About Dyslexia: Symptoms, Signs, Statistics, and a Personal Story

Dr. Ned Hallowell examines his past with dyslexia and provides information on diagnosing and treating dyslexia.

Dyslexia Diaries, Part 2

While Shaywitz and other experts stress the importance of phonemic awareness, breaking the code, and becoming fluent, British expert Dr. Roy Rutherford offers a new, and still unproven, approach that may be an adjunct treatment for dyslexia. He and his colleagues have developed the Dore method of exercises to stimulate the cerebellum, located at the base of the brain. Rutherford believes that specialized tutoring, the standard treatment for dyslexia, should be combined with cerebellar stimulation for best results.

"Phonological skill is only one part of the problem," he says. "Training only phonemic awareness is like training only the forehand in tennis. If you practice your forehand for a year, you will develop a superb forehand, but that doesn't mean you're a superb tennis player. If you measure excellence at tennis by assessing only one skill, you are obviously not addressing the whole game. So it is with dyslexia."

As with treating ADHD, it's important to look for and develop the person's talents and strengths when treating dyslexia. Otherwise, the dyslexic child or adult will feel that he is stupid. He needs accommodations -- books on tape, for instance -- to enable him to express the creativity that most dyslexics possess. Whatever the treatment a person receives for either dyslexia or ADHD, promoting his talents and strengths will invigorate the treatment and make it far more valuable.

A dyslexic needs a well-trained, optimistic guide who looks for the positive, and sets up conditions for the positive to emerge. He needs the Mrs. Eldredges and the Sally Shaywitzes of this world, who will smile when you write funny or read upside down or make up words. You need a guide who knows that, without an encouraging arm around you, you'll collapse, but that with one, you can soar.

Soar where? That is for you to show us. But the dyslexic needs a guide who knows that as he misspeaks, gets flustered, underachieves, makes messes and misses the social cues he is so famous for missing, and puts his shoes on backward, he has a zany angel inside him. If you can keep from believing the bad things ignorant people say about you, I know that you'll eventually lead those ignorant people to a better world.

Signs of Dyslexia: Children

Reading and writing letters in the wrong order is only one manifestation of dyslexia, and it doesn't occur in all cases. Other problems experienced by dyslexics include:

  • Learning to speak
  • Organizing written and spoken language
  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Memorizing number facts
  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Doing math operations Formal testing is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia.

Signs of Dyslexia: Adults

The signs listed below are often associated with dyslexia if they seem unusually pronounced, given the individual's age, educational level, or cognitive abilities. A qualified diagnostician can test a person to determine if he or she is truly dyslexic.

  • May hide reading problems
  • May spell poorly; relies on others to correct spelling
  • Avoids writing; may not be able to write
  • Often very competent in oral language
  • Relies on memory; may have an excellent memory
  • Often has good "people" skills
  • Often is spatially talented - professions include, but are not limited to, engineers, architects, designers, artists and crafts- people, mathematicians, physicists, physicians, and dentists
  • May have difficulty with planning, organization, and management of time, materials, and tasks

From Delivered from Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, Copyright ©2004. Published by Ballantine books.

More From Dr. Hallowell on ADDitude

Think Positive: Tips for Happier ADHD Parenting

When to Fire Your Doctor: Ensuring the Best ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment

Podcast: What's It Like to Have ADD?

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