Dyslexia is a disorder which affects a person’s ability to read fluently, despite normal intelligence and comprehension. In order for a person to read, they must be able to decode the words and understand them – both of these processes are needed.
It can also affect a person’s writing – letters are likely to be written backwards and words can be spelt wrongly. Words are often written as they sound, and individuals have a poor phonological awareness. It is thought that English speakers show more severe effects of dyslexia due to the difficulty of the language- it had several irregular verbs and spellings, and therefore takes longer to learn than other European languages such as Italian.
Here are examples of the word ‘teapot’ written by different individuals with dyslexia.
There is a genetic basis for dyslexia: males are more likely to be dyslexic than females. The genes associated with this disorder have been identified on chromosomes 6,15 and 18. Neuroimaging studies have shown that there are also differences in the brain between dyslexics and normal controls: areas connecting language and visual areas show less activity in dyslexics. There is also evidence that there are structural abnormalities in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (shown in the diagram below).
Individuals with dyslexia can be helped to improve either reading and writing skills by using techniques which increase their awareness of the relationship between letters and sounds. Certain fonts (see picture below) are thought to help dyslexics read more smoothly, as they emphasis the difference between letters. Different coloured backgrounds are also used. It is thought that extra help when the brain is still developing makes training more effective.
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