We strongly advise this information is read in conjunction with our page on Meares-Irlen Syndrome.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is when the brain has difficulty processing subtle differences in word sounds i.e. processing each syllable or sound within a word. Some specialists would say dyslexia is a learning difficulty or learning disability, but others argue that it is more an attribute of a person rather than a learning difficulty. Dyslexia has NOTHING to do with vision problems, hearing problems or lack of intelligence.
What are the signs and symptoms of dyslexia?
The first clue may be delayed language development in early life. Later, there is often difficulty with any reading or writing tasks. This includes copying off a book, or off the board in school. This results in reduced reading, writing and spelling skills, which are inconsistent with the individual’s intelligence. They may also mispronounce words, or use words incorrectly in place of other similar sounding words. A person with dyslexia may also have difficulty coordinating between left and right, and they may struggle to establish a dominant side. Dyslexia may result in difficulty remembering or understanding verbal instructions or sequences. They may also show difficulty participating in organised sports, such as cricket or baseball. The biggest concern with somebody having dyslexia is development of depression, subsequent to being sidelined due to dyslexia. This may sound far-fetched but is, in actual fact, crucially important and must not be underestimated. Any individual who is deprived of normal participation in society runs the risk of developing depression, and this applies to children and adults with dyslexia.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
Several factors are looked at in the diagnosis of dyslexia. These include assessing general health and development, trying to gauge the individual’s intelligence, and reviewing academic performance. Communication, hearing, visual and practical skills will also be evaluated.
What is the treatment for dyslexia?
Too often, a lack of understanding of dyslexia results in a dyslexic individual being marginalised. There is no cure for dyslexia. The focus is to strengthen the weaknesses whilst maximising the strengths, trying to get all the senses to work together. Computers can be helpful in aiding education. The most important factor in terms of dealing with dyslexia is the attitude towards it. This applies to the surrounding people (e.g. family, friends, teachers, sports coaches, etc.) as well as to the person with dyslexia. Note that coloured overlays are NOT a management option for dyslexia per se. (Click here to read more about coloured overlays).
How does dyslexia affect the eyes?
Dyslexia itself has no affect on the eyes. However, around half the people with dyslexia experience something called visual stress (also known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome). There is often confusion between dyslexia and visual stress, and the names are sometimes used synonymously, which is incorrect.
What do I do if I suspect dyslexia in someone?
Visit your general practitioner or eye care practitioner, who can then refer you to a specialist, if required. As diagnosis of dyslexia involves a broad range of assessments, there may be several professionals involved in the assessment and management process. It takes time for management processes to be implemented because diagnosing dyslexia is not straightforward, so patience and positivity is key during and after diagnosis, as dyslexia is a life-long condition.
It is better to be open about dyslexia rather than hiding it from friends and family. Increased awareness of dyslexia means better understanding of it and therefore a better quality of life for dyslexic people.
Useful link: learn more about dyslexia assessment from the British Dyslexia Association, and we strongly urge you to check out these educational games for dyslexic people. We love this quote from Thinking Tree; “If a child does not learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn.”