(Learning Disorders: Reading)
Reading Skill Overview
Reading is a complicated process, involving recognition of symbols of language in a printed form. It is not an innate skill, but rather must be learned. Written words bear no meaning until the reader constructs meaning by making inferences and interpretations.
Acquisition of reading skills is closely tied to development of language in children. The ability to break down words into individual sounds or phonemes, is the core skill that needs to be mastered in order to be a fluent reader. This is called "phonemic awareness." For example, in reading the word "CAT," one must be aware of its component graphemes, and then break it down into the phonemes C/Ah/T. Then one must blend the phonemes back into the spoken word "CAT" which is then produced. This process is called "decoding." It sounds complicated, and it is. Yet most children with access to instruction and in the absence of sensory or other neurological deficits master this skill easily.
But some children, this basic process is impaired often leading to lifelong struggles with reading. These are individuals with the learning disability called "Reading Disorder." It is also popularly known as dyslexia.
Learning Disability Overview
Learning disabilities, or LDs, is an "umbrella" term given to a group of different conditions which include difficulties in performing certain academic-related tasks despite having the intelligence, opportunity, motivation and schooling to do so. They affect life in educational, job related, or social arenas.
Although dyslexia (reading disorder) is the most common and most widely known learning disability, there are several others including math disability, disability with written expression (writing), disability with oral expression (speaking), disorder of verbal comprehension (understanding), and disorder of pragmatic/non-verbal skill (socialization). We do not know exactly how often these other disorders occur, however some evidence estimates they occur in around five to six percent of the population as well. There is considerable overlap with people with dyslexia and these other disorders.
Dyslexia (Reading Disorder) Overview
Dyslexia (reading disorder) is the most common of all learning disabilities and is the best understood. It is more easily identified by the public and has received a lot of attention in research and the media. Failure to read (or read accurately and with speed) is very noticeable and somewhat stigmatizing in today's society.
Although it was traditionally thought that many more boys than girls had dyslexia, studies have shown that this is not true and that both boys and girls are equally likely to have the condition. Further, although it is not understood which genes are responsible and how it is passed down through families, there is strong evidence to suggest that dyslexia is a genetic condition. It is present from birth and commonly runs in families. It is not predominantly something acquired because of lack of adequate early education due to poverty or lack of access to education.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/18/2014
Neelkamal S Soares, MD, MBBS, FAAP
Elizabeth A Finley-Belgrad, MD
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