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What is Dyslexia and What Are Its Causes

Dyslexia is a learning disability that presents challenges in reading and language-related tasks due to disruptions in the brain’s processing of written information. This condition, often known as “developmental dyslexia,” is typically identified during childhood and persists throughout one’s life. It falls under the category of “specific learning disorder,” which encompasses three main subtypes: reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), and math (dyscalculia).

Language understanding is crucial for reading, and it begins with spoken language in early childhood. As children learn various sounds, they progress to forming words, phrases, and sentences. Reading involves connecting these sounds to written symbols or letters. However, dyslexia interferes with this process, making it difficult for the brain to decode written language effectively. People with dyslexia struggle with processing and comprehending words, breaking them into sounds, and relating letters to sounds while reading.

This impairment in processing has far-reaching effects, leading to slowed reading, difficulties in writing and spelling, difficulty storing word meanings in memory, and trouble expressing complex ideas through sentences.

Dyslexia, while not extremely common, is well-known and affects around 7% of the global population, according to experts. It is not influenced by gender or race; it affects people equally across these categories.

Moreover, many individuals experience symptoms that may not be severe enough for a formal diagnosis. When including those with symptoms but no formal diagnosis, dyslexia may impact up to 20% of the global population.

Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia

According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia can manifest in varying degrees of severity, ranging from mild to severe. It is estimated that approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of the population exhibits symptoms of dyslexia.

The diagnosis of dyslexia in children often occurs when they start school and face challenges in comprehending written language. It is important to understand that dyslexia can affect individuals differently, leading to varying symptoms among those with the condition. In some cases, people may not realize they have dyslexia until they reach adulthood.

According to Kimberly R. Freeman, Ph.D., from Loma Linda University in San Bernardino, California, dyslexia is typically noticed first by a teacher or parent who observes reading difficulties in the classroom. This usually prompts a referral to a psychologist or other specialists for a formal evaluation to determine the diagnosis and intervention requirements.

Although dyslexia can be challenging to diagnose, there are certain signs to watch out for, with symptoms varying based on age. Non-school-age children may exhibit late talking, difficulty learning and remembering letters, mispronouncing words, and struggling with nursery rhymes or rhyming songs.


In elementary-school-age children, signs may include reading below grade level, language processing difficulties, trouble understanding speech, difficulty remembering sequences, challenges in recognizing similarities and differences in words, difficulty finding the right words, spelling or phonetic struggles, and avoidance of reading.

Teenagers and Adults

Teenagers and adults with dyslexia might experience slow reading, spelling difficulties, mispronunciation of words, spending excessive time on writing exercises, trouble with memorization, difficulty with math problems, and an inability to grasp jokes or expressions.

It is essential to note that having one or more of these symptoms does not automatically indicate dyslexia. Nevertheless, any issues related to reading, spelling, or language comprehension should not be ignored, as they could be indicative of other conditions. Seeking proper evaluation and support is crucial for addressing such challenges effectively.


While most children are typically prepared to start learning how to read during kindergarten or first grade, those with dyslexia often encounter difficulties in acquiring reading skills by that stage. If you observe that your child’s reading level is below what is expected for their age or notice other potential signs of dyslexia, it is advisable to have a conversation with your healthcare provider. Early identification and intervention are crucial for supporting children with dyslexia effectively.

If dyslexia remains undiagnosed and untreated during childhood, the reading challenges persist into adulthood. This can have a significant impact on various aspects of life, as reading is an essential skill required for academic, professional, and personal success. Therefore, it is vital to address dyslexia early on to provide the necessary support and interventions that can help individuals overcome difficulties and reach their full potential. Seeking appropriate assessment and assistance can make a substantial difference in a person’s lifelong learning journey.


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