Is Dyslexia a Disability?

What causes dyslexia? And is dyslexia a disability caused by vision issues? Contrary to popular belief, those with dyslexia do not see words, letters, or numbers backward. Instead, dyslexia is a language-based disorder hallmarked by speech-sound and spelling-pattern processing difficulties. This means that a person with dyslexia reads using different and less efficient pathways in their brain than a typical reader. Those with reading disorders do not benefit from vision training but instead from evidence-based reading instruction such as Lexercise.

The Science Behind Dyslexia

illustration of the mechanics of the brain explaining the science behind dyslexia

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows scientists to view various activation patterns in the brain during reading. It does this by recording blood flow to different areas while a person is actively decoding. Imaging has shown that dyslexic readers often use alternative, compensatory pathways. Reading using these alternative pathways and regions is not as efficient and automatic, which causes struggles with decoding and fluency. Slow and laborious oral reading and poor spelling are often evident in those with untreated dyslexia. With proper interventions, though, the brain activation patterns of people with dyslexia can change, allowing them to become more proficient readers. While reading struggles are easier to remediate at a younger age, a person can significantly strengthen their literacy skills at any age with the correct evidence-based intervention.

Genetics, Intelligence, and Dyslexia

is dyslexia a disability? genetics play a part

Dyslexia can run in families. A recent study shows 42 different genetic causes linked to dyslexia. Researchers believe up to 70% of cases of dyslexia are due to heredity. But reading struggles are not entirely based on genetic causes. Health, family, school, and community also contribute to reading proficiency and struggles. There is no association between dyslexia or the degree of impairment and overall intelligence. Dyslexia falls on a continuum from mild to profound impairment.

While learning disabilities can cause literacy challenges, people with dyslexia often have great artistic, mechanical, visual-spatial, and creative problem-solving abilities. This can be seen in some influential and well-known people who are said to have struggled with dyslexia, such as Albert Einstein, Tom Holland, Richard Branson, Jennifer Aniston, Thomas Edison, Stephen Spielberg, Tim Tebow, and Keanu Reeves. 

Unfortunately, leaving dyslexia untreated can lead to long-lasting psychological issues such as fear, stress, depression, and anxiety. But the good news is that science has shown us the evidence-based path forward to remediate literacy skills efficiently. 

Helping Your Struggling Reader

Lexercise expert therapy partner and author of this blog post, Kristin Vito M.Ed, SLDS

If you suspect your child has dyslexia, contact Lexercise today to learn about these types of highly effective instructional practices. To get started, you can take one of our learning disability tests or connect with an expert therapist for a free consultation.

Interested in Learning More About Dyslexia? 

Expert Orton-Gillingham therapist Kristin Vito recommends these additional resources:

Disruption of Functional Networks in Dyslexia: A Whole-Brain, Data-Driven Analysis of Connectivity

Tracking the Relations Between Children’s Reading and Emotional Health Across Time: Evidence From Four Large Longitudinal Studies

The Neurobiology of Dyslexia

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Kristin Vito

Kristin Vito, M.Ed, SLDS | Ascend Academics

"I target individual needs with personalized, fun, and meaningful sessions rooted in evidence-based instructional practices. My background includes many successful years as an elementary teacher."