"What is dyslexia?" is often heard from parents who have been introduced to the term for the first time. The term refers to a brain-based type of learning disability that is characterized by difficulty with learning to read in individuals with normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with the condition include difficulty with spelling, sounding out words, and reading aloud.

This condition is described in legislation as a learning disability, and, therefore, is used exclusively in the field of education. Other professions not limited by legislation are free to use the term dyslexia. Often, in professional literature, the terms are used interchangably.

What Causes Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing the condition. In adults, the problem usually becomes evident after a brain injury or in the context of dementia. In children dyslexia usually occurs as a result of environmental influences after birth.

What Treatment is Available

While there are many theories about successful intervention there is no actual cure for the condition. There are, however, many techniques for helping the child to reach a normal level of development, as well as, many methods for identifying the environmental influences that contribute to a lack of normal development.

The school's objective is to enable learning by addressing the specific learning problems of affected individuals. When the childs specific learning problems are identified, the usual course is to modify teaching methods and the educational environment to meet the specific needs of the individual child.

For parents, however, the most important aspect of any approach to addressing the problem is attitude and the parent's willingness to become involved in finding the cause in the child's environment.

If the parents avoid a tendency to label their child, and see their child as having the potential to overcome the problem, the child will be influenced by the positive attitude of their parents. As a consequence, problems with self-esteem, depression and other emotional concerns that usually accompany learning disabilities will become less of a problem.

The next step is to carefully observe and identify the presence of any food allergies, chemicals, mold or dust that may be polluting the air in your home . Then look for a lack of exercise or a possible lack of sleep because they will also interfere with the developing functions of the brain.

What is the Prognosis

For those with evident symptoms, the prognosis is mixed. The disability affects such a wide range of people and produces such different symptoms and varying degrees of severity that predictions are hard to make.

The prognosis is good for those individuals whose learning problems are identified early. The prognosis is better for those who have supportive family and friends and a strong self-image. And, a most favorable prognosis is likely when these are provided as part of an on-going program to identify, and eliminate the causes in the environment.

Finally, the prognosis is best when milder developmental disabilities caused by environmental influences are found early, and prevented from interfering further with the development of the child’s brain and central nervous system.

It will take some careful observation and evaluation to determine the specific environmental factors that are involved, but once identified these deterrents can be removed from the environment and, in many cases, the child is assisted toward normal development.

Current research avenues continue to focus on developing techniques to diagnose and treat this and other learning disabilities. The search for the answer to the question "what is dyslexia" is the topic of continuous, well funded research.

If you are an adult who has, or suspects that you may have, the condition and are looking for help www.beatingdyslexia.com is highly recommended for information, interventions and literacy.

If you are a parent looking for answers for your school age child, the place to begin is your local elementary school. Public education provides diagnosis, interventions, and special programs beginning at age three. All services are free to families and your local elementary school will provide you with directions to a location where services are provided.

Additional what to do, and how to do it information is available in our LD Reference Book.

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