Dyslexia affects 15% to 20% of the English-speaking population

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a disorder that hinders the meaningful integration of linguistic and perceptual symbols. It stems from a neuropsychological dysfunction.

Is it very common?

It is a very common disorder but it is often detected too late. It is estimated that between 15% and 20% of the Anglo-Saxon population has dyslexia, about half in Latin languages. It affects more boys than girls.

What is the cause?

Dyslexia can be caused by different reasons. Among the most common factors are genetic (such as recessive chromosomes), family and social risk factors (poor socioeconomic status, lack of intellectual stimulation), intrauterine and postnatal factors (maternal drug use, fetal distress, etc.), and neurological dysfunction (specific or nonspecific brain damage).

How is dyslexia diagnosed in children?

When you notice that your child presents low phonological awareness and reading difficulties at the beginning of learning to read (making errors of omission, additions, substitutions of letters and words). In preschool children with normal intelligence, the alteration is determined as a great immaturity in psycholinguistic skills and in the skills of reading initiation. In school-age children, also of normal intelligence, the alarm signal is reflected in a delay of two or more years in perceptual-linguistic skills associated with reading. It is always necessary to think of a possible dyslexia in a child who in the 2nd trimester of Primary 1 presents a very slow reading speed, with all the difficulties mentioned above or who does not begin to read.

What skills, besides reading, are affected by dyslexia?

Dyslexia causes difficulties in writing, spelling, learning new languages and text comprehension. Less commonly, it also leads to problems in mathematics. On the other hand, it can sometimes affect laterality and oral language. Finally, it is likely that, if not properly treated, it can even affect self-esteem.

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Dyslexia: what is the treatment?

The main treatment of dyslexia consists of a diagnostic-prescriptive teaching that focuses on the neuropsychological dysfunction of the elaboration process, through the use of a methodology and specialized pedagogical techniques to work on perceptual-linguistic skills. This will require the help of a specialist in Child Psychiatry to work on phonological awareness and reading automation. On the other hand, in older children, strategies are also used to compensate for deficits, such as word processors. In addition, school intervention will be necessary to adapt the language subjects to their possibilities.

What can family members and people in the environment do?

Family and teacher collaboration is essential for a good prognosis of the disorder. In this sense, teachers should be aware of the causes that produce the disorder and actively help them by applying improvement programs and processes, as well as following an adaptation in this sense. Likewise, it can help not to make them read in public (if the child has a bad time), provide more time to do the exercises or exams, do not make them copy sentences at a speed higher than their level, limit content for the exam or highlight the content, do not penalize exams for spelling, adapt reading books to the student’s reading level, avoid the exhaustive correction of spelling mistakes, promote written expression with short sentences, leave the calculator in math exercises and make sure they understand the sentences.

Parents, on the other hand, can help them first and foremost with positive reinforcement and patience, buying them books that motivate them, reading together and alternately the content of school texts and also using compensation strategies (such as the use of word processors), helping them with their homework and with the organization of time and material.

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Dr. Jordi Sasot Llevadot and Jenifer Andreu