Developmental reading disorder, also called dyslexia, is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Developmental reading disorder (DRD), or dyslexia, occurs when there is a problem in areas of the brain that help interpret language. It is not caused by vision problems. The disorder is a specific information processing problem that does not interfere with one's ability to think or to understand complex ideas. Most people with DRD have normal intelligence, and many have above-average intelligence.
DRD may appear in combination with developmental writing disorder and developmental arithmetic disorder. All of these involve using symbols to convey information. These conditions may appear alone or in any combination.
DRD often runs in families.
A person with DRD may have trouble rhyming and separating sounds that make up spoken words. These abilities appear to be critical in the process of learning to read. A child's initial reading skills are based on word recognition, which involves being able to separate out the sounds in words and match them with letters and groups of letters.
Because people with DRD have difficulty connecting the sounds of language to the letters of words, they may have difficulty understanding sentences.
True dyslexia is much broader than simply confusing or transposing letters, for example mistaking ”b” and “d.".
In general, symptoms of DRD may include:
Difficulty determining the meaning (idea content) of a simple sentence
Difficulty learning to recognize written words
DRD may occur in combination with writing or math learning problems.
Signs and tests
Other causes of learning disability and, in particular, reading disability, must be ruled out before a diagnosis of DRD can be made. Emotional disorders, mental retardation, diseases of the brain, and certain cultural and education factors can cause learning disabilities.
Before diagnosing DRD, the health care provider will:
Perform a complete medical exam, including a neurological exam
Ask questions about the person's developmental, social, and school performance
Ask if anyone else in the family has had dyslexia
Psychoeducational testing and psychological assessment may be done.
Every person with DRD requires a different strategy. An individual education plan should be created for each child with the condition.
The following may be recommended:
Extra learning assistance, called remedial instruction
Private, individual tutoring
Special day classes
Positive reinforcement is important as many students with learning disabilities have poor self-esteem. Psychological counseling may be helpful.
Specialized help (called remedial instruction) can lead to marked improvement in reading and understanding.
Reading problems that persist into adulthood, which may affect job performance, particularly if the problem was not addressed early in life
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if your child appears to be having trouble learning to read.
Learning disorders, such as DRD, tend to run in families. Affected families should make every effort to recognize existing problems early.
Early intervention will provide the best possible outcome.
John Goldenring, MD, MPH, JD, Pediatrics, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, San Diego, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.