As many as 15% of school-aged children have a learning disability. One
of those learning disabilities is reading disorder,
also known as dyslexia. In this disorder, reading
achievement is substantially below what would be expected for the person's
age, intelligence, and educational level. Many areas of the brain are involved
in reading. Abnormalities in processing in these brain areas are associated
with having dyslexia. It appears that persons who have dyslexia have difficulty
processing sound-based components of language. They have difficulty associating
symbols (such as letters) with the sounds that these symbols have.
Dyslexia does not affect thinking ability. Persons who have dyslexia
are often creative in learning to compensate for their disability.
Reading difficulties may also arise from poor vision, decreased hearing
ability, emotional problems, or behavioral disorders. Behavioral disorders,
such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may also coexist with learning disorders.
The April 28, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article showing that reading
difficulties are more common in boys than in girls.
Testing for dyslexia should be performed only by trained individuals.
These specialists may be available through the school or from the community
or a university-based program. Formal testing for dyslexia includes assessment
of intellectual (thinking) abilities, information
processing, and academic skills. Children may also receive evaluation of their
sensory capabilities, such as hearing or vision testing.
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Early identification of learning disabilities can help children to achieve
success in learning environments. Some strategies that can help individuals
with reading disorder include
Approaches to teaching that include audio-based instruction (audiotapes,
audio texts), computer-assisted instruction, structured teaching including
repetition and small-unit instruction, flashcards, and optimum position of
the child in the classroom.
Identification, evaluation, and treatment of behavioral or psychiatric
problems that can coexist with learning disabilities.
Alternative assessment measures (using different types of testing
than traditional written tests).
Assistance with emotional issues (such as self-esteem) that may
accompany learning disabilities.
Special education, if needed, though some experts advocate keeping
children with dyslexia in the regular classroom.
A strong support system for the child and family, possibly including
referral to appropriate resources within the community.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokehttp://www.ninds.nih.gov
International Dyslexia Association 800/ABC-D123http://www.interdys.org
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A Patient Page
on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder was published in the October 9,
Sources: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; International
Dyslexia Association; Nemours Foundation
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval.
To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
TOPIC: CHILD HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT
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