Recognising dyslexia

Dyslexia is a neurological disorder resulting in poor performance in reading, spelling and writing. It is not an indication of laziness or low intelligence; in fact most dyslexic individuals are gifted and may have extraordinary creative talents due to their ability to “think outside the box�?.

It is estimated that 10% of school-aged children have dyslexia. There are 3 different types of dyslexia namely visual, auditory and motor dyslexia depending on the area of the brain that is affected. It is also possible to have a combination of the different types. Symptoms include:

  • Reading difficulties. May read slowly and laboriously due to the reliance on a phonetic approach to decode words. Poor sight word vocabulary. Substitutions of words during reading e.g. “home�? for “house�?. Reversal of letters within words e.g. “was�? for “saw�?.
  • Spelling difficulties. May spell phonetically, e.g. “bisnis�? instead of “business�? (in visual dyslexia), or put the letters in the incorrect order, e.g. “solw�? instead of “slow�? (in auditory dyslexia).
  • Difficulty with written work. In the case of motor dyslexia letters will often be written in reverse or “mirror image�?. Note: b and d confusion is common in grade one but is considered abnormal when occurring after grade 3.
  • Difficulty following a sequence of instructions.

What causes dyslexia?
Genes and heredity play a big role in dyslexia. It is estimated that up to 49% of parents of children with dyslexia are affected by it as well. Environmental (external) factors may also be responsible e.g. trauma.

What can be done?
Dyslexia is not an indication of failure. Though it is not possible to cure dyslexia, with the correct assistance kids with dyslexia can still thrive in the classroom.

  • A confident diagnosis of dyslexia can be done from the age of 9 or the middle of the child’s third grade. 
  • An educational psychologist and/or a paediatric optometrist with extended dyslexia training can help assist in diagnosing dyslexia. 
  • School children and students with dyslexia are entitled to extra time for their tests and exams. In more severe cases a reader/scribe may be recommended. 
  • Remedial tutoring with a remedial therapist who is well versed in dyslexia can be extremely beneficial.
  • Occupational therapy can help correct writing errors such as letter reversals. 
  • In the case of visual dyslexia, functional lenses such as colour filters and prisms often improve comfort with reading leading to an improvement in speed and accuracy.

This article was researched and written by Chantelle Britz, Optometrist at Eyetek, and overseen by Casha Meintjes.

You might also want to read about these eye exercises that can improve reading.