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Dyslexia: The Elusive Learning Disability

Updated on July 12, 2013

Dyslexia Defined

Dyslexia is a special type of learning disability that causes otherwise intelligent individuals to have problems reading the written language. The disorder affects between two and five percent of the population and about half of all students classified as learning disabled. There is currently no known cure, and the condition persists into adulthood.

There are several different types of learning disabilities, and care must be taken to differentiate dyslexia from other types of learning disabilities when providing for remediation. The cause of dyslexia has yet to be found; therefore a myriad of approaches for remediation have been introduced by researchers and educators.

Early Symptoms Of Dyslexia

  • delays in speech and language development
  • difficulty with time and space concepts
  • easily distractable
  • memory problems
  • difficulty copying word
  • difficulty with spelling, writing, reading and math
  • hyperactivity
  • clumsiness
  • mood swings
  • disorganized

Characteristics Of Dyslexia

Dyslexia first caught the attention of researchers Dejerine (1882) and Bastian (1898). They identified several congenital (at birth) neurological problems that laid the groundwork for later research. The differences noticed between the various problems have helped experts to identify three sub-types of dyslexia.

  1. visual dis-phonetic (eyes, vision)
  2. auditory linguistic dis-phonetic (hearing, language)
  3. a mixed type with symptoms from both

Some individuals have reading problems because of external eye muscle disorders that are deemed to be dyslexic, but this is the exception, not the rule.

What is it like to be dyslexic? Victims report that they have trouble breaking up words into sounds. Parts of words seem to not fit together right. They have to hear the word spoken first. They don't really see "words backwards" but they do often make certain letter and number reversals such as 6 and 9, b and d.


Differing Theories Of Dyslexia

There are several theories that different health professionals introduced during the later part of the 20th century. All were controversial and there is no evidence that they were ever proven to help the dyslexic. A few of the theories are listed here.

Cerebellar-vestibular malfunction: some research (Frank and Levinson,1977) has linked the blurring, scrambling and letter reversal to a malfunctioning cerebellar-vestibular system, the system that connects the brain to balance and movement. They likened symptoms to trying to read words on a passing truck. They even suggested using the motion sickness drug Dramamine to alleviate symptoms of dyslexia.

Ocular lock syndrome: Almost a decade later, chiropractic medical professionals believed that the cause of dyslexia was the bones around the eyes keeping the eye muscles from working properly (Ferreri and Wainwright, 1984.) They attempted to treat the disorder with a system of manipulating the skull bones. They also theorized that the pelvic bones should be aligned correctly to provide posture that would support better eye muscle control.

Mega-vitamin therapy: Other researchers have attributed dyslexia to a chemical disorder in the brain that can be fixed with mega-vitamins and diet (Cott, 1977,1985). This research maintained that mega-vitamins would restore neurological health. It suggested that wheat products and milk are often found in foods containing sugar, and cause certain allergies that affect learning; therefore, they should be removed from the diet.

Elimination diet: The Feingold diet, created by Dr. Ben Feingold (Feingold, 1975, 1976,1977) was based on the belief that certain synthetic chemicals such as those added to soft drinks, hot dogs, candy and food dyes has affected learning disabled and ADHD kids. He proposed that diet should be considered before any thought of drugs as a treatment for these types of disabilities.

Remediation For Dyslexia

The teacher or professional should use a diagnostic word recognition check list such as the WRATIII or other formal or informal assessment to decide on a remediation with activities to address deficits. Students with dyslexia lack having a knowledge of sounds that form spoken words; therefore they will need both a traditional phonics approach that stresses phonemic awareness and a whole-language approach with a central focus on meaning. Listed are suggestions for programs to use with dyslexic students.

  1. Corrective Reading by SRA: This program provides intensive, sustained direct instruction for decoding words and comprehending what has been read. For ages 7-14.
  2. Rewards: This program provides specialized instruction for middle and high school students. It teaches a strategy that can be used to decode longer words, and exercises to increase silent and oral reading fluency.
  3. Responsive Reading Instruction: This is a highly adaptable supplemental reading program that focuses on practicing phonemic awareness and phonemic decoding in the context of reading and writing.
  4. PALS: This program provides systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, decoding and comprehension for the pre-K-grade one student. It features high-interest children's literature.
  5. Passport Reading Journeys: This program provides systematic and explicit instruction for struggling adolescent readers. It features high-interest reading expeditions that are of particular interest to that age group.

Reference: C Spafford and G. Grosser


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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      My other half was told he was stupid as a kid. He wasn't he was dyslexic! this was great reading, and really useful too.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, I hope the article was helpful. I am glad they are doing well. Most do. They are intelligent.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I have nieces and nephews who had this problem. I am glad for the information in your hub, as I knew very little about it. They seem to function well as adults.

    • Jenny-Elizabeth profile image

      Elizabeth Reeve 

      5 years ago from Cornfields of Indiana

      My brother has dyslexia, he is now 35 and though he can now work through it, he says it is nothing for him to be able to write backwards.... I can't imagine how difficult that would be.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Very informative and useful hub, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That is a good question. I don't really have anyone to ask. Thanks for the vote and share!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      I have friends who struggle with dyslexia and found this to be a very interesting reference work. I wonder if some have found success with the diet or vitamin treatments? Voted up and shared.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for reading and relating to the dyslexia hub, Vinaya and pinto. Dyslexia is a rather prevalent condition.

    • pinto2011 profile image


      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi rebeccamealey! Very nicely written and well informed hub. This is especially important for parents to get the whiff of this disease in their wards before it is too late.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal


      I did not know about this disease until I watched a movie about dyslexic character. After watching the movie, I researched on the topic, and came to know, my sister had some dyslexia symptoms when she was a child.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      thanks for those Angels, ps. Your daughter was lucky to have you as a mother.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida

      Hi Rebecca

      I am so glad that you are calling attention to this complex disorder. My daughter is dyslexic and was crucified in high school by her teachers and a guidance counselor (only two of her teachers made an effort to help her)....and I was a teacher for forty years so I can say that without being one of those who always cast stones at our beloved profession. I discovered her dyslexia and found ways to help her cope. And then she learned to overcompensate, thank goodness.

      Sending Angels to you this afternoon. Voted up and shared :) ps

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Au fait, I am so glad to have enlightened you on Dyslexia. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      Very interesting hub that would seem to offer a lot of possibilities and suggestions for teachers who must help children overcome this disorder. I've always been curious about dyslexia and your hub helps me understand what it is a little better. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for sharing your personal experience with a dyslexic child. I hope folks read your comment and try the overlays!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks midget38 for such an insightful comment. Thanks for the share,too!

      You are welcome, Paul. Thanks for sharing, and I hope this helps you in teaching your kids that have reading disabilities of each kind.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a very useful hub for me since I am teaching EFL. In many of my classes I have one or two students who are dyslectic. Unfortunately, there is no special education in my school and all classroom teachers have to deal with it. Thank you for the information about the WRATIII and other diagnostic tests I might make. Voted up and sharing.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      This is so detailed, Rebecca. I love this, and have taught students with the was a little painful because the subject was literature in English. For these kids, who find it difficult to tell apart ds from ps, the journey is a difficult one, so I tried to help as much as I could. Some were more hardworking than others...and did quite well with the effort...but some were a bit too strained to sustain it. This article gave me a lot to remember! Thanks for the write, and Ill share!

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I think it depends on the degree to which whole language was relied upon. Experts seem to agree that there needs to be a little of both, but with the emphasis on phonemic instruction. thanks for you interest!

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 

      7 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      To what degree can whole language / sight words versus phonetic instruction be blamed for the increasing rate of dyslexia diagnosis?

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      AE Williams 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Very informative, Rebecca. I have a friend who has dyslexia and struggled a bit during her time in high school. This was good at telling me what may cause it and exactly what the disease. There are always misconceptions about how the person is actually affected by it. Awesome work, Rebecca.


    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That's awesome, Peter. And you just reminded me that I needed to add a box of famous dyslexics like Tome Cruise and Albert Einstein.

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      7 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thank you very much rebeccamealey for a well written and researched article.

      I was first diagnosed as being dyslexic when I was around 12/13 years old. Up until then I was thought of as either stupid or slow. Because of this I became very disruptive and was always in trouble. Much of my education I carried out in solitude using my own way of absorbing knowledge. Exams were always a huge problem to me and I remember walking out of an English exam because I could not spell the word "was".

      My particular problem was not word reversal or anything similar but just that for that second,hour,day whatever the letter meant nothing to me.

      Well I overcame it as many dyslexic people do and have just retired after a long career as a pharmaceutical and industrial chemist. I have continued to work on various remedies for dyslexia and wonder if you have come across colour tinted glasses. It seems unlikely but I have amassed some anecdotal evidence to suggest it works.

      Kind regards Peter

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks Carly. You are a true survivor!

    • CarlySullens profile image

      Carly Sullens 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Great information. Thank you from someone who has dyslexia.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks midget38 and GoForTheJuggler. Dyslexia is a really common problem!

    • GoForTheJuggler profile image

      Joshua Patrick 

      7 years ago from Texas

      I've known more than a few people in my life with dyslexia - thanks for sharing this info! Voted up!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      I have taught children with this problem and have seen what they go through. It is not easy, but the determined ones do make it with a little bit of help which they deserve. Hubs like these do help to raise awareness. Thanks for sharing! Voted up and shared.

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for stopping by. Interesting. Dyslexia seems to run in families

    • rebeccamealey profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for the post, Deb!

      It is a common disorder, teaches 12345!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I have family with this disorder and they struggled in school learning to read. I am so glad that today there are programs out there to help with dyslexia. It can be difficult to learn how to adjust, but life is so much more enjoyable when you know who to adjust.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      my son is dyslexia, I have a sister that is too..when my son was young the teachers did not believe he had this problem .. he struggled with it.. I had to send him to special computer classes it really saved him.

      thank you for sharing this

      I will post this on Facebook



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