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Not All Dyslexia is Developmental Dyslexia

Developmental dyslexia and dyslexia are often used interchangeably.  in some contexts “developmental dyslexia” is used to specifically refer to a type of dyslexia that is present from childhood and is not caused by any other known factors such as brain injury or a lack of educational opportunities.

Dyslexia, on the other hand, is the general term. It describes difficulty with reading, regardless of the cause or age of onset. In summary, all developmental dyslexia is dyslexia, but not all dyslexia is developmental dyslexia.

Developmental dyslexia is a specific learning disorder characterized by difficulty in reading, despite normal intelligence and adequate educational opportunities. It is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and is typically diagnosed in childhood. Symptoms of dyslexia include difficulty with phonological processing, word decoding, and reading fluency. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but early intervention and specialized instruction can help individuals with dyslexia learn to read and write effectively.

Developmental Dyslexia Is “Unexpected”

Have you ever struggled to sound out a word, despite knowing its meaning? Or have you found it difficult to follow along with a conversation, even though you can hear just fine? These are two common challenges associated with developmental dyslexia.

This is not related to IQ or a lack of effort.  And most often, these symptoms of difficulty are tightly related to language – listening to spoken language, and reading language in a text format.  An essential part of the dyslexia definition,  as defined by Sally Schaywitz, is that the difficulty with reading is unexpected – it is not evident in other aspects of life, even in other aspects of learning.

Why Developmental Dyslexia Is So Prevalent

Written language is a relatively modern cultural innovation as it is less than 6,000 years old. It has not been subjected to evolutionary pressure like spoken language, which has been available to humans for many thousands of years. As a result, reading acquisition, which happens over a long period of time with formal schooling, makes use of existing brain regions that support other skills like spoken language and object recognition.

However, despite the fact that reading acquisition makes use of existing brain regions that support other skills like spoken language, some kids have a particularly tough time learning to read. This can be attributed to developmental dyslexia.

Despite having normal or above-average intelligence, a person with developmental dyslexia still struggles with reading. It is a widespread condition that is thought to affect 5–17% of the population. A neurological condition called dyslexia makes it challenging for a person to comprehend and process written text.

The answer to the question “What is developmental Dyslexia?” has evolved over the years. For the majority of the 20th century, it was an easy question to answer. They believed that developmental dyslexia was a congenital impairment that only affected verbal and non-verbal reasoning while processing words visually. The distinguishing characteristics back then included a genetic background, an inability to learn visual reading skills, and normal speaking and nonverbal talents.

However, Noam Chomsky developed the concept of “generative phonology” in the 1950s, when he first brought his ground-breaking method to linguistics. This completely altered the perception of developmental dyslexia by the 1980s. It was completely disproven that it might have a visual foundation. Developmental dyslexia was reframed from being thought of as a problem with the brain’s visual processing to a language issue, a failure to develop phonological abilities.

What is the Cause of Developmental Dyslexia?

The cause of developmental dyslexia is not fully understood. Here are some popular factors and theories that try to explain the cause of developmental dyslexia.

Genetic factors

It is believed that the onset of dyslexia is significantly influenced by genetic factors. It is frequently hereditary and has a tendency to run in families. Researchers have identified several specific genes that may be associated with dyslexia, and variations in these genes may have an impact on how the brain processes language.

DYX1C1 is one gene that has been recognized as a risk factor for dyslexia. This gene may have an impact on how the brain processes phonemes and is involved in the growth of the language centers in the brain (the smallest units of sound in a word). It has been discovered that people with dyslexia are more likely to have variations in the DYX1C1 gene.

Dyslexia has also been connected to the KIAA0319, DCDC2, and ROBO1 genes. These genes may have an impact on how the brain processes phonemes and other features of language since they are involved in the growth and operation of the language centers in the brain. It is important to note that It is likely that dyslexia results from a combination of multiple genetic factors rather than a single gene.

Environmental factors

According to studies, some environmental factors may make dyslexia more likely to occur. Premature delivery is one environmental element that has been connected to dyslexia. Dyslexia is more likely to occur in premature children, especially those born very prematurely (before 32 weeks of gestation). It is believed that early birth may interfere with the language centers of the brain’s normal development, making language processing challenging.

Dyslexia risk may also arise if a person does not have enough language exposure when their brain is developing. Children who don’t have enough language exposure in their early years may have trouble learning to read and write.  This can include adopted children, who hear another language as a baby and then has to map another language for reading.

The Phonological Theory

The phonological theory contends that impairments with phonemic awareness are the root cause of dyslexia. Understanding and controlling the sounds (phonemes) in words is referred to as phonemic awareness. It is an essential skill for learning how to read and write since it enables one to comprehend that words are made up of smaller units of sound and to manipulate those sounds to produce new words.

The phonological theory contends that dyslexics struggle with phonemic awareness because their brains’ phonological system is impaired or needs more stimulation to develop well enough to process natural language. The phonological system is responsible for processing and modifying the sounds in words. It is believed that people with dyslexia struggle with this system, which causes problems with phonemic awareness and, as a result, problems with reading and writing.

The phonological theory is supported by evidence. According to studies, people with dyslexia typically struggle with skills requiring phonemic awareness, like rhyme detection and sound deletion tasks. The manipulation of phonemes, such as combining sounds to produce words or dividing words into their constituent sounds, is another job that they could find challenging.

In summary, the true causes of developmental dyslexia vary. Dyslexia is a complex condition. It can result from a combination of multiple factors, including genetics, the environment, and differences in brain structure and function.

Interventions for Developmental Dyslexia

Although the genetics or delays that cause developmental dyslexia never go away, many if not most children with dyslexia do develop the phonological awareness needed for reading and spelling.  Most of the time though it requires an intervention.

There are two major ways to take on developmental dyslexia:

  • Remediate the symptoms – reading instruction, speech and language therapy
  • Go after the causes – mainly language processing

Work on Symptoms

Specialized reading education, such as phonics-based programs or multisensory methods, may be helpful for dyslexic children. These methods emphasize language sounds and can aid in the development of phonemic awareness and decoding abilities in dyslexic youngsters.

Assistive technologies. Children with dyslexia may benefit from assistive technologies, such as text-to-speech software or electronic dictionaries. These technologies can help children access and understand written material.

Another great example of useful technologies that can help is the Fast ForWord neuroscience software from Gemm Learning.

Classroom accommodations.  Children who have dyslexia can require extra assistance in the classroom. Extra time for assignments, written copies of lectures, and the use of visual aids are a few popular adjustments for dyslexia.

Speech-language therapy. Speech-language therapy may help dyslexic children with their oral language abilities. A youngster can develop listening and communication skills with the help of a speech-language pathologist.

These approaches can help individuals with dyslexia to read and spell at a proficient level. However, because they are working around the underlying processing difficulty, they tend to take a lot of time and effort, and because the underlying causes of difficulty is not disturbed, even after all that effort, lingering symptoms of dysleixa are likely.

Target Underlying Causes – Interventions

There are a number of dyslexia treatments that focus on the cognitive skill gaps that cause dyslexia.

Physical Exercises.  LearningRX, Brain Balance, the Dore Program and others use physical exercises to exercise the cerebellum to improve processing efficiency.

Therapeutic listening.  Tomatis, the Listening Program and others stimulate processing using classical music.  The patterns and undulations of classical music stimulate processing of sound, which translates into processing of language.

Language processing.  Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord software for developmental dyslexia.  Fast ForWord uses sound sequencing, the sounds of English, working memory and attention exercises to target the most common cognitive skill gaps associated with developmental dyslexia.

At Gemm Learning, we believe that the quickest way to resolve a problem is to treat the cause. And for developmental dyslexia, Fast ForWord neuroscience software offers that opportunity.  It’s a 6-7 month program that targets the language and cognitive learning skill deficits that contribute to reading and learning difficulties.