People often confuse dyslexia and autism for one another or conflate them for their similarities. But they are two completely different disorders that affect the brains of people in different ways. While dyslexia is a learning difficulty, autism is a developmental disorder.
What is dyslexia?
Developmental dyslexia, or simply dyslexia, is a learning difficulty that affects the processes in the brain related to reading and writing.
Dyslexia is categorized as a “specific learning disorder” by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
This condition doesn’t only affect reading and writing skills. People affected by it may also have difficulties remembering and processing the information they hear or see. People with dyslexia may also have other learning difficulties like dyscalculia and dysgraphia.
As a result, the condition can affect the person’s learning and literacy acquisition skills.
Dyslexia also often impacts the organizational skills of an individual.
Some scientists believe dyslexia is a spectrum of conditions affecting similar areas in the cortex.
However, having a learning difference like dyslexia comes with additional strengths. For example, reasoning, creativity, and visual skills in dyslexic people are often higher than in people without dyslexia.
This learning disorder’s characteristic symptoms include phonological awareness difficulties, poor verbal memory, and processing speed.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication. People with ASD also have restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests.
Autistic people learn, pay attention, and move differently. Note that people without autism may show these symptoms as well. But those who have an autistic disability can have a tough time living with these characteristics.
The high-functioning form of autism is called Asperger syndrome. Aspergers refers to people with communication difficulties whose language skills aren’t impaired.
Some children with autism symptoms may not keep eye contact, use few gestures, line up toys and get upset when someone changes their order, etc. Autistic children also often develop hyperlexia, which is when they learn to read at a young age without anyone teaching them.
Most people with ASD also have other impairments like delayed movement and language skills, seizure or epilepsy disorder, impulsive behavior, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, etc.
The age of diagnosis of autism is around three years. For dyslexia, the diagnosis time is around six years.
Scientists still don’t know whether ASD features abnormalities in the structure or function of the brain.
People with autism can develop dyslexia at the same rate as neurotypical persons.
The differences between dyslexia and autism
- Autism is a developmental disorder, and dyslexia is a learning disability
- The impact of autism is on social skills, cognition, and movement
- Autism mainly impairs social communication, while dyslexia impairs reading comprehension
- Reading and writing comprehension difficulties are more common in people with dyslexia
- Variances in severity and type for autism, while dyslexia has milder symptoms
- Sensory processing abilities are more often found in people with dyslexia
- Communication difficulties are found in people with autism
Is there a connection between autism and dyslexia?
Given that autism spectrum disorder causes language impairments, this developmental difficulty is often linked to dyslexia. Parents with autistic children often wonder whether all symptoms their child has are related to autism or another disorder.
Autism can be comorbid to other neurodevelopmental disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, dyspraxia, schizophrenia, and others.
Many autistics also have an additional neurodevelopmental disorder. However, neuroscience and psychiatry have yet to explore the link between these conditions.
Pediatricians and behavior therapists can screen children for co-occurring conditions. There is a high prevalence of comorbidities and coexisting conditions in autistic children and adolescents. But up to this day, there is limited research on the connection between autism and dyslexia. If a child with dyslexia also shows symptoms of autism, it’s almost impossible to determine which condition is responsible for the symptoms.
People with autism and dyslexia require a specific learning approach to help them overcome their learning challenges.
Introducing Speechify – A reading tool for both conditions
Given that autism and dyslexia are long-term conditions that can’t be treated with medicine, special compensatory learning techniques can help people affected by them.
Assistive technology tools make people with learning differences and disorders more focused on their task, contributes to higher levels of mental health by eliminating frustrations, and makes them more productive.
Dyslexic students who have trouble decoding or another learning disability can rely on tools like Speechify to turn any written text into an audio file. Speechify is a text to speech software that uses assistive and OCR technology to convert PDFs, written documents, books (both printed and digital), and e-mails into voice recordings.
Speechify has helped millions of people with dyslexia be more productive in school and work. If you’d like to try this feature, you can do so for free today.
Can dyslexia be mistaken for autism?
Many people mistake dyslexia for autism, but these are two different conditions affecting different brain parts.
Can you be autistic and dyslexic at the same time?
Yes, many autistic people also have dyslexia. However, the correlation between the two conditions is still unclear, and more scientific research is needed to understand their links.
Does having dyslexia count as being on the spectrum?
Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder that consists of different neuropsychological dysfunctions. Two dyslexic children can have different reading and word processing disorders.
What are some common signs of autism?
Children with autism may not respond to their names, avoid eye contact, or not smile when you smile at them. Adults may have difficulty making close friends, struggle to regulate and express emotions, or show extreme interest in narrow topics.
Is dyslexia a social issue?
Dyslexia isn’t a social issue per se. With early intervention and a proper learning approach in school, the effects on the social lives of people with dyslexia can be minimal.