About 4 percent of all schoolchildren in Germany are affected by dyslexia, with a ratio of 3:2 significantly more boys than girls. How is dyslexia defined? What are the underlying causes and what measures can be used to treat dyslexia?
What is dyslexia?
We should only speak of a reading and spelling weakness if it has actually been “diagnosed” by a recognized institute or a specialist. It is not always really LRS when learning disabilities are identified. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Dyslexia.
Dyslexia, also known as dyslexia or LRS, is a partial performance disorder. The reading and spelling performance is well below the level that would be expected based on the intelligence, age and schooling.
Symptoms of the reading disorder are deficits in reading speed, reading accuracy and reading comprehension: letters are omitted, added or rotated, the reading speed is very low and what has been read cannot be reproduced.
The spelling disorder manifests itself, among other things, in the form of twisted letters. The b is often written as d, the p as q or the u as n. Likewise, omitting or rearranging letters or inserting incorrect letters is common.
The inconsistency of errors is typical of dyslexia: there is no system for the errors, but the same word is spelled incorrectly in different ways.
Inadequate phonological awareness is a particular cause of dyslexia . This refers to the ability to recognize syllables or to break down a word into its phonetic parts.
Children with dyslexia, for example, often find it difficult to break down a word into its syllables or to hear the sound with which a word begins.
Deficits in visual or auditory information processing are assumed to be another cause of dyslexia. Around 60% of all children who suffer from dyslexia have problems reliably controlling their gaze at will.
The genetic predisposition should also be mentioned as a cause: the fact that dyslexia runs in families has been proven in various studies. If a child has dyslexia, 52 to 62% of their siblings are also affected.
Symptoms, Complaint & Signs
We should only speak of a reading and spelling weakness if it has actually been “diagnosed” by a recognized institute or a specialist. It is not always really LRS when learning disabilities are identified. External conditions should be considered, which can be a reason for writing and reading problems.
If the diagnosis exists, the school should be informed in any case, since the child needs more time to read and write. Has the child been read to a lot, does it have a positive relationship to books itself, is the child supported with its homework and does it have the necessary calm to do it? Frequent teacher changes and a bad class situation can also have an impact on learning difficulties.
Children with LRS need to be helped with calm and patience. These children often develop mnemonics and strategies to help themselves. If support is not available at school or at home, it is advisable to involve professionals. Here it is important to see that the person builds up a positive relationship with the child and that a basis of trust can be created.
The child’s self-confidence is restored, strengths are praised. Support on this basis, if possible with the same person over a longer period of time, leads to success. The child learns to deal with LRS, there are no restrictions in choosing a career – there are also academics with LRS.
Diagnosis & History
If dyslexia is suspected, an ENT doctor and an ophthalmologist should first be consulted in order to be able to rule out hearing and vision impairments.
In order to be able to diagnose dyslexia, an intelligence test and a reading and spelling test are carried out. If there is a clear deviation between the intelligence quotient and reading and spelling performance, there is dyslexia. The value determined in the reading and spelling test must be at least 1.2 standard deviations below the intelligence test value.
The level of reading and spelling development remains very stable if left untreated. Dyslexia often has side effects such as signs of school anxiety, discipline difficulties or depressive moods.
The comparatively poor performance in reading and writing often burdens children with dyslexia. Some of them develop school anxiety or another anxiety disorder as a complication. The fears can relate to school or certain subjects or can be generalized.
Without targeted support programs, efforts to improve reading and writing often remain in vain. It is also possible that the children are making progress, but at a much slower pace than their classmates. This can lead to frustration. Another possible complication is depression, which can range from a depressive mood to clinical depression.
Conversely, disorders of social behavior are also possible. In addition, dyslexia can be associated with developmental disorders or with an adjustment disorder. Some children with dyslexia somatize their psychological problems. They often suffer from stomachaches and headaches, appear restless and unfocused, or complain of nausea.
This does not have to be simulated in order to avoid school, but can actually be present. A critical distinction between avoidance behavior and somatization is therefore important. Even with targeted support, dyslexics can have the feeling of being excluded.
Some suffer from needing additional classes, tutoring or therapy. These children often have trouble fully understanding and accepting the diagnosis of dyslexia. Child-friendly education and an accepting, understanding approach to the child can therefore be an advantage.
When should you go to the doctor?
Children or adults who can barely read or write should take a test to measure their ability. If, despite all efforts, parents notice clear differences in the performance of their child in direct comparison to peers, this should be discussed with the pediatrician.
A doctor should be consulted if the child behaves abnormally, is tearful or withdrawn. If the person concerned shows aggressive behavior or tends to lie and untruths, a doctor should be consulted. If you lack self-confidence, lose social contacts or feel depressed, you should see a doctor.
If a school-age child has learning difficulties in other areas or if the child refuses to learn at all, a doctor or therapist should be asked for help and support. If the child skips class, clarifying discussions are also necessary. If the person concerned develops self-created mnemonics that contribute to an increase in the error rate, corrections are necessary in good time.
To avoid frustration or aggravation of the problem, a doctor or therapist can be consulted. If reading or writing takes a lot of time, this should be discussed with a doctor. If there are an unusual number of errors when reading or writing, it is also advisable to carry out a test to determine the cause.
Treatment & Therapy
Depending on the severity of the dyslexia, individual therapy or support in small groups in a dyslexia institute can be useful. Working on the “zero error limit”, i.e. proceeding from easy to difficult, is characteristic of the therapy, so that the child can experience a sense of achievement.
Building up knowledge of rules is just as much a part of dyslexia therapy as reading together individual letters. The Marburg spelling training or the Kiel reading development, among others, have proven themselves empirically as training programs for dyslexia. If psychological symptoms occur as accompanying disorders, psychotherapy may be indicated.
After a specialist diagnosis of dyslexia, disadvantage compensation can be provided in the school sector. This stipulates that in the case of a child who is affected by dyslexia, spelling mistakes are not included in the grade evaluation and that a time allowance is granted for rehearsals.
Outlook & Forecast
A general prognosis is difficult. In principle, however, it can be stated that the chances of recovery increase significantly if treatment begins before learning to write at school. The road to recovery is difficult. Affected children have to be prepared for setbacks. Fear of school and depressive moods can determine everyday life. Girls often show greater perseverance during treatment. A stable environment that offers support proves beneficial in practice.
For many of those affected, the dyslexia persists in places even after numerous therapeutic sessions. Patients then have no choice but to come to terms with their situation. There are restrictions on the choice of profession. Practiced strategies still allow normal participation in professional and private life.
A dyslexia does not simply disappear. Children who have received no or insufficient therapy usually have a fragile school career as adults. The inability to motivate themselves for educational content is a hallmark of their lives. This puts her on the sidelines at work. Careers don’t happen that way. Employment in simple and rather poorly paid jobs is one consequence.
Phonological awareness, which has a high predictive power for the development of dyslexia, can already be assessed at pre-school age using tests such as the Bielefeld screening. Children at risk, i.e. children who do poorly in comparison to their age group, can be countered with support programs.
Appropriate early detection and early support can prevent or at least alleviate later reading and spelling difficulties. In general, singing and rhyming games or counting verses also serve to promote phonological awareness. Games like “I see something you don’t see and it starts with A” are fun for the children and at the same time help prevent dyslexia.
In the case of dyslexia, those affected have a number of aftercare options that can permanently alleviate the symptoms of the disease. However, this disease cannot always be completely cured, so that in many cases those affected have to live with dyslexia for the rest of their lives. They are often dependent on the help of other people and their own families to make their everyday life easier.
As a rule, self-healing cannot occur. Especially when they are young, the affected children need the help and support of their own families and parents. At school, they must be given special support in order to minimize and alleviate the symptoms of reading and spelling difficulties. Since the reading and spelling weakness can lead to depression or other psychological problems, loving and intensive conversations are very important.
However, in some cases, patients need professional treatment. The life expectancy of the person affected is not restricted by the reading and spelling weakness. When evaluating grades, teachers should be informed of this weakness so that the evaluation is fair. Further follow-up measures are usually not necessary for dyslexia.
You can do that yourself
The support of family and friends is particularly important for children with dyslexia. Parents should therefore first give their child all the important information about the dyslexia. The more the sufferer knows about the disorder, the better and more confident he can deal with it.
If the child feels overwhelmed, it is important to reward short-term success and to make progress through play. Board games such as Scrabble or Word-Kniffel promote spelling skills and are fun at the same time. In the best-case scenario, this also awakens the child’s motivation to learn and gives room for further support. Which measures make sense in detail should always be coordinated with a learning therapist and the child’s teachers. In general, learning software and regular practice help. The child should also be encouraged to read, because books are often the most effective help against dyslexia.
The therapeutic measures can be supported by time in the fresh air and a healthy diet. Both are a welcome change from the stress of learning and give new energy to body and mind. If, despite everything, there is no progress, it is best to consult a specialist.