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Posted on 10-17-2017

October is dyslexia month

October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month 

We are proud to spread the word that October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Individuals with dyslexia are highly intelligent and gifted.  Several historic figures including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci are believed to have been dyslexics.  Our modern-day Heroes of Dyslexia include Gavin Newsom-politician, Henry Winkler-actor/ author, and Whoopi Goldberg-actress, Steven Spielberg-director, Justin Timberlake-singer, Cher-actress/singer, Tim Tebow-NFL quarterback, and Jamie Oliver-chef, and Richard Branson-visionary, just to name a few.  Like many other people with dyslexia, along with numerous strengths, they have challenges with reading, spelling, math, and organization.

Dyslexia, Reading and Learning Disabilities

Reading is the complex process of extracting meaning (understanding words and language) from abstract written symbols (letters and numbers).  To read, a child must understand the connections between the sounds of spoken language and the letters that appear in a book or onscreen (decoding).  Adults may view reading as a simple automatic skill, but for most children, learning to read is a difficult process that requires years of active teaching.

Initially, difficulty learning to read occurs in nearly 40% of US students.  Different factors can contribute including speech problems, lack of exposure to reading, inadequate instruction, insufficient practice or a true “reading disability” (educational term) or a “reading disorder” (medical term) called dyslexia.

A learning disability is a lifelong condition affecting the way the brain processes information.  It results from a difference in the way a person’s brain is “wired” and impairs the ability to manage incoming and outgoing information.  Learning disabilities are more than just learning differences;  they are true obstacles to the learning process. Approximately 20% of the US population has some degree of learning disability.  Over 2 million public school students have been identified as having a learning disability and are eligible to receive assistance.

The terms “learning disability” or Specific Learning Disability” are generic terms that include: dyslexia (reading disability), dysgraphia (writing disability) and dyscalculia (math disability).  Because of the rights and entitlements granted under current federal education laws, it is important that parents and teachers and physicians use the term “Specific Learning Disability” as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to obtain appropriate and special education and services.

Dyslexics have trouble sounding out words (decoding) and have inaccurate word recognition.  These challenges can result in problems with reading fluency, comprehension, spelling and writing.  This typically causes trouble with accurate word recognition, difficulty decoding words (figuring out the sounds that letters make and how they combine to become words and sentences) and struggles with spelling.  Dyslexics have a phonologic deficit which results in difficulty identifying the individual speech sounds within words.  It is often unexpected in children who otherwise possess the intelligence, motivation, and education necessary for accurate and fluent reading. 

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that is neurologic in origin, meaning it is physically located in the brain. Although our brains were originally designed for speaking, not reading, through experience with language, every child must adapt and “rewire” existing areas to develop the ability to read. Typical readers have characteristic brain activation pathways that are different than in dyslexic brains.  These pathways are slower and do not process information as fast as those in a typical reader.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of dyslexia
  • Fetal exposure to drugs or alcohol
  • Birth problems-prematurity or low birth weight
  • Neurologic problems
  • Exposure to toxins, like lead
  • Severe head injuries
  • Other chronic health problems

Signs of Possible Dyslexia


  • Developmental delays
  • Hearing, language, speech problems
  • Difficulty learning names of colors, shapes, letters and  numbers
  • Difficulty with rhymes
  • Mispronouncing or mixing-up words
  • Searching for words
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Difficulty learning left from right
  • Difficulty telling time

Early Elementary School

  • Difficulty learning the names of letters
  • Trouble connecting letters to their sounds
  • Confusing or substituting words
  • Making consistent errors
  • Using the pictures to “read” the book
  • Not reading at expected grade level
  • Slow reading, dislike of reading
  • Reversals of letters or words after 2nd grade
  • Trouble with reading comprehension
  • Frustration with schoolwork and homework
  • Reluctance to go to school
  • Problems with attention

In Older Students

  • Reading below grade level
  • Slow reading
  • Numerous reading errors
  • Avoidance of reading-especially out loud
  • Persistent difficulty decoding/sounding out new words
  • Persistent difficulty with sight word recognition
  • Difficulty understanding prefixes, suffixes & root words
  • Difficulty with no literal language-jokes, idioms, poetry, proverbs, slang
  • Trouble with reading comprehension
  • Poor or erratic spelling
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Poor recall of facts
  • Trouble with math, especially word problems
  • Difficulty with writing
  • Difficulty with Planning, organizing and time management
  • Difficulty telling time

These are only signs and symptoms of, not proof of, dyslexia.  If your child has any of these signs, talk with your teacher, pediatrician, and/or pediatric ophthalmologist.  The only way to diagnose dyslexia is through appropriate comprehensive testing.

Evaluations for Dyslexia

Evaluations for dyslexia should be conducted by trained specialists, either at school or independently.  Schools generally perform a psychoeducational evaluation, which is a series of tests performed to gain a better understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and the severity of the learning disability.  It focuses on the demands of the classroom.  It will determine eligibility for special education and support programs, and produce recommendations for specific interventions. This evaluation rarely makes diagnoses.

A neuropsychological assessment is more comprehensive and focusses on educational issues, as well as a broader assessment of brain function.  It can assess a child’s approach to tasks, look at how a person thinks and learns in order to identify an underlying cause of the disorder, make diagnoses, and create a roadmap to develop individualized interventions. 

You should receive a written report and have a discussion regarding the findings in preparation for using the information to provide a “road map” on which evidence based interventions and accommodations are based.  Read the report carefully and ask questions!  This information will be used to make a 504 Plan (for private schools) or an Individual Education Plan or IEP (for public schools).
If your child has signs or symptoms of dyslexia, part of the complete evaluation should include both hearing and vision exams.   Call today at 650-437-8315 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kim Cooper. 

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