Is There A Dyslexia Spectrum?

 Most people think of dyslexia as a visual reading disorder, because letters or words can appear reversed.  But that’s only half the story.  Many children with dyslexia also have challenges with auditory processing and memory.  The child’s ear responds to sound but his or her brain does not process the sound well.  Up to 75% of reading disorders are actually based on auditory processing problems – even if the person hears just fine.

Most children with auditory processing difficulties will struggle to learn how to read.  They also have difficulty spelling or pronouncing words.

Signs of dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty remembering the sound of letters
  • Difficulty putting the sounds together (/b/, /u/, /s/ to say the word “bus”)
  • Difficulty following directions or remembering what was just said to them
  • Challenges focusing on auditory and visual stimuli at the same time
  • Vague speech and difficulty finding the right word. A teen might use “thing,” “stuff,” or similar language more often than her peers.
  • Generally disorganized
  • Difficulty learning a second language in high school

Compensation or retraining?

Many parents encourage children with these challenges to bypass their weak auditory system by using visuals such as flash cards to memorize words.  That approach is a mistake.  Children and teens with auditory processing difficulties respond extremely well to an intensive cognitive and auditory approach directed at re-wiring their brains.

There is a dyslexia spectrum.  Not all reading problems are the same. Auditory processing and memory skills – not visual deficits – are the most frequent cause of reading difficulties.  Auditory skills respond well to training to help a child perform better in school or an adult who continues to struggle with reading, especially when paired with the goal of improving other cognitive skills.

This entry was posted in Auditory Processing / Reading / Dyslexia, Children. Bookmark the permalink.

There are 10 comments, would you like to add yours?

  1. Susie Daly
    January 21st

    It’s interesting that this would be out here… I was just talking with my first graders teacher this week and she was kind of tip toeing around the possibility that my daughter might be have dyslexia so I thought I would do some of my own research. She is 6 (will be 7 in april) Do you guys do screening for dyslexia? I would like to understand more about what could help her progress. She does have sensory processing disorder, but is managing ok with that.
    Any thoughts you have would be helpful.

    (Reply)
  2. Dr. Parker
    January 21st

    Hi Susie,

    Yes. I do evaluations regarding reading disorders. When evaluating reading disorders it is important to assess the areas of attention, memory, sound discrimination and sound manipulation skills, visual processing and comprehension. Reading aloud must be done during the evaluation.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics 2009 issued a report on learning disabilities, dyslexia and vision summarizing much of the current research. It confirms that reading difficulties or “dyslexia” is not caused by visual difficulties, it is an auditory and language processing deficit. An assessment of an individual’s cognitive and auditory processing abilities is the best place to start.

    Here are some things you can do at home to strengthen auditory processing and readings skills:

    • Play lots of rhyme and word games. This way you are practicing sound manipulation.
    • Reading aloud will activate more of the brain than silent reading so have your kids read aloud even if they are older.
    • Unison reading (reading the same thing at the same time) is a helpful strategy to give a model of rhythm, phrasing and expression. Be animated.
    • Read content of interest and talk to your kids about the pictures you see in your head while you are reading. This will help them to make their own visual mental movies. This is motivating for them.
    (Reply)
  3. Stacy
    October 2nd

    So my husband has been wondering if I have dyslexia, here are some issues I have: I am a very poor speller; have always had problems sounding out words; invert both numbers and letters; I make up words/use them incorrectly (i.e. irregardless); my mother told me as a kid I was delayed in reading but once I started reading I went straight to chapter books).

    However, I am a fast reader (though my comprehension is not always great, which I have always chaulked up to my fast reading).

    I am 33 and have just started trying to look into this, it doesn’t have a huge impact on my life as I do believe I have found ways to cope throughout life. I guess mostly I am just curious. Thanks.

    (Reply)
  4. Dr. Parker
    October 2nd

    Hi Stacy,

    Dyslexia means difficulty reading. More and more research is revealing dyslexia to be a language based disorder. Many of the examples you gave are often found in individuals with a dyslexia including difficulty sounding out words, inverting numbers and letters, difficulty pronouncing words correctly and poor spelling. Difficulty reading is not something that goes away with maturation; we work with many adults that have reading struggles. People who have reading difficulties use different parts of their brains when reading than individuals without reading difficulties (Shaywitz, 2003, Overcoming Dyslexia). I would recommend reading Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s classic book to help you learn about dyslexia. The label is not as important as understanding your unique pattern of cognitive and auditory skills. With an evaluation you would learn about your strengths and weaknesses and be able to have an individualized plan targeting your strengths and weaknesses for optimal improvement of your skills.

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  5. NB
    April 28th

    ” The label is not as important as understanding your unique pattern of cognitive and auditory skills.”
    Very well said and this gives me peace with who I am. My life is all about good days and bad days and I have learned/still learning to make the best out of them.
    I can’t remember reading a book since 10th grade. I buy tons of books and give them away, unread. I open them every now and then but my brain shuts down to the point that I have a headache at the thought of reading anything longer than a page.
    I had to beg my sister to write my personal statement while I verbally tried to tell her what I wanted her to write about me. I can’t write long correspondence and rely on my siblings for that.
    Besides all this, I finally finished my MD this month. I had many failures but now I know my limitations. I study on my good days- one good day was worth a week of other people’s study time but sometimes there weren’t enough.
    Most people know me as one of the smartest people, but it is an every day struggle for me when it comes to sitting down to read, so I rely on videos and tricking my brain into thinking I am reading only a little piece of info so it doesn’t get overwhelmed. I almost never forget anything that I have seen/practiced once.
    I read tons of news, magazines, gossips, columns, but never a “book”. For my medical knowledge, I rely on books with facts written out in 1 lines, tables. I zone out a lot. I have poor vocabulary while speaking on bad days. ON bad days, my brains stops working.

    (Reply)
    • Angela Coleman
      May 5th

      Thank you for reading my blog post and sharing information related to your own unique experience. Congratulations on all your hard earned successes. It is important to remember that everyone has their own individual set of experiences and goals. Compensatory techniques work for many people. My daughter Sally took a different route at age 15 she has worked through her auditory processing and memory difficulties and does not need to use compensatory strategies or accommodations. Sally worked to remediate her weak skills and now is also like you academically/career competitive. There is more than one route to go most of the time and we need to find the route that is suited to that individual. Thanks again for your comments.

      (Reply)
    • Lisa
      February 18th

      I understand good days and bad days. I have Dyslexia and both of my children also have Dyslexia. My mother-in-law suggested books on tape for our son. He does pretty well with those. He can follow along but he doesn’t get stressed about “reading” the book because he can listen to it as he follows along instead. He uses a similar technology in school with his assignments and that also helps him. Once I learned to read I devoured books and still do. I love to read. But I know not everyone does. I think you learn what works for you and that helps you cope. It seems you have found what works for you so keep on keeping on!

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      • Dr. Parker
        March 7th

        Sometimes there are changes from day to day that affect attention which in turn impacts reading. It would be very unusual for dyslexia to change from day to day. Reading difficulties can be due to more than one cognitive foundation skill, including (but not limited to) attention, auditory processing, memory difficulties, processing speed, and comprehension, So, it’s important to have an evaluation to find out your child’s particular difficulties and why they may be struggling. What goes into comprising their difficulties? What are the child’s areas of strength as well and how can that be useful in learning.

        I am so glad that books on tape have been a good adjunct for you. I encourage you to listen and read the text at the same time. In this way you are involved in multi-modal learning. It is nice to hear that you now love reading. I find reading a wonderful past time for many who once thought that it was a struggle.

  6. Carolyn Ragan
    June 20th

    I’m 70 years old and have had a lifelong problem with left and right. If a person tells me to turn left, I am likely to turn right or if I am directing the driver I tell them to go left when I am thinking go right. Then there is the problem with “b” and “d”. The word “Audubon” always makes me pause and think hard about it before writing it. I’m a birder and have excellent spotting skills. Took me a while to learn the names of birds and I am still hopeless with song recognition. I never forget a face but seldom can recall a name unless I work at it when I meet the person. I always hated math in school and to this day I have trouble with the checkbook. I think I may be mildly dyslexic but it is embarrassing at times. I have always seemed to be slow to pick up new skills, at least that has been brought up in my performance reviews when I was working in the printing industry.

    (Reply)
    • Dr. Parker
      June 21st

      Hi Carolyn, The examples you have provided are often found with people who have mild dyslexia; right and left confusion, effortful and slow recognition and identification of /b/ and /d/ and slower new learning overall. Adults can improve their cognitive and reading skills. When they improve their skills, they feel more confident. We have many adults who work on these skills to improve their comfort level, to have more opportunities at work or to tackle college. We begin with an assessment so that both you and I can learn about your strengths and weaknesses and put together an individual plan that targets your unique needs. Give us a call at 704-541-1373.

      (Reply)

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