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Is Dyslexia a Learning Disability?

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Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dyslexia is a term that many people have heard of, but there's often confusion about whether it qualifies as a learning disability. I’ll help you explore the nature of dyslexia, its impact on learning, and whether it fits the criteria for a learning disability.

My many years of experience in school testing allowed me to see different types of learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia, and provide parents solutions through school accommodations and IEP plans. 

What is Dyslexia Like?

The dyslexia learning disability is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to read, write, and spell. It is not related to intelligence, and dyslexics often have average to above-average intelligence. The condition is believed to be rooted in differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas related to language processing (Peterson & Pennington, 2012).

Furthermore, dyslexia is a lifelong condition that persists into adulthood. While its impact may evolve, it is crucial to recognize that dyslexia is not outgrown or cured. Instead, individuals with dyslexia can develop coping skills and leverage their unique strengths to navigate academic and professional challenges. 

The understanding of dyslexia as a neurobiological difference, rather than a sign of intellectual limitations, is vital in fostering a supportive environment that empowers children with dyslexia to reach their full potential. By embracing a neurodiversity perspective, society can break down stigmas associated with dyslexia and create inclusive spaces where diverse cognitive profiles are valued and celebrated.

The Challenges of Dyslexia

One of the main childhood dyslexia symptoms is phonological processing, which is the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds of spoken language. This difficulty can make it challenging for individuals with dyslexia to decode words and, consequently, impact their reading comprehension and overall academic performance.

Moreover, the challenges in phonological processing extend beyond reading and can affect other language-related skills, such as spelling and oral communication. Kids with dyslexia might struggle to break down words into their component sounds, and that can lead to difficulties in accurately reproducing words in written form. 

This linguistic challenge can also influence their ability to express themselves verbally, making communication a potential hurdle. It’s important to recognize that dyslexia is a complex condition with varying degrees of severity, and its impact on academic performance extends beyond the act of reading.

Blog is dyslexia a learning disability

Is Dyslexia a Learning Disability?

Learning disability is a broad category that includes various conditions affecting the acquisition and use of language, written or spoken, that may manifest in difficulties with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, or doing mathematical calculations.

Dyslexia is indeed considered a specific learning disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the United States. According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a neurological condition that falls within the category of specific learning disability, which means it is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language.

However, it's essential to note that not all learning disabilities are dyslexia. There are also different types of dyslexia, such as:

1. Phonological Dyslexia

This difficulty in phonological processing involves recognizing and manipulating the sounds of spoken language. Children encountering challenges in decoding words will struggle with accurate and fluent reading.

2. Surface Dyslexia

When one has difficulty with recognizing whole words by sight, it often results in reliance on decoding strategies. Such reading difficulties are related to word recognition rather than phonological processing (Coltheart et al., 1983).

3. Rapid Naming Deficit

Dyslexics have difficulty in rapidly naming letters, numbers, or other symbols. It results to slow and labored reading, as they struggle to quickly and automatically identify visual symbols.

4. Double-Deficit Dyslexia

Dyslexic people find phonological processing and rapid naming difficult. Children and teens with this profile may face more severe reading difficulties due to the combined challenges in decoding and word recognition.

5. Visual Dyslexia

The challenges in processing visual information, such as difficulties in distinguishing letters and words is one of the most common characteristics of dyslexia. Their reading difficulties are related to visual perception rather than phonological processing.

6. Orthographic Dyslexia

This type of dyslexia is characterized by the difficulty in recognizing and remembering the correct sequence of letters in words. They have spelling difficulties and challenges in recognizing words by sight.

7. Auditory Dyslexia

If your child has difficulty in processing and distinguishing sounds, especially in noisy environments, they may have this type of dyslexia. Their challenges in phonemic awareness and auditory discrimination are evident, affecting their reading and spelling skills.

8. Magnocellular Dyslexia

Dysfunctions in the magnocellular pathway of the visual system impacts the perception of motion and contrast. These challenges in visual tracking and processing visual information affect reading and writing.

Management and Treatment for Dyslexia

Dyslexia can have a significant impact on a child’s academic and professional life if not properly addressed. However, with early intervention and appropriate support, individuals with the signs of dyslexia can develop strategies to overcome challenges and succeed in various areas.

Additionally, it's essential to recognize that the impact of dyslexia reaches beyond academic settings into the professional realm. Children and teens with dyslexia often face challenges in tasks that involve extensive reading, writing, or spelling. 

The treatment of dyslexia includes accommodations and a supportive environment, these kids can excel in their chosen careers. Many successful individuals, including entrepreneurs, artists, and scientists, have dyslexia, showcasing that this condition does not preclude achievement. 

Employers and educators alike play a crucial role in fostering an inclusive atmosphere that values diverse talents and provides reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of individuals with dyslexia, thus unlocking their full potential in both academic and professional spheres. 

Ways to treat dyslexia: 

Educational Interventions

Recognizing dyslexia early is crucial for effective intervention. Educational strategies often involve specialized reading programs, multisensory approaches, and accommodations such as extended time on exams or the use of assistive technology.

Early recognition of dyslexia is paramount for implementing effective intervention strategies. Identifying dyslexia in children during the early stages allows educators, parents, and specialists to tailor dyslexia interventions that address the specific needs of the individual. 

Specialized reading programs, such as Orton-Gillingham, and multisensory approaches, which engage multiple senses in the learning process, have shown considerable success in dyslexia treatments

Additionally, accommodations like extended time on exams and the incorporation of assistive technology, such as text-to-speech software or audiobooks, can level the playing field for students with dyslexia.

Dyslexia Treatments

Changing Perspectives

As our understanding of dyslexia deepens, there is a growing movement to shift perspectives. Rather than viewing dyslexia solely as a deficit, many experts emphasize the strengths that often accompany dyslexia, such as enhanced problem-solving skills, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking.

This paradigm shift is crucial in reshaping societal perceptions of dyslexia. Recognizing dyslexia not only as a challenge but also as a unique cognitive profile brings attention to the inherent strengths that individuals with dyslexia often possess. 

Many successful individuals with dyslexia have harnessed their enhanced problem-solving skills, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking to excel in various fields. Celebrating these strengths allows us to move away from a deficit-oriented perspective and foster an environment that values neurodiversity

This change in mindset contributes to building a more inclusive society that appreciates the diverse talents and perspectives that people with dyslexia bring to the table. Doing so fosters innovation and creativity across all domains. Embracing the positive aspects of dyslexia helps break down stereotypes and contributes to a more supportive and understanding community for those with dyslexia and other learning differences.

What does dyslexia mean?

Dyslexia is a neurological condition characterized by difficulties in learning to read, write, and spell, despite having average to above-average intelligence and receiving adequate instruction. It is not related to intelligence or lack of motivation but is believed to be rooted in differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas related to language processing.

Is dyslexia real?

Yes, dyslexia is a real and well-documented neurobiological condition. Dyslexia is recognized by educational and medical authorities worldwide, and there is a wealth of research supporting its existence as a distinct learning difference.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

Common symptoms of dyslexia include challenges in phonological processing, slow and laborious reading, spelling errors, and avoidance of reading-related tasks. Early identification and intervention are crucial, as dyslexia can impact academic performance and contribute to emotional and self-esteem challenges.

What causes dyslexia in the brain?

The exact cause of dyslexia is not fully understood, but research suggests that it is likely influenced by a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors. Neurologically, differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas related to language processing, have been observed in individuals with a dyslexia brain.

How to diagnose dyslexia?

Diagnosing dyslexia involves a comprehensive assessment conducted by specialists, including standardized tests, observations, and interviews to evaluate cognitive and academic functioning. A dyslexia assessment includes testing intellectual abilities, language skills, and specific reading and writing abilities to identify difficulties related to dyslexia. 

How can you treat dyslexia? 

Treating dyslexia involves a comprehensive approach, including specialized reading programs, multisensory techniques, and individualized education plans tailored to the specific needs of the individual. Kids diagnosed with dyslexia can help with assistive technology, accommodations, and early intervention play crucial roles in creating an accessible learning environment, while speech and language therapy addresses language-related challenges.  

Can dyslexia be cured?

As of now, there is no cure for dyslexia. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that affects how the brain processes written and spoken language, particularly in terms of reading, writing, and spelling.

Is dyslexia a developmental disability?

Dyslexia is generally not classified as a developmental disability. Instead, it is commonly referred to as a specific learning disability.

Is dyslexia a mental disorder?

No, dyslexia is not a mental disorder. It is considered a specific learning difficulty or learning disability, not a mental disorder.

Is dyslexia a psychological disorder?

No, dyslexia is not a psychological disorder. Dyslexia is a neurobiological condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language.

Is dyslexia a spectrum?

Dyslexia is not categorized as a spectrum disorder like autism; however, it is acknowledged to exist on a continuum.

Is dyslexia an intellectual disability?

No, dyslexia is not an intellectual disability. Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects reading, spelling, and writing skills. Individuals with dyslexia often have average to above-average intelligence.

Is dyslexia a form of autism?

No, dyslexia is not a form of autism. Dyslexia and autism are distinct neurodevelopmental conditions with different characteristics and diagnostic criteria.

Can dyslexia develop in adults? 

No, dyslexia cannot be developed in adults. As a neurobiological condition, dyslexia is typically present from early childhood. It is believed to have a genetic basis. 

Are you born with dyslexia?

Yes, individuals are typically born with a predisposition to dyslexia, and there is a strong genetic component associated with the condition. While genetics play a significant role, environmental factors, such as early exposure to a language-rich environment, can influence the expression and severity of dyslexia.

Is there medication for dyslexia?

There is no specific medication for dyslexia yet. Instead of using dyslexia medication, experts recommend interventions for dyslexia that focus on specialized reading programs, assistive technologies, and educational programs for dyslexia. 

Is it possible to develop dyslexia during the teenage years?

Dyslexia is generally considered a neurobiological condition that is present from early childhood, and it is not something that develops later in life, including during the teenage years.

Can you prevent dyslexia? 

As of now, there is no known way to prevent dyslexia. While there is no specific preventive measure for dyslexia, early identification and intervention can significantly mitigate its impact on a child's academic progress.

How to help dyslexic students? 

To support dyslexic students, educators should implement early identification through screenings, offer specialized reading programs like Orton-Gillingham, and develop individualized education plans (IEPs) with accommodations. 

Is dyslexia a medical diagnosis?

Dyslexia is not primarily a medical diagnosis but is often identified and diagnosed through educational or clinical assessments conducted by professionals in education and psychology.

Is dyslexia a disease?

No, dyslexia is not a disease. Dyslexia is a neurobiological condition characterized by difficulties in learning to read, write, and spell, but it is not an illness or a disease.

When is dyslexia diagnosed?

Dyslexia is typically diagnosed in childhood, often during the early years of formal education when individuals are learning to read and write. However, the exact timing of a dyslexia diagnosis can vary based on factors such as severe dyslexia symptoms, the presence of risk factors, and the educational system in place.

Who diagnoses dyslexia?

Dyslexia is typically diagnosed by qualified professionals such as educational psychologists, neuropsychologists, and specialists in special education.

What happens if you have dyslexia?

The signs and symptoms of dyslexia in adults and kids include challenges in reading, spelling, and phonological processing. These affect academic performance and creating difficulties in tasks involving written language. Those with dyslexia may also experience challenges in learning foreign languages and may struggle with rapid naming tasks and directional confusion.

How to overcome dyslexia?

Overcoming dyslexia involves a multifaceted approach, including specialized reading programs, assistive technologies, and individualized education plans. Building on strengths associated with dyslexia, fostering a supportive learning environment, and encouraging self-advocacy contribute to the development of effective strategies.

How do you get dyslexia?

Dyslexia often runs in families, and specific genes associated with dyslexia have been identified. While genetics play a significant role, environmental factors, such as exposure to a language-rich environment during early development, can also influence the expression and severity of dyslexia.

Is dyslexia a learning difficulty? 

Yes, dyslexia is commonly referred to as a specific learning difficulty or learning disability. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

What does dyslexia look like when reading? 

When individuals with dyslexia read, they often experience slow and laborious reading and struggle with accurate and fluent word recognition. That’s how dyslexia looks like. Limited reading comprehension, avoidance of reading aloud, and feelings of fatigue and frustration are additional aspects of dyslexic reading,

Is dyslexia treatable?

 While dyslexia is not curable in the traditional sense, it is highly manageable with appropriate interventions and support. Effective treatments and strategies exist to help individuals with dyslexia develop strong reading and writing skills.

How to identify dyslexia in kids?

Identifying dyslexia in children involves recognizing early signs such as difficulties in learning the alphabet, delayed speech, and challenges in rhyming. Observing consistent patterns of letter and number reversals, spelling difficulties, and avoidance of reading activities can further indicate potential dyslexia.

What age do you test for dyslexia?

Testing for dyslexia can begin in preschool or kindergarten, with a focus on early signs of reading difficulties and language development concerns. Formal assessments become more common in the early years of elementary school, typically around ages 6 to 7 when foundational reading skills are expected to develop.

What helps dyslexia?

Individuals with dyslexia can benefit from specialized reading programs, phonics instruction, and assistive technologies like text-to-speech software. Multisensory learning activities, early intervention, and individualized education plans contribute to effective support.

Can you be misdiagnosed with dyslexia?

Yes. Misdiagnosis of dyslexia is possible due to similarities in symptoms with other learning differences, inadequate assessments, environmental factors, late identification, and the presence of coexisting conditions.

How many people are dyslexic?

According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), it is generally estimated that about 15–20% of the population has symptoms of dyslexia to some degree.

Can you have minor dyslexia?

The severity of dyslexia can vary widely among individuals. Some may have subtle difficulties that might not be immediately apparent, while others may face more pronounced challenges. The term “mild” or “minor” dyslexia is often used to describe cases where the impact on reading and language skills is less severe.

Citation

Coltheart, M., Masterson, J., Byng, S., Prior, M., & Riddoch, J. (1983). Surface Dyslexia. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 35(3), 469–495. https://doi.org/10.1080/14640748308402483

Peterson, R. L., & Pennington, B. F. (2012). Developmental dyslexia. The Lancet, 379(9830), 1997–2007. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(12)60198-6

Dr. Roseann is a mental health expert in Neurodivergence who frequently is in the media:

  • Money  The Best Laptop, Headphones and Other Remote Learning Gadgets for Your Student's At-Home Workstation
  • Brentwood Home Dos & Don'ts for Creating a Child's Workstation at Home
  • Business Insider Your kids could get the coronavirus when they go back to school. These are the risks and benefits to weigh before sending them.
  • CBS (Video) Learning From Home During Quarantine

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

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She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

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