The most common type of learning disorder evaluation we complete for academic accommodations are dyslexia evaluations.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder in reading.  Individuals with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently. They might also have trouble with reading comprehension, spelling, and writing.

Do any of these situations found familiar?

  • You read slowly
  • You had trouble learning how to read in school
  • You must read something two or three times before it makes sense
  • You omit or mix up letters when you are reading or writing
  • You make lots of spelling mistakes
  • You have difficulty pronouncing multi-syllable words when you are reading
  • You read magazines and short articles rather than long books
  • You avoid working on projects that require a lot of reading

These are the common types of problems that individuals with dyslexia have.

If you have any of these problems, then reading and writing for assignments and tests have likely been difficult for you.

That’s where we come in.  We’re here to help you perform at your maximum potential by helping you figure out if you have dyslexia and provide recommendations to help you get academic accommodations.

The goal of this blog post is to explain the signs of dyslexia, identify how we evaluate for dyslexia, and explain how academic accommodations can help you perform at your true potential.

How Many People Have Dyslexia?

Many students panic when they hear that they have dyslexia.  The reality is that dyslexia is more common than people think it is.

In the general population, anywhere from 15-20% (around 30 million people in the United States) have some signs of dyslexia.  That’s 1 out of every 5 students!

Around 7-8% of the population has a diagnosable form of dyslexia.

Not all of them require special education classes or academic accommodations.

In general, 70 to 80% of individuals with poor reading skills are likely dyslexic.

Dyslexia accounts for around 80% of learning disorder diagnoses.  It’s the most common condition that students have accommodations for.

Dyslexia tends to run in families so parents with dyslexia are more likely to have children with dyslexia.

What Are the Misconceptions about Dyslexia?

You’ve probably heard a lot of myths regarding dyslexia.  Let’s help clear up the facts from fiction.

What Are the Signs of Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability in reading that causes problems in the following areas:

  • Reading fluency
  • Reading accuracy
  • Reading comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Writing

Since individuals with dyslexia struggle in these various areas, they often avoid reading so they don’t learn as much as their peers.

If they don’t read in school and don’t have accommodations to help them learn, then they will likely fall behind in their education.

The most important thing to remember is that dyslexia does not cause any impairments in intelligence!

Individuals with dyslexia are just as smart as their peers and they often go onto having very successful careers.  They just have an impairment in reading!

Dyslexia is not a black and white disorder.  This means that it impacts individuals in varying degrees.  Two people can have the same dyslexia diagnosis, but the level of severity can be different.

What most people don’t know is that there are 4 types of dyslexia:

  1. Phonological Dyslexia
  2. Surface Dyslexia
  3. Mixed Dyslexia
  4. Deep Dyslexia

What is Phonological Dyslexia?

Phonological Dyslexia is the most common form of dyslexia, making up around 66% of all dyslexia diagnoses.

Phonological processing problems are the main cause of phonological dyslexia.

Phonological processing refers to the ability to analyze speech or spoken language, from identifying individual words, to word parts or syllables, and then into the smallest parts called phonemes.

Phonemes are the speech sounds that make up the words in written and spoken language.

Individuals with phonological dyslexia have difficulty reading (decoding phonemes) and spelling using phonemes (encoding phonemes).

Since they have difficulty with phonological processing, they resort to visual processing to read words.  This means that they don’t rely on letter to letter-sound conversion.  Instead, they rely on visually recognizing the whole word when they are reading.

For example, look at the following words that have irregular spellings:

  • Enough
  • Listen
  • School
  • Debt
  • Sword

The first time you ever saw these words, odds are you sounded them out.  You need to have good phonological awareness to understand that the “ch” in “school” is a hard “ch” which sounds more like a “k” rather than a soft “ch”.

Individuals with dyslexia have a hard time sounding out, reading, and spelling irregular words with unusual phonetic structure.

For example, they might spell “debt” as “det”, “listen” as “lisen”, “enough” as “enof”, or school as “skul”.

Once they can learn what the word sounds like or see the correct spelling, they can use their visual system to recognize words and read them or spell them correctly.

What is Surface Dyslexia?

Surface dyslexia makes up 14% of all dyslexia cases.  It is sometimes referred to as visual form dyslexia or dyseidetic dyslexia and is in many ways the exact opposite of phonological dyslexia.

Individuals with surface dyslexia have difficulty visualizing and recognizing words so their reading does not sound automatic.

We read some words by sight because they can’t be pronounced using the normal rules of pronunciation. We also read many regular words by sight after we see them enough times and become fluent readers.

This means that they over-rely on sounding out words rather than recognizing a whole word and knowing exactly what it is.

They tend to break words down into their individual phonemes (speech sounds) and read very slowly.  They even make errors on words they’ve seen before.

They can sound out the phonetic structures of words but have a hard time reading irregular sounding words.  This is because they rely too much on sounding out words rather than visually recognizing the word and remembering how it’s pronounced.

Here are a couple of examples of how an individual with surface dyslexia might read a word:

  • “Island” is read as “izland”
  • “grind” is read as “grinned”
  • “begin” is read as “beggin”
  • “once” is read as “ohnce”

When they have to spell a word, they’ll rely too much on the phonetic structure of the word.  For example, they would write “they” as “thay”.

What is Mixed Dyslexia?

Mixed dyslexia has components from phonological dyslexia and surface dyslexia.  Individuals with mixed dyslexia have a severe impairment in reading because they have both phonological and visual deficits.

Here are some examples of how an individual with mixed dyslexia might read and/or spell words:

  • “advice” is read as “exvices”
  • “correct” is read as “corexs”
  • “violin” is read as “vilen”
  • “museum” is read as “musune”
  • “possession” is read as “persessive”
  • “material” is read as “mitear”

What is Deep Dyslexia?

Deep dyslexia is an acquired reading disorder meaning that you are not born with it.  Individuals develop deep dyslexia after a stroke or other brain injury.

Deep dyslexia is a rare form of reading comprehension disorder where individuals also have difficulty with reading words with abstract meanings.

They can read concrete words where they can easily encode the word visually and verbally.

For example, they’ll be able to read concrete words like “chair” or “table” but will have difficulty reading abstract words like “beauty” or “courage”.

The hallmark sign of deep dyslexia is semantic errors.  Here are a couple of examples of semantic errors.

  • “gate” is read as “fence”
  • “dinner” is read as “food”
  • “occasion” is read as “even”
  • “cemetery” is read as “burial”
  • “watch” is read as “clock”

Individuals with deep dyslexia also have the following types of errors:

  • Visual errors (e.g. “house” is read as “horse”).
  • Derivational errors (e.g. mountain is read as mountainous).
  • Phonological errors (e.g. they are unable to use letter-sound relationships to decode a word. They’ll read “debt” as “de-bt”).
  • Difficulty reading function words (e.g. as, the, so)
  • Difficulty reading words that they don’t see frequently

How Do You Evaluate for Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a condition that must be formally evaluated using neuropsychological tests.  These aren’t “pass” or “fail” tests and you can’t study for them either.

An individual’s scores in different areas of reading like basic reading skills, reading comprehension, spelling are compared to other individuals that are either the same age or in the same grade.

The goal of neuropsychological testing for dyslexia is to find out the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in reading.

Here is an overview of the different areas that a thorough evaluation will look at:

  • Phonological Awareness: An individual’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of their oral language.
  • Phonological or Language-Based Memory: Ability to recall sounds, syllables, words.
  • Rapid Automatic Naming: Speed of naming objects, colors, digits, or letters.
  • Receptive Vocabulary: Understanding of words that they hear.
  • Phonics Skills: Understanding of the symbol (letter) to the sound(s) relationship, either individually or in combination with other letters.
  • Decoding: Ability to use symbol-sound associations to pronounce and read words.
  • Oral Reading Fluency: Ability to read words and paragraphs accurately, at a story-telling pace to support comprehension.
  • Spelling
  • Writing sentences and paragraphs

By looking at these different areas, we can determine not only if the individual has dyslexia, but we can also figure out what aspects of reading they are struggling in.

This is important when we get to the next step: treatment and accommodations.

How is Dyslexia Treated?

Dyslexia is a neurological condition and there is no cure.  If you are born with dyslexia, then you will always have dyslexia.

The good news is that there are treatments and accommodations that can help you become a better reader.

We’ve evaluated law students, medical students, and dental students with dyslexia that went on to become successful lawyers, doctors, and dentists.

Many reading programs for students with dyslexia are based on the Orton Gillingham approach.

We’re not going to get into all the details of this treatment modality.  You can learn more about Orton Gillingham by clicking this link.

We primarily work with adults or adolescents who are very bright but have specific difficulties in reading. They are either applying to college, in college, in graduate school, or they are in school and are about to take some sort of licensing test (e.g. USMLE, California BAR Exam).

In these cases, students would benefit the most from academic accommodations. Here are some examples of academic accommodations that student can get.

  • Access to audiobooks through resources like Learning Ally.
  • Access to text-to-speech software using a device like the Kurzweil 3000.
  • Access to other types of assistive technologies.
  • Access to large print materials if they also have visual problems.
  • Access to a notetaker during lectures to take notes for them.
  • Extra time on tests and assignments that require reading comprehension or writing
  • Ability to use a laptop and type out paragraphs on tests rather than handwrite them
  • Being given examinations and tests in an auditory or oral format rather than having to write down their answers.

You can read more about the different types of academic accommodations that are available according to the guidelines established by the Americans With Disabilities Act by clicking this link.

Conclusion

The most common type of learning disorder evaluation we complete for academic accommodations are dyslexia evaluations.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder in reading.  Individuals with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently. They might also have trouble with reading comprehension, spelling, and writing.

There are four types of Dyslexia:

  1. Phonological Dyslexia
  2. Surface Dyslexia
  3. Mixed Dyslexia
  4. Deep Dyslexia

There is no cure for dyslexia, but it is very treatable through interventions like the Orton Gillingham approach.

Under the American’s with Disabilities Act, you are also entitled to academic accommodations.

We specialize in conducting comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations for high school and college students.

Our evaluation can help you get accommodations for dyslexia on standardized tests and licensing exams like the  SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, USMLE, and California BAR exam.

Do you have any questions?

Schedule your free 20 minute phone consultation today!

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