What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a congenital learning disorder. It is caused by variation in brain structures and function affecting the word learning ability. It is not caused by intellectual disability or sensory (hearing or visual) impairment. Word learning involves the ability of recognizing the word, memorizing the pronunciation as well as understanding the meaning of the word. Children with dyslexia have incoordination or variation in these functions, resulting in difficulty in word learning. It would affect their ability to read and understand the meaning of stories or articles. They may gradually lose interest in reading and learning.
How common is dyslexia?
From the data of Hong Kong Department of Health, up to 9.7-12.6% of school aged children have dyslexia. Among them, 70% was mild, 20% moderate and around 10% has severe dyslexia.
What causes Dyslexia?
Genetic inheritance, variation in brain structures and functions are the main cause of dyslexia. Children with family member(s) suffering from dyslexia are at higher chance of dyslexia, up to 3-4 folds increased risk. Children with Dyslexia are found to have decreased activity in language-related area of the brain (such as Broca’s area). Some studies also noted children with dyslexia have abnormal development of the visual cells that control visual guidance of attention and eye fixations, which cause incoherent in visual and auditory process of words. These brain functions are very important to word learning. These influence of these variations varies in children speaking different languages.
How does dyslexia affect my child?
Children with dyslexia may presented with symptoms such as:
Language delay, misarticulation problems
Difficulty in word learning, takes longer time and more effort to memorize letters, numbers or words
Difficulty in reading fluently
Mixing up words with similar meanings, spellings or pronunciations
Difficulties in word spelling or dictation
Writing words in mirror image
Difficulty in comprehension of articles or stories
Difficulties in understanding questions while doing homework or in examination
Most of the children with dyslexia may not have satisfactory academic performance. They are more prone to have emotion problems such as depression or anxiety due to learning difficulties and failure in achievement. These may affect their confidence and self-esteem in long term. Some of them may have coexisting conditions such as Attention Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), language impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorder ( ASD), which may further increase their challenges in learning.
What shall parents do if their children have symptoms of dyslexia?
If child presented with symptoms of dyslexia early before entering primary school, they can be assessed by pediatrician or psychologist for early screening test. For those high risk of dyslexia, early intervention and accommodations will facilitate their learning. Preschool Rehabilitation Service by Social Welfare Department also provide training support for the needed children, which can be referred by pediatrician or psychologist to apply. Diagnostic test done by Education Psychologist shall be arranged for school aged children with suspected dyslexia. Education Bureau provides individual support to children with dyslexia. Accommodations in learning environment and examinations can also arranged.
Parents whose child has dyslexia can reinforce child’s recognition of the words and its pronunciation through activities. Sensory approach in word learning can make them more ready to participate and promotes their motivation to read. Positive encouragement from parents and teachers can reinforce child’s learning behavior.