a child with dyslexia in kindergarten or first grade helps them improve their reading skills sufficiently. But the later it gets diagnosed, the more difficult it will be for the child to develop the required reading skills.

The parents and teachers play the most important role in helping a dyslexic kid. If the child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or if one suspects that their child has dyslexia, then:

  1. Consult a doctor immediately.

  2. Start reading storybooks to the child when he or she turns six months.

  3. Listen to recorded storybooks with the child.

  4. Talk to the school teacher so that they can help the child.

  5. Encourage the child to read more and help him or her practice reading.

  6. Sit with the child when he or she reads. Read a novel or magazine while they study to encourage them.

For adults with dyslexia, consult a doctor so they can help them develop the required reading skills. Remember that it is never too late to learn.

What Are the Complications of Dyslexia?

The possible complications of dyslexia are:

  1. Depression.

  2. Low self-esteem.

  3. Trouble keeping up with peers.

  4. Behavior problems (aggression).

  5. Kids become unmotivated and avoid going to school.

  6. More prone to develop ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).


Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the skills to read and spell words accurately and fluently. Dyslexic kids and adults have difficulty learning to read and write. It does not affect a person’s intelligence. Dyslexic individuals are more prone to develop immune disorders. The severity of this disorder can be reduced by early diagnosis and support.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Types of Reading Difficulties?

The types of reading difficulties include -
- Decoding - This is when a child may not be able to read properly due to attention difficulties and problems like dyslexia. 
- Comprehension difficulty - The person may not be able to understand the meaning of the text and may not be able to retain information.
- Fluency difficulty - In this, the person may be unable to read with correct expression or with adequate speed. This hampers their reading ability.


Can Dyslexia Be Cured?

Yes, dyslexia can be cured if detected early in childhood by –
- Addressing the concerns and opting for guided training on reading. 
- Reading out loud. 
- Seeking additional instructional help and a personal tutor.
- Encouraging reading time.
- Daily reading practice.


When Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

The following diagnoses of dyslexia –
- The child’s educational, personal development, and medical history are considered.
- Questionnaires regarding reading and language difficulties.
- Vision, hearing, and brain neurological tests are conducted to make a diagnosis.
- Psychological evaluation regarding the social and mental health status of the child.
- Tests for assessing academic skills to test reading quality.


What Causes Dyslexia in Adults?

Dyslexia can be hereditary or acquired later in life (adulthood). Dyslexia appears to be linked to certain genes that affect how the brain processes reading and language. People have difficulty reading and understanding letters and sentences.


Is Dyslexia a Disability?

According to medical professionals and neurologists, dyslexia is a disability most commonly found in children (except for the mildest cases). It impairs reading and the proper functioning of the neurological system, which affects the child in several ways. Dyslexia is a disability that also impacts the child's mental well-being and future.


How Is Dyslexia Treated in Adults?

Dyslexia is treated using specific techniques and educational approaches to help improve reading skills. Early intervention prevents the consequences of dyslexia. Evaluating reading skills, mental health, and language skills will help the professionals develop an individual teaching program. Trained teachers and therapists may use techniques involving vision, hearing, and touch to improve reading skills. Success in employment can be difficult for adults who have dyslexia. For this, one must seek evaluation and instructional help with reading and writing, regardless of age.


Is Dyslexia a Mental Disorder?

According to medical professionals, dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a mental health disorder. Dyslexia is a condition associated with difficulties in reading and writing due to poor brain development or certain genes responsible for the same. Frustration from dyslexia could lead to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and other such conditions.


Is Dyslexia a Brain or Eye Problem?

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs the ability to read and write properly. Dyslexia is not an eye problem but a brain disorder that can be cured if diagnosed early. Proper guidance and practice to improve reading and writing skills can improve the symptoms of dyslexia.


Does Dyslexia Affect Memory?

Yes, dyslexia is a neurological developmental disorder that affects memory. The person may be unable to retain what they have read or not understand what they are reading. Dyslexia affects the person's long-term memory and working memory.


Who Can Confirm Dyslexia?

Neurologists and medical professionals are best to confirm the diagnosis of dyslexia. Various tests are performed to assess the person’s reading and writing quality and the difficulties. Tests assessing decoding, fluency, and comprehension are performed to diagnose dyslexia.


What Are The Tests To Confirm Dyslexia?

Here are some tests to help evaluate dyslexia –
- Neurological testing - to assess the status and functioning of the inner ear or cerebellar-vestibular system and other central nervous systems.
- Electronystagmography (ENG) - This is a neurophysiological test for assessing eye movements.
- Posturography - This test assesses overall balance function (sensory integration) as well as vision dependence, proprioception (internal senses) dependence, and overall assessment of vestibular deficits.


What Difficulties Do Dyslexics Face?

People suffering from dyslexia face the following –
- Juggling with other brain processes, some people find difficulty with spelling and writing 
- Difficulty in remembering and retaining, and understanding what they have just read.
- Difficulty with learning and grasping information for their exams and tests.
- Not being able to adapt their learning style to suit the task they are doing. Some people may adapt to one best way of learning and apply it to all tasks.
Dr. Parth Nagda
Dr. Parth Nagda



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