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What is Dyslexia?

What does print look like to people with Dyslexia?  Is it really that “he sees things backwards?” For some, the spaces between words do not exist and words seem to meld together, while others see the spaces but the letters of each word are jumbled, or the end of one word is within the beginning of the next and the spaces occur within the words.
The visual aspects of dyslexia are often unrecognized or go untreated.  A new bill signed into law in New Jersey may help bridge that gap.  This legislation highlights that dyslexia is not a problem of difficulty linking a letter with the sound that it makes, and that it is not a language problem.  The new legislation states that Dyslexia or other reading disabilities include a wide variety of factors including difficulty in acquiring language skills, inability to comprehend oral or written language.  Individuals may have difficulty in naming letters, recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, and blending sounds when speaking and reading words.  It also includes difficulty recognizing and remembering sight words, consistent transposition of numbers, letter reversals, and substitutions.
There are many that still insist that dyslexia is a phonological problem, and that vision does not play a significant role.  Phonological means the systematic organization of sounds in languages. The tide is turning slowly but steadily.  Dyslexia, at its core, is a problem in visual processing.  The ability to read depends on someone’s ability to make sense of complex visual stimuli and then link that to word understanding.  In order to read we must not only see the letters, but also link them into words.  Reading places a substantial burden on the visual system.  Disorders of visual processing or visual attention may substantially disrupt reading.
Many people still think that Dyslexia means getting words backwards; ‘was’ would be ‘saw’. That implies that dyslexia is a problem in the way words are seen.  Dyslexia is much more complex than that.  It is more profound than reversing words.  If dyslexia is a language based problem, why then don’t individuals with dyslexia speak saying “was” when they mean “saw”?
Some forms of dyslexia do present primarily a difficulty in pronunciation (dysphonesia) but there are individuals with dyslexia that are more visual in nature (dyseidesia).   Visual deficits in efficiency and processing can make it difficult to read.
The good news is that something can be done that can treat the underlying problem rather than merely compensate for it.  Compensation means working around the problem rather than addressing it.  When the visual component of the dyslexia is addressed with Vision Therapy, it reduces the visual demand and enables the individual to allocate their energy to other areas.  This then frees the individual to be more self-sufficient and independent.   Vision Therapy does not take away the Dyslexia but rather addresses the underlying vision component.
Dr. Roth, OD, FCOVD, is Board Certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy.  Family Eye Care is a full scope practice, treating patients of all ages for standard care and eye disease.  A major portion of the practice is devoted to treating individuals who have vision problems that impact learning. Dr. Roth Lic#  4635 OM# 27OM0005600. Family Eye Care is located in Old Bridge.  1-732-679-2020.