Aug 012013

There is SOOO MUCH Confusion about the Dyslexia Definition!

Dyslexia Definition by dictionary and diagnosis

Is the Dyslexia Definition THAT difficult to understand? … NO!

Does your child have TRUE dyslexia, or perhaps some OTHER condition causing his difficulty in learning to read? Not all problems that manifest themselves in an inability to read are ‘dyslexia’, so it’s important for you to put on your detective cap. Consider the possible causes of reading difficulties, which are not all dyslexia.

Dictionary Dyslexia Definition

The dictionary Dyslexia Definition is basically “difficulty with words” or “difficulty with reading.” SO, by the dictionary definition of dyslexia, any child who has reading problems has dyslexia. However, the specific learning disability called dyslexia does NOT include ALL reading difficulties. True dyslexia has specific conditions for diagnosis. This is where confusion about the Dyslexia Definition comes into play.

Diagnosis Dyslexia Definition

Symptoms of dyslexia are varied, but true dyslexia has a specific definition and can easily be diagnosed by a qualified examiner.  The International Dyslexia Association gives the following Dyslexia Definition:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Therefore, TRUE dyslexia is neurological — not visual. The Dyslexia Definition for the DIAGNOSIS is rooted in your child’s cognitive functions.

Other Conditions that Fit the Dictionary Dyslexia Definition

Your child’s reading problems could be caused by:

  • Ocular motor developmental problems (treated with vision therapy),
  • Scotopic Sensitivity (treated with colored glasses or dyslexia overlays),
  • Visual processing problems (treated with visual processing programs),
  • Visual perception issues (treated with vision therapy, weighted fonts, or colored overlays),
  • or Executive functioning disorder (treated with cognitive enhancement programs),
  • OR, TRUE dyslexia (characterized by a lack of phonemic awareness and requiring special reading instruction).

After Clarity on the Dyslexia Definition: What’s Next?

Have you had your child tested for phonemic awareness issues?
Or taken him to a developmental optometrist to see if he has ocular motor deficits?
What about visual perception or processing problems?

I can’t stress strongly enough that it is imperative that you consider different possible causes for your child’s reading difficulty.  You really NEED a comprehensive evaluation to get to the CAUSE of your child’s reading problems before you can FIX those problems.

When your child has been evaluated and has a deficit in phonemic awareness, he has true dyslexia. Otherwise, if your child does not have a phonemic awareness deficit, you may need a comprehensive neuropsychological exam, developmental eye exam, etc. to determine the true causes of your child’s reading difficulties.

The specific origin of your child’s problem with reading has everything to do with the type of remediation your child needs. It is important to know what type of problem is causing your child’s difficulty with reading, and often children have problems in more than one area. Finding one problem will not necessarily be the end of the struggles.

The most common symptom doesn’t necessarily fit into a Dyslexia Definition!

Whatever the main cause may be, children with reading problems often reverse numbers and letters. Most kids have a few random reversals here and there. However, problems with reversals are usually outgrown by time the child is 7.

However, these reversals are often based in visual perception or visual processing issues, not clinically diagnosable dyslexia! Don’t misunderstand. Kids with true dyslexia often have visual processing issues TOO. That means the child needs TWO kinds of help–one for the lack of phonemic awareness and another for the visual processing issues.

If your child has visual perception problems, playing family games like Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception can be a fun way to work on those skills. This is a “light weight” way to work on visual perception. Therefore, it’s recommended for fun more than actual remediation, but it’s one thing you can do to move in the right direction. 😉

I think there is a great deal of overlap between the Dyslexia Definition and Dyslexia Diagnosis as far as a child’s brain goes. That is why I think that so many kids display symptoms of several different types of reading issues.

Getting clear on the Dyslexia Definition and Dyslexia Diagnosis will help you get clear on how to help your child read!

Also, problems come in varying degrees, so some kids may not have big enough problems to propel parents into action until they encounter more difficult multi-syllable words on a regular basis (4th grade and above). To see a writing sample of a child with diagnosed dyslexia at nearly 7, and to Learn more about Symptoms of Dyslexia.

Many people think you should wait to see if a child outgrows the problem, but only 15% of children do. The other 85% end up needing some kind of help. The sooner help comes, the less time it will take to ‘rewire’ your child’s reading problems.

Early exploration for the cause of your child’s problems is better than waiting. It doesn’t hurt anything to give extra help early. However, a lack of help can mean struggling, lowering of self-esteem, frustration with academics, the development of phobias over schoolwork, tantrums, etc. for every year your child does not get the help he needs.

While This is NOT MEDICAL advise, the following are simple things you can do to see which Dyslexia Definition your child fits into:

1) Get a “developmental eye exam” –find a physician at the College of Optometrists in Vision Development at — the eye exams are among the cheaper options and it is good to have your child’s eyes checked anyway… note: you do not want JUST a vision check as many children with developmental ocular motor problems have 20/20 vision, so you do need a developmental specialist. You also have the option of trying to do vision therapy at home. The Optometric Extension Program Foundation provides assistance with home therapy for relatively less than you’ll pay someone else to provide vision therapy.

2) Vary lighting as you read — bright light vs. dim light, white light vs. yellow light can help determine if a light spectrum sensitivity is causing problems with reading. Also you can get some colored transparencies and try laying them over the pages as your child reads to test a variety of color spectrum choices.. this can help determine if Scotopic Sensitivity is an issue for your child. You can order a set of the Irlen overlays on Amazon. (See for more information about Scotopic Sensitivity.)

3) Go through a systematic testing like found at the back of the book Reading Reflex to find out if your daughter knows her phonemes automatically or not. If not, you can get something like The Language Tool Kit & Manual378520: Language Tool Kit & Manual to work with your daughter on automatic recall of letter/sound combinations. IF your child doesn’t do well with the Reading Reflex testing, there may be some kind of neurological processing difficulty such as dyslexia.

A complete neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation is advised if your child’s problems exist after 7.5 to 8 years of age. Remember, children often have multiple issues. Finding one problem may not be the complete solution.

You might want to consider a complete evaluation if your insurance will cover it. That way you will be sure you have identified the processing issues your child has. A great place to ask questions about where to find a good evaluator is the Yahoo group: While the IEP info does not pertain to homeschoolers, there are MANY special education advocates on this list from most states. That makes the group a great place to ask, “Who is a good evaluator near ?”

You might want to look at our Reading Programs recommended for home use in addressing dyslexia and Proven Packaged Reading Programs for more information.