Dyslexia: causes and symptoms of reading difficulties

For many people, reading is a hobby, an enjoyable pastime that leads us to relax and imagine different stories and worlds from our own, or reflect on different areas of life. It is also a way of learning and acquiring knowledge, of capturing and giving meaning to the written symbols that we perceive through vision, graphemes.

But reading fluently is not something that is easy to achieve.. It takes a long process of learning and automation for reading to become a means of acquiring information. And not in all cases, this process occurs in a normative way.

For some people, reading is a very complicated process, with frequent mistakes that make it difficult to understand the writing. Many of these cases of people with reading difficulties suffer a learning to read disorder which in turn can affect academic and professional performance: dyslexia.

Dyslexia: a learning disability

People with dyslexia or learning disability with reading difficulties have a learning pattern with severe speech recognition at the written level. In addition to these people they usually show little ability to spell and spell, Being frequent they also have some difficulty in mathematical reasoning (dyscalculia).

The main problem with dyslexic subjects is the accuracy with which they cope with reading, which leads to poor accuracy in reading words. This lack of precision leads to commission of frequent errors, Being the most common are the presence of omissions of letters and sounds, repetitions and hesitations when reading, translations of the position of letters in a word, insertion of nine sounds, substitutions of sounds or more frequent words or use of derivatives.

In addition, dyslexia rarely appears on its own; it produces many other learning problems related in particular to reading comprehension. The fact that there is a very low reading speed makes it difficult to understand the material being read.

Since this is a problem that occurs at an early stage of development, the effects of dyslexia can cause poor fit with the academic and professional environment. It can also cause serious self-esteem issues that can spread throughout life. Not being able to read properly is common, which causes people with dyslexia to actively avoid reading, especially if the reading becomes aversive due to the insistence on reading correctly.


dyslexia is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder, being the most common learning disability. While reading errors are normal at certain ages, to be diagnosed with this disorder it is necessary that reading skills are well below what is expected in an individual of the same level of maturity and intelligence. It has genetic neurological causes and must be treated in order to improve the performance and adaptability of those who suffer from it.

Dual Path Theory

The existence of this disorder and the fact that the ability to read is an important part of our daily life has been explored and studied from different theories. One of the most accepted is that of Morton’s model, with his two-way theory of reading information processing.

The first way to which the author refers is the direct or lexical route by which a global reading is performedRecognize the words as a whole without having to visualize the whole word. In this way, visual stimulation is mainly used to obtain information.

The second path proposed by this theory, the phonological path, would work indirectly by needing to relate the visual stimulus to the sounds it represents and subsequently these sounds to their meaning. This second process requires the information to be converted from grapheme to phoneme, so the process takes a bit longer. It is used mainly when we do not know the word to read, being new to us and having no previous references to it.

In dyslexia, one or two pathways don’t seem to work, Causing the errors typical of this disorder. To better understand what happens during this disorder, we first look at the typical process of developing the ability to read.

The typical development of the ability to read

As we have said, the ability to read is acquired throughout a long learning process, and in turn affects the rest of the development by the result of fundamental reading in order to follow the typical training process. of formal education.

In a first phase called logographic the child he will use the basic form of the word to recognize things that are familiar to him, Without considering (and even without knowing) the sounds that each letter represents.

later, around the age of five, children begin to realize that letters represent specific sounds and that these mean something, appearing the ability to mentally transform sounds into visual symbols and letters into sounds. This phase is known as the alphabet and children begin to syllabify and separate phonemes.

Finally, about around the age of seven or eight, the orthographic phase would be reached, In which the individual would be able to analyze the words of their syntax at a level which, with time and practice, will eventually equal that of an adult.

However, people with dyslexia, for some reason, have trouble somewhere in this process, not being able to fully recognize the shape of the word, turn it into a sound, or both.

Types of dyslexia

Dyslexia is a relatively common learning disability, but the type of mistakes made can vary widely depending on the type of reading path that is damaged. We can find different types of dyslexia and different ways to classify them but as the dual-read pathway model is one of the most accepted, the most commonly used typologies are as follows.

1. Phonological dyslexia

In this type of dyslexia, people have damage on the phonological path, being able to access reading only visually. In this way, the reader is unable to correctly associate the written word with its spoken equivalent, reading only from the visual form of the word.

This is why in this type of dyslexia they often make a lot of mistakes when reading pseudo-words (Invented words), because they tend to associate words of which they know the form with others. It is also common for them to make declensions of the word and often fail in function words (eg prepositions).

2. Superficial dyslexia

In superficial dyslexia, the problem with reading mainly arises in reading irregular words. The path to damaged reading would be the lexicon, having to focus on the sounds and phonemes of the word to be read.

In this case, those who suffer from this type of dyslexia they have trouble reading the words in the world, Having difficulty and time associating letter and sound. They often make mistakes in words that sound the same, and a high level of slowness in reading and hesitation is common, making multiple attempts to find the right word.

3. Profound dyslexia

Profound dyslexia can be understood by considering that the phonological pathway and part of the lexicon are not functioning properly. The person reads through the visual, but also being this road damaged, the problems are much larger, may suffer semantic type errors alongside others typical of the other two types of dyslexia.

Therapeutic and educational recommendations

Dyslexia is a problem that affects a large number of people, and detecting and managing it correctly can be crucial in facilitating an individual’s regulatory development and adaptation to society.

After diagnosis, it is carried out with the help of procedures and batteries standardized and popular assessment such as TALE or PROLEC in schools and in counseling and psychoeducational care teams, the start of treatment should be started as soon as possible in order to avoid complications and facilitate development.

The treatment to be carried out will depend on the skills of the patient, having to adapt the strategy to be applied according to the possibilities of each case. As a first step, it will be necessary to identify the most problematic areas, in order to work slowly and as it improves, introduce more complicated elements.

Literacy and motivation training

A key part of the treatment is do literacy, increase the level of phonological awareness of the subject little by little at the same time as in a guided way the time devoted to reading aloud is gradually increased (and if this can come from attractive texts and adapted to dyslexic people).

It is also very useful use multisensory methods to relate information from different senses, Strengthen the ability to link vision and hearing.

It is essential that the treatment contains elements that help to motivate the child (or the adult, if he has not been diagnosed before) and to increase his confidence, and the collaboration of parents and teachers is essential to that reading does not become torture. It is recommended to read them at home so that they see the reading as something pleasant and positive. Criticism of their performance should be avoided as much as possibleAs it is common for them to become insecure and avoid reading because of it.

Bibliographical references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Frith, U. (1999). Paradoxes in the definition of dyslexia. Dyslexia, 5, 192-214.
  • Roca, E .; Carmona, J .; Boix, C .; Colomé, R .; Lopez, A .; Sanguinetti, A .; Car, M .; Without, A. (Coord.). (2010). Learning in childhood and adolescence: keys to avoiding school failure. Esplugues de Llobregat: Sant Joan de Deu Hospital.

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