Dyslexia FAQs

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 15, 2020

Q: What is dyslexia?

A: Dyslexia is a complex condition that impacts the way the brain processes and interprets information. It is one of the most common learning disabilities that affects reading, writing, and spelling.

Studies show that up to 15 percent of the population may be dyslexic, though less than 10 percent  actually receive a formal diagnosis.

Q: What are common difficulties associated with dyslexia?

A: Dyslexia can cause difficulties with:

  • Organizing
  • Planning
  • Prioritizing
  • Concentrating
  • Academic studies

Q: Does my child have dyslexia?

A: Children with dyslexia generally show signs of learning difficulties within the first few years of their formal schooling.

Children with dyslexia typically experiences difficulties with:

  • Sounds of letters
  • Spelling
  • Copying
  • Reading
  • Writing

Children with dyslexia may also struggle with:

Phonological awareness. The ability to understand sounds and how they can change the meaning of words— if you change the p in ‘pat’ to a b, the word becomes ‘bat’.

Verbal memory. The ability to recall verbal information after a short amount of time— such as copying notes from the board.

Verbal processing speed. The speed at which you can process and recognize familiar verbal information— such as quickly jotting down a math problem after it is given to you verbally.

Q: What are the symptoms of dyslexia according to age?

A: Symptoms of dyslexia can be broken down according to age, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Under age 5 

  • Recognizing the alphabet letters or sounds
  • Mixing up letters when pronouncing a word (saying ‘hat’ instead of ‘bat’)
  • Learning new vocabulary
  • Learning common word sequences (days of the week or months of the year)

Ages 5-13 

  • Reversing words when reading (‘saw’ and ‘was’)
  • Confusing similar shaped letters, such as b, d, p and q
  • Backwards writing numbers, such as 2 and 5 and 6 and 9
  • Understanding math word problems
  • Recalling facts or numbers
  • Understanding spelling rules
  • Following directions in order
  • Understanding new information

Ages 13 and above

  • Time management
  • Understanding jokes or idioms
  • Reading aloud
  • Reading below grade level
  • Learning a new language
  • Retelling main ideas of a story
  • Comprehension

Q: Does dyslexia affect adults? 

A: Approximately 1 in 10 adults have dyslexia.

However, it is important to understand that dyslexia is not an acquired condition. Rather, children with dyslexia will become adults with dyslexia, if the condition is not treated in childhood.

However, even if a child was not given the proper tools to reduce the effects of dyslexia, they can still be helped even in adulthood— your reading, spelling, and writing skills can still be improved.

If your child is showing signs of dyslexia, schedule an exam with an eye doctor near you.

SEE RELATED: Vision Therapy for Dyslexia: Success Stories

Find an eye doctor for children near you

Q: How is dyslexia related to vision?

A: According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 25 percent of all children have a vision problem that impacts their ability to learn.

The following vision conditions can cause physical symptoms that are often associated with dyslexia:

The physical symptoms that can occur from both vision problems and dyslexia include:

  • Eye strain or headaches
  • Double vision or blurred vision
  • Crossed eyes (strabismus)
  • Excessive blinking while reading
  • Avoidance of reading or writing
  • Reduced concentration during visual tasks
  • Poor reading fluency or comprehension
  • Poor short term or long term visual memory
  • Consistent reversal of words or letters (that continues after second grade)

Q: Could dyslexia be a vision problem?

A: Up to 80 percent of learning occurs through the visual pathways. Therefore, a child with dyslexia who has symptoms of a vision problem, will likely have difficulty with academic performance.

Conversely, undetected vision problems can exacerbate learning problems, or mimic the presence of true dyslexia.

Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor near you. They will be able to identify signs of a vision problem, even before formal schooling, and difficulties in reading, spelling, and writing begin.

Q: How will my eye doctor differentiate between a vision problem and dyslexia?

A: Your eye doctor will look at the following factors to determine the presence of a vision problem:

  • Integrity of the visual pathway– ocular health, visual acuity and refractive status
  • Visual efficiency– accommodation (focusing), binocular vision (eye teaming) and eye movements
  • Visual information processing– identification and discrimination, spatial awareness, and integration with other senses.

Q: How is dyslexia diagnosed? 

A: A diagnosis of dyslexia requires a multidisciplinary approach due to its complexity and varying effects.

A comprehensive eye exam is a critical component in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia— and should be the first step in the process.

Your eye doctor will be able to identify signs of dyslexia— most commonly, binocular vision problems such as focusing difficulties and eye teaming and coordination problems.

When these visual skills are not strong enough, this may indicate dyslexia, or may be mistaken for dyslexia— when really these visual skills just need strengthening.

Therefore, an eye exam should be the first step when searching for answers, before diagnosing dyslexia, and beginning treatments, such as colored lenses.

Q: Are the difficulties associated with dyslexia the same for each person?

A: No.

Studies show that there can be up to fifty affected sites in the brain that cause dyslexia. Each site can affect the brain in different ways, causing multiple, and often confusing, manifestations of dyslexia.

Q: Can my child outgrow dyslexia?

A: While dyslexia does not go away on its own, if not given the proper tools or treatments, most people will develop coping strategies, or avoidance behaviors. Learning difficulties usually persist and can impact work performance or a chosen career path.

Q: Can vision therapy help my child with dyslexia?

A: Vision therapy is a highly effective treatment for vision problems related to dyslexia. A personalized vision therapy program will improve the child’s visual efficiency and processing, and therefore strengthen many academic skills.

Vision therapy involves a series of eye exercises aimed at strengthening the visual skills, by retraining the connections between the eyes and brain.

In some cases, vision therapy also involves the use of special lenses or prisms. Your eye doctor may recommend that your child wear glasses full time, or as needed for near vision activities, such as reading.

If your child is struggling in school and showing signs of dyslexia, he may have a vision problem. For a proper diagnosis, schedule an eye exam for a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s visual skills.

LEARN MORE: Vision for School

Schedule an eye exam and take the first step to improve your child’s visual skills and reducing the effects of dyslexia.