Dyslexia Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis And Treatment

Dyslexia is a not uncommon condition that is somewhat hard to categorise; it is not an illness as such, but is considered a learning disability that affects the ability to read and write, and sometimes to speak, correctly. It is the most commonly found such condition in children, and it can persist into adulthood and throughout the rest of the individual’s life. Dyslexia can be severe or mild, and there are many forms of help that sufferers can turn to. As with many such conditions it is best to begin treatment – for want of a better word – early, but it can be difficult to detect dyslexia in the early stages of childhood. In this article we will help you to identify dyslexia symptoms, to understand the causes of dyslexia and we will also talk about how to tackle the problem if you suspect your child is dyslexic. Let’s begin by looking at the symptoms of dyslexia.


One of the problems with diagnosing dyslexia is that many of the signs that are symptomatic of the condition are common in young children who are not dyslexic. For instance, one of the most common signs of dyslexia is that in which, when writing, the child frequently reverses letters and numbers in sequence. However, this is very common in non-dyslexic children up to the age of around seven or eight, and will usually diminish after that. This makes diagnosis very difficult for teachers and parents. The following are some of the more recognisable signs that may indicate a dyslexic child:

  • Letter and number reversal in writing
  • Problems with copying from written work
  • Disorganized writing
  • Problems with remembering content
  • General lack of co-ordination
  • Difficulty with telling right from left
  • In speech, missing parts of words
  • Trouble expressing feelings and meanings
  • Becoming withdrawn and depressed

While the above are some of the more common symptoms of dyslexia they are not the only ones. Also, many of them can be present in other conditions – hearing problems, for instance, can cause some of these too – but if you suspect a child is displaying signs of dyslexia it is important that you seek a proper diagnosis in order that the problem can be dealt with.

What Is Dyslexia?

First and foremost, dyslexia is not a disease; it is defined as a learning difficulty that impairs an individual’s ability to read, write and speak. There are different types of dyslexia – see the section later on for an explanation – and it varies in severity from case to case. Children with dyslexia are of at least average intelligence but have difficulty reading and writing even under tuition. The condition is one that is not uncommon, and while it can be adequately treated – as we shall explain later – it can persist into adulthood. Dyslexia is not a sign of a lack of intelligence; it is simply that the brain does not process words in the way it should.


Before we go on to explain the different types of dyslexia, which will help you to better understand how it is caused, a brief explanation of what dyslexia is: basically, dyslexia is a neurological condition – that is one that is to do with the brain – that is quite common. In a dyslexic person the brain has difficulty in converting images and sounds – words either on the page or spoken, for example – into language that is recognisable. In other words, the dyslexic child cannot process what he or she has read or heard properly. This is one reason why hearing difficulties in children are often mistaken for dyslexia. To explain further, let’s have a look at the different types of dyslexia.

What Are The Different Types Of Dyslexia?

As we mentioned above there are a number of different types of dyslexia; the effect is the same, but the cause varies. The following are the three recognised types of dyslexia:

  • Trauma Dyslexia: this form of the condition is brought about by actual damage to the brain – in an accident, for instance – which affects the way it works. It is not a common type of dyslexia in children, but is sometimes seen in adults who have experienced such an injury.
  • Primary Dyslexia: this form of dyslexia is the result of the brain not being able to function correctly – in the manner explained in the section above – and is not caused by injury. Notably, it is hereditary – in other words it can be passed down the family line – and is found more often in males than females.
  • Secondary Dyslexia: also known as ‘developmental dyslexia’, this form is believed to be caused by hormonal changes in the early stages of pregnancy, and it generally fades as the patient ages.

How Can I Tell If My Child Has Dyslexia?

The only way to determine if a child has dyslexia is to see a specialist and have a thorough diagnosis carried out. As we have already said, some of the symptoms may be present in other conditions – notably hearing loss and deafness – and many are also common in young children who are simply learning how to read and write. It is essential that, if you suspect a child has dyslexia, a diagnosis is carried out as soon as possible.

What Do Parents Do If They See Symptoms?

The first thing to do is see your doctor. He or she will perform a basic examination and, if dyslexia is suspected, will refer the patient to a specialist. Below we will have a closer look at how dyslexia is diagnosed. There may be people at the child’s school who can perform basic tests to determine the factors involved, but it cannot be stressed too strongly how important a full diagnosis for dyslexia is.

How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

As dyslexia is a very difficult condition to spot at an early age there are many stages to diagnosis. The child will be assessed for reading ability, for auditory performance – the ability to understand what is being said to them – and for the ability to take in information that is presented to them visually. Tests will also be carried out on their coordination, and also on their ability to express themselves orally. There will most likely be puzzles to solve and further tests to determine the child’s relative level of intelligence, and this is compared to their expected development rate. There are many standard tests for dyslexia that are considered to be efficient and accurate, and there may be school visits to correctly determine the level of dyslexia present in the individual.

What Type Of Treatment Is Available For Dyslexia?

Let us start this final section by stressing again that Dyslexia is not, as such, an illness; it is a condition caused by parts of the brain not functioning as they should. As such, it cannot be treated with medication. Instead, treatment for dyslexia is an ongoing process that is generally focused on the school environment. Some sufferers will have trouble with only one area – reading, for example – while others may suffer impairment in all the areas we have mentioned before. It is important that the diagnosis has determined the child’s particular problem in order that the medical professionals and the school can come up with a plan of action. In truth, it is education and attitude that are the best course of treatment for a dyslexic child: the adults involved will be encouraging and helpful, and focus will be on using the child’s strengths to overcome the weaknesses. There are many planned treatment modules that focus on different areas of performance, with particular focus on the way all the senses work together to overcome different problems. Learning conditions will need to be optimized, and care taken to make sure the child is not distracted or over-worked. These days many teachers have experience in working with dyslexic children and, as the condition is very much understood, treatment can result in great improvement over the years. However, it is important to remember that there is no cure for dyslexia; it will most likely remain with the patient throughout life.

We hope that this article has helped you to understand what dyslexia is, how it is caused and what to do if you suspect a child is dyslexic, and that it has also reassured you that living with dyslexia need not be a trial thanks to the great understanding of the condition.

Written By Jack Johnston

Jack Johnston, M.D., is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Johnston received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign. In 1995 he graduated with a Medical Degree from the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University of Chicago. Dr. Johnston’s residency in Family Medicine was completed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. After completing an Integrative Medicine Fellowship, Dr. Johnston served as Chief Resident in 2001.


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