Understanding and Navigating Dyslexia

The ability to read is one of the most fundamental skills a child and an adult can have to be successful in life. Putting together letters, words and sentences to form meaning has many advantages for readers. Yet, learning how to read is one of the most difficult processes and involves decoding sounds and words, comprehending what is on the page and maintaining fluency. Reading is a function that varies from person to person due to numerous reasons, one of which is reading disabilities.

A reading disability or disorder is when a person has trouble reading words and/or understanding what they have read. Some fancy examples include phonological deficiency, processing speed/orthographic processing deficiency and comprehension deficiency. However, one of the most common types of reading disabilities is dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to read, write and spell. According to researchers, an estimated 5-10% of the general population is affected. Despite being relatively common, dyslexia is often misunderstood. It is a specific learning disability that affects the way the brain processes information related to reading. Individuals with dyslexia may have difficulty recognizing and decoding words, spelling and understanding written text.

One of the key challenges is difficulty with phonological processing – the ability to recognize and use the sounds of the spoken language. This can lead to struggles in connecting letters to their correct sounds and decoding words. In addition, dyslexia may impact fluency, comprehension and spelling. The impact of this reading disorder goes beyond academics as children and adults may experience frustration and anxiety towards reading and writing activities.

Identifying Dyslexia  

Recognizing dyslexia early is essential for providing support. Common signs of dyslexia in children include:

  • Difficulty with Phonemic Awareness – Struggling to identify and use the individual sounds within words.
  • Challenges in Decoding Words – Difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words and relying on sight words to create meaning.
  • Poor Spelling – Inconsistent spelling patterns and difficulty remembering sight words.
  • Slow Reading Speed – Reading at a slower pace and struggling to maintain fluency, which means the ability to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression.
  • Difficulty with Sequencing – Challenges in recalling the order of letters, numbers or events.

Once dyslexia has been recognized, there are many ways to support a child or adult who has the disorder

  • Early Intervention – Early detection and intervention are crucial for managing dyslexia effectively. If a child shows signs of dyslexia, it is essential to seek professional assessments and support from educators and specialists.
  • Structured Literacy Programs – Structured literacy approaches focus on teaching the structure of language in a systematic process. These programs, such as Orton-Gilligham and the Science of Reading, help children with dyslexia build phonemic awareness, decoding skills and spelling proficiency.
  • Multisensory Learning – Engaging multiple senses in learning can be beneficial for children with dyslexia. Using tactile, visual and auditory methods can work together to reinforce learning and memory retention.
  • Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504s – Work closely with your child’s teachers and school to develop an Individualized Education Plan or a 504 plan that addresses the specific needs of the child. These plans incorporate accommodations and modifications, such as extended time on tests, audiobooks or assistive technology, to support the reading success of the child.
  • Building Confidence – Encourage a positive attitude toward learning by celebrating small achievements. Foster a growth mindset by emphasizing effort and persistence over innate abilities.
  • Assistive Technology – The use of assistive technology tools can support reading and writing. Audiobooks, speech-to-text software and text-to-speech tools can be valuable resources for struggling students.

Understanding dyslexia is the first step toward supporting children and adults with reading disabilities. People with dyslexia are able to become fluent and proficient readers with the needed support and interventions.


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