How many people in the United States are Dyslexic?

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    Most people know dyslexia is one of the most prevalent reading disorders, but the numbers might be crazier than you think.

    Dyslexia is the most prevalent language-based learning disability, and it is on the rise. It is described as having problems with reading comprehension. 

    Dyslexics have trouble distinguishing and using phonemes, the smallest units of speech sound that convey a unique meaning. It is also characterized by difficulty processing words phonetically, processing symbolism and letters that represent sound variation, obstacles with numbers, sound decoding, and the ability to read unfamiliar words by using letter-sound knowledge, spelling patterns, and syllables. 

    The condition impacts one’s ability to read, speak, spell, and learn languages. Over 80% of dyslexics also struggle with organization, planning, prioritizing, staying focused amid distractions, and being punctual.

    Creativity is usually very high in dyslexic people who rely more on the right side of the brain, which is visually focused and handles images, nonverbal information, and spatial relationships better than words. There are different severities of the disorder that affects men and women at about 60/40 prevalence. However, boys are more often sent for evaluation.

    In the U.S., between 5% and 15%, or about 15–45 million Americans, have dyslexia, with 2 million never receiving a proper diagnosis. About 20% of kids going to school in the United States have dyslexia.

    Common causes of dyslexia

    Even though it is the most common learning disability, there is still continual research to decipher the reasons people develop reading difficulties. Dyslexia usually presents at birth but has a multifactorial etiology that includes:

    Genetics

    Children are twice as likely or at greater risk of being dyslexic if one parent has the condition. If both parents have dyslexia, their child has an absolute chance of having the disorder. 

    Recent studies using neuroimaging techniques, like magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), have shown a correlation between both functional and anatomical differences in the language centers of the brain of those with learning disorders. 

    Abnormal cell formations have also been reported, and several genes have been associated with dyslexia. Some with disabilities show less electrical activity in the parts of the brain’s left hemisphere that affects reading: the inferior parietal lobule, the middle and ventral temporal cortex, and the inferior frontal gyrus.

    Environment

    Environment plays a significant role in learning and memory, and epigenetic modifications likely play an essential role in reading ability. Factors such as parental education and the quality of education have a huge impact on one’s ability to learn. That could explain why dyslexia cases are increasing in public schools, where swelling class size, snowballing demand, and funding decreases result in less one-on-one time a teacher will spend with a student who may be struggling.

    • Developmental Dyslexia is genetic and/or present at birth and can be primary or secondary. More common in boys, it typically diminishes with maturity.
    • Primary Dyslexia is genetically inherited.
    • Secondary Dyslexia is the result of complications during pregnancy or delivery.
    • Acquired Dyslexia is caused by trauma, injury, or disease that affects the brain’s centers responsible for processing language. Adults with brain injury, stroke, or dementia may develop symptoms of what is referred to as trauma dyslexia. High stress or emotional damage at a very young age can also be a trigger.

    Learning and reading challenges for the disabled

    People with dyslexia face challenges with word recognition and phonemic awareness. It can be observed at any stage of life, each bringing its own trials.

    Preschool children

    • Delayed speech development
    • Difficulty memorizing letters and colors
    • Using the wrong words, reversing sounds, or exhibiting confusion between words that sound similar 

    Elementary school and middle school children

    • Difficulty with reading fluency, writing, processing information, and memorizing in sequential order
    • Problems pronouncing novel words or decoding words with similar sounds
    • Avoiding tasks that involve reading skills 

    Teen and adults

    • Struggle with spelling, learning a new language, or poor handwriting
    • Mispronouncing words, issues memorizing text or calculating math
    • Difficulty conveying a story
    • Diminished self-esteem 

    If a child is struggling to read, they should be evaluated for dyslexia by a professional to check for background history, intelligence, and language skills. It is possible and beneficial to recognize potential reading problems in children quite early. 

    Tests such as Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR) assess the precursors of reading development to measure language skills and phonological awareness. Screenings are often performed in Kindergarten and at the beginning of first grade to monitor the standards for average achievement compared to other young learners. Intervention planning develops a focused remedial curriculum. 

    Dyslexic students can look into Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), specifically tailored instruction for students who require academic assistance based on unique needs, test results, and their learning profile. An IEP also offers accommodations such as Assistive Technology to help those who have fallen behind catch up to grade level and bridge the literacy gap.

    IDA and other helpful resources for dyslexia and other learning disabilities

    IDA

    The International Dyslexia Association, Inc., or IDA, founded in the 1920s, is the oldest nonprofit charity organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia. They operate to provide advocacy, information, and special education services to professionals, individuals, and families impacted by dyslexia and other related learning differences. They continue to conduct pioneering studies in the field of reading research and multisensory teaching to train instructors and publish instructional materials.

    Assistive technology

    The understanding of dyslexia boomed in the 1990s after the availability of advanced machinery allowed scientists to observe the brain and provide information about how a person reads, speaks, or processes language. Modern hardware and software are designed to make life easier for people with dyslexia who can better form understanding using alternative problem-solving methods. Since the best way for those with dyslexia to learn may be to listen, assistive technology is increasingly helpful with literacy. 

    Computer-based learning programs sharpen reading, writing, typing, and numeracy skills. Information and data managers improve task administration by planning and organizing schedules and calendar events. These managers are available as apps that can be utilized on mobile devices or installed on a PC desktop.

    • Audiobooks and text-to-speech applications, like those available on Speechify, are essential accessibility tools to encourage more effective learning by transforming written words into vocalized speech.
    • Speech recognition software allows users to dictate or talk to a computer that uses software to convert this to text.  
    • Mind mapping software allows dyslexics to plan their work more effectively by creating diagrams and flowcharts of ideas.
    • Scanning software and smarts pens recreate notes in digital form and let users store, listen and track text being written.
    • Spell checkers and proofreading software automatically make corrections to written communications.
    • Tablets and smartphones help individuals with time management. 

    Learning Ally  

    Learning Ally is a nonprofit special education organization that supplies innovative and integrated tools based on brain science and research to help educators drive sustainable change in literacy and student achievement. Their goal is to transform the lives of dyslexic students from Pre-K through high school to reach their full potential with proven solutions. 

    The College Success Program provides resources and support to navigate a successful collegiate journey and prepare for the future. Learning Ally combines early assessment, intervention, interactive professional development, and teaching methods to identify and prevent learning issues, so readers become independent, engaged learners who achieve socially, emotionally, and academically.

    FAQs

    Do dyslexics have above-average intelligence?

    Like the general population, people with dyslexia can have a range of intellectual abilities despite their reading challenges.

    What are the 4 types of dyslexia?

    1. Phonological dyslexia: (dysphonetic or auditory dyslexia), this type is noted as having difficulty processing the sounds of the individual letters and syllables and lacking the ability to match them with the written forms.
    2. Surface dyslexia: (dyseidetic or visual dyslexia), this type is marked by difficulty with visual processing in the brain, making it challenging to learn, memorize, and recognize whole words.
    3. Rapid naming deficit presents with struggles to name a letter, number, color, or object quickly and spontaneously.
    4. Double deficit dyslexia shows deficits in both the phonological process and naming speed.

    What is the most common co-occurring condition with dyslexia?

    • Dysgraphia involves difficulties with writing or typing and other fine motor skills, frequently due to problems with hand-eye coordination; it hinders direction and sequence-oriented processes, for example, tying knots or performing repetitive tasks.
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder typically observed and first diagnosed in childhood. It is characterized by problems with hyperactivity, sustaining attention, or acting impulsively. Dyslexia and ADHD are commonly linked with 15–24% of people with dyslexia having ADHD, and up to 35% of people with ADHD have dyslexia.
    • Left-right disorder, sometimes referred to as directional dyslexia, is the inability to tell one’s left side from their right.
    • Dyscalculia, also called number or math dyslexia, is the impairment of the ability to execute calculations, problem-solving and reasoning, learn number-related concepts, and perform basic math skills. 
    • Auditory processing disorder is the inability to process heard information, leading to problems with auditory memory and sequencing.

    Can you outgrow dyslexia?

    No, dyslexia does not go away. However, MRI studies do show that the brain is neuroplastic and can change. So early intervention, reading instruction, and support can greatly ease the learning difficulties that accompany the disorder.

    Facts about Dyslexia

    • NASA employs a workforce where over 50% of the people are dyslexic.
    • The inability to tie shoe laces properly, complications reading an analog clock, and frequent childhood ear infections are all predictors of dyslexia.
    • Dyslexics read better with certain fonts, writing styles, and media.
    • The term dyslexia is derived by combining the Greek word for difficult dys, with lexis, meaning language.
    • Dyslexia was originally called reading blindness.
    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

    Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify

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