HealthWatch: Signs of Dyslexia and What to Do

Health Watch

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects areas of the brain that process language. It has no effect on intelligence, so children with dyslexia can grow up to be very successful … just like Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, John Lennon, and Whoopi Goldberg.

But undiagnosed dyslexia can lead kids to feel that they are less intelligent than their peers. Recognizing symptoms and getting help early can make a world of difference.

Jacquelyn Brown was diagnosed with dyslexia at age seven.

“For every person, dyslexia is a little bit different, for me it’s very specific to language-based learning disability,” explained Jacquelyn Brown, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University.

Dyslexia often creates difficulty with spelling, writing, and reading.

Brown continued, “It looked like I was trying to read a foreign language, the letters just never made sense.”

The first symptoms of dyslexia are problems remembering letters, names, and colors, struggling with new words, and talking at a later age. School age children might be unable to pronounce unfamiliar words, have difficulty telling two similar words apart, or try to avoid reading all together. So, what can parents do? Stay organized with checklists, color coding, and routines. Talk to your child’s teachers so they know they’re dyslexic. Use pictures when reading and writing to link words to images and remind them that dyslexia doesn’t have to limit them in life. Just ask Brown – who earned a PhD in neuroscience with her dyslexia.

“It doesn’t just magically go away when you become an adult, you just learn better strategies to deal with it,” shared Brown.

Most dyslexic children will need some special education. Multisensory structured language education is what many experts consider the gold standard. It uses sight, sound, movement, and touch to help kids connect language to words.

Contributors to this news report include: Hayley Hudson, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2706

BACKGROUND: Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the ability to read, spell, write, and speak. Kids who have it can experience trouble connecting letters they see to the sounds those letters make. About 5 to 10 percent of Americans have some symptoms of dyslexia, such as slow reading, trouble spelling, or mixing up words. Research shows 20 percent of school-aged children in the United States are dyslexic. Kids with dyslexia often have normal vision and are just as smart as their peers, but they struggle more in school because it takes them longer to read. Trouble processing words can also make it hard to spell, write, and speak clearly. Some people are diagnosed early in life while others don’t realize they have dyslexia until they get older. Parents with dyslexia are very likely to have children with dyslexia. People with dyslexia excel or are even gifted in areas of art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales and sports.
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CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF DYSLEXIA: Dyslexia is linked to genes, which is why the condition often runs in families. The condition stems from differences in parts of the brain that process language. Imaging scans show that areas of the brain that should be active when a person reads don’t work properly. Once your child reaches school age, your child’s teacher may be the first to notice a problem. Severity varies, but the condition often becomes apparent as a child starts learning to read. Some signs include late talking; problems forming words correctly; problems remembering or naming letters, numbers and colors; or even difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games. Once your child is in school, dyslexia signs and symptoms may become more apparent, including reading well below the expected level for age; difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions; inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word; or even difficulty spelling. Signs in teens and adults are similar to those in children, like difficulty reading; avoiding activities that involve reading; trouble understanding jokes or expressions that have a meaning not easily understood from the specific words (idioms), such as “piece of cake” meaning “easy”; difficulty summarizing a story; and even difficulty doing math problems.
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DYSLEXICS AND ALTERNATIVE STRATEGIES: Scientists studying the brain have found that dyslexic adults who become capable readers use different neural pathways than non-dyslexics. Researchers, Judith Rumsey and Barry Horwitz, at the National Institute of Mental Health used positron emission tomography (PET) to compare regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) among dyslexic and non-dyslexic men. Research correlating brain activity with reading ability showed an opposite relationship between reading ability and cerebral blood flow patterns. For non-dyslexic subjects, stronger activation of left hemispheric reading systems corresponded to better reading skill. For dyslexic subjects, the opposite was true: the stronger the left-hemispheric pattern, the poorer the reader. They observed a similar pattern in the right hemisphere. In the right brain area, the dyslexic men had higher activation levels than subjects during the word reading tasks, which correlated positively to improved reading ability. For the non-dyslexic group, such activation pattern was negatively correlated to reading ability.

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