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Causes, symptoms and treatments of dyslexia

Dyslexia (讀寫障礙), previously called “word blindness”is a learning disorder pertaining to problems with reading, writing and spelling. Although patients have normal intelligence and regular learning experience, they have great difficulty recognising words and have problems with reading comprehension and writing. Dyslexia involves genetic factors, and more males than females suffer from it. However, related learning conditions can be somewhat improved with counselling or training. 

Causes of dyslexia  

The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, however, studies have shown that: 
  • Atypical development of brain structure and functioning:  Those at risk for dyslexia are shown to have reduced gray matter and cortical thickness, especially of the areas surrounding the perisylvian cortex at junctions of the parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes (main areas involved in language and reading in the brain)Genetic factors: At least a quarter of the parents of children with dyslexia also have dyslexia themselves 
  •  Common Risk Factors for Dyslexia: 
  • Family history 
  • Preterm birth or low birth weight of the baby 
  • Exposure to alcohol or drugs such as nicotine during pregnancy 
  • Infection that alters the development of the fetal brain 

Dyslexia symptoms 

On the surface, children with dyslexia are no different from ordinary children, but when you carefully observe their behavior, performance and learning ability, you may find the following problems: 

  • Speaking ability is better than writing ability 
  • Easily forget words learned 
  • Often misspells words 
  • Writing speed is slow 
  • Mixing-up words 
  • Easily gets tired and have difficulty concentrating on reading and writing homework 
  • Difficulty in reading comprehension 
  • Language development is delayed 
  • Weak organisational skills 


How to diagnose dyslexia  

Dyslexia assessment has different standards in different countries and is most often defined in the native language. In Hong Kong, primary or secondary teachers who are worried about students having literacy problems can use: 

  • Hong Kong Dyslexia Test for Primary School Students (Third Edition) or 
  • Dyslexia Test for Junior Secondary School Students in Hong Kong (Second Edition) 

After teacher's screen students for dyslexia, they can refer the case to an educational psychologist or clinical psychologist for further diagnosis and consultation based on the results. Diagnosis is usually made only after the student is 6 years old or above. 


Dyslexia treatments  

Most treatments for dyslexia rely on cognitive behavioural training, but there are few training intervention studies for Chinese dyslexia. Evidence-based practices specifically for Chinese dyslexic children include: 

  • Voice training: Strengthen the cognition of phonetics in Chinese and Chinese characters, such as using phonetic and phonetic correspondence rules in phonograms to improve students’ accuracy in reading words. 
  • Multi-sensory training: Use students' vision, hearing, kinesthetic sense and touch in teaching activities to involve all senses of the body. For example, adding multi-sensory elements to traditional silent reading activities can improve word reading fluency and reading comprehension performance of dyslexic students. 
  • Fluency training: Using the Reading Acceleration Program (RAP) computer program, the program will display letters, words or Chinese characters on the screen. The speed can be adjusted to help speed up readers' reading speed. 
  • Cognitive training: Aimed at improving other cognitive abilities besides reading and language, such as visual sequence processing training, which may improve the word recognition fluency of children with dyslexia. 


How to prevent dyslexia 

The cause of dyslexia is mainly due to variant congenital  brain development affecting structure and function, and there is no particular prevention method. However, knowledge of the risk factors can can be of great help to mitigate the possibility of a child having dyslexia. 


OT&P Advice 

Dyslexia is a learning disability pertaining to problems with reading, writing and spelling. Patients have normal intelligence and regular learning experience but have great difficulty recognising words and problems with reading comprehension and writing. However, the relevant learning situation can be improved with counselling or training. Feel free to book a consultation with our team of psychologists. 

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.

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