What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a developmental disorder marked by difficulty in learning to read despite adequate
intelligence, conventional instruction, and sociocultural opportunity. It appears to occur in 5 to
10 percent of the general population, and affects boys 3 - 6 times as frequently as girls.
Research suggests that it results from various causes and that a number of subtypes of dyslexia
probably exist with different origins and associated symptoms. Contrary to earlier theories, very
few individuals with dyslexia appear to have a visual-perceptual problem--that is, the problem
does not lie in perceiving words correctly. Recent research indicates that dyslexia is instead
usually related to some kind of language impairment and is often associated with verbal memory
problems. In particular, reading difficulty appears to be based on poor linguistic awareness and
phonological analysis. That is, dyslexics have trouble analyzing spoken or written words into
smaller units of sound, or phonemes.
Some theories have suggested that the two hemispheres of the brain have developed in an
unusual manner . Evidence exists for both genetic and environmental causes of during birth.

There are three main kinds of approaches to dealing with dyslexia. The developmental
approach, based on the belief that dyslexic children may have slower brain development, simply
intensifies conventional methods of instruction. The corrective approach emphasizes the
dyslexic individual's assets and interests. The remedial approach focuses on deficiencies.
Studies suggest that reading skills can be improved to some degree, but they also indicate that
problems tend to persist into adulthood. The prognosis for improvement is usually best for
individuals with high overall intelligence, less severe reading problems, and no neurological
impairment.

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Barry F. Skoff
Grollier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1996)
Bibliography: Benton, A. L., and Pearl, D., Dyslexia (1979); Kavanagh, J. F., and Yeni-Kornshian, G., Developmental
Dyslexia and Related Reading Disorders (1988); Rudel, R. G., et al., Assessment of Developmental Learning Disorders
(1988).
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