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The cause of dyslexia is not clear, although it is probably an inherited (genetic) disorder because it runs in families.
Some studies have shown that people with dyslexia have abnormalities in the functioning of the areas of the brain involved in reading and language.1
Signs of dyslexia vary depending on age. If your child has one or two of the signs, it does not mean that he or she has dyslexia, but having several of the signs listed below may mean that your child should be tested.
A preschool-age child may:
- Talk later than most children.
- Have more difficulty than other children pronouncing words. For example, the child may read aloud "mawn lower" instead of "lawn mower."
- Be slow to add new vocabulary words and unable to recall the right word.
- Have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name.
- Have difficulty reciting common nursery rhymes or rhyming words. For example, the child may not be able to think of words that rhyme with the word "boy," such as "joy" or "toy."
- Be slow to develop fine motor skills. For example, your child may take longer than others of the same age to learn how to hold a pencil in the writing position, use buttons and zippers, and brush his or her teeth.
- Have difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words.
A child in kindergarten through fourth grade may:
- Have difficulty reading single words that are not surrounded by other words.
- Be slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds.
- Confuse small words such as "at" and "to," or "does" and "goes."
- Make consistent reading and spelling errors, including:
- Letter reversals such as "d" for "b."
- Word reversals such as "tip" for "pit."
- Inversions such as "m" and "w" and "u" and "n."
- Transpositions such as "felt" and "left."
- Substitutions such as "house" and "home."
A child in fifth through eighth grade may:
- Read at a lower level than expected.
- Reverse letter sequence such as "soiled" for "solid," "left" for "felt."
- Be slow to recognize and learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other reading and spelling strategies.
- Have difficulty spelling, and he or she may spell the same word differently on the same page.
- Avoid reading aloud.
- Have trouble with word problems in math.
- Write with difficulty or have illegible handwriting. His or her pencil grip may be awkward, fistlike, or tight.
- Avoid writing.
- Have slow or poor recall of facts.
Students in high school and college may:
- Read very slowly with many inaccuracies.
- Continue to spell incorrectly or frequently spell the same word differently in a single piece of writing.
- Avoid tests that require reading and writing, and procrastinate on reading and writing tasks.
- Have trouble preparing summaries and outlines for classes.
- Work intensely on reading and writing tasks.
- Have poor memory skills and complete assigned work more slowly than expected.
- Have an inadequate vocabulary and be unable to store much information from reading.
Adults with dyslexia may:
- Hide reading problems.
- Spell poorly or rely on others to spell for them.
- Avoid writing or not be able to write at all.
- Be very competent in oral language.
- Rely on memory rather than on reading information.
- Have good "people" skills and be very good at "reading" people (intuitive).
- Have spatial thinking skills. Examples of professionals who need spatial thinking abilities include engineers, architects, designers, artists and craftspeople, mathematicians, physicists, physicians (especially orthopedists, surgeons), and dentists.
- Often work in a job that is well below their intellectual capacities.
- Have difficulty with planning and organization.
- Be entrepreneurs, although lowered reading skills may result in difficulty maintaining a successful business.