What is a learning disability?
Why is my child struggling in school?
School reports can indicate that a student is falling behind in reading skills but may not indicate whether this reading problem is due to a language-processing disorder, the cause of dyslexia. Others call dyslexia a reading disorder, but we prefer to call it disruption because the problem may be correctable.
See What is dyslexia, exactly? >
See corrective Coral Method® >
What is a learning disability?
Learning disability (LD) is a disorder that includes dyslexia, perceptual disabilities, brain injury, and developmental aphasia. LD is also referred to as learning differences and learning disorders.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contains a definition of specific learning disability, which encompasses these conditions.1 See IDEA Regulations, Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities, US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
What is a reading disorder or disability?
A person with a reading disorder has difficulty with part of the reading process, such as recognizing familiar words. Reading disorders or disabilities may also be called dyslexia. These disorders may be caused by the way the brain processes language.
Reading disorders are different from intellectual and developmental disorders. That is, dyslexia is not a sign of lower intelligence or developmental delay.2 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. (2014). What are reading disorders? Retrieved from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/reading/conditioninfo/pages/disorders.aspx Reading disorders often appear in conjunction with writing difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).3 Bock, R. (2013). Reading difficulty and disability. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. Retrieved from http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=114 The Dysolve® Program considers the interrelationships of these conditions as they relate to language processing for each learner.
What is a language disorder or disability?
A person with a language disorder may show difficulty conveying meaning (expressive language disorder), understanding others (receptive language disorder), or both (mixed receptive-expressive language disorder).4 Kaneshiro, N. K. (2014). Language disorder – children. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001545.htm
Language disorders are different from delayed language, which still follows the typical path of development. Children with language disorders do not develop speech and language in the typical way. They may also have reading disorders or dyslexia.
Is dyslexia the same as language-based learning disability?
Why are there so many terms?
People with language-based learning disabilities face difficulty with age-appropriate language tasks. One of these tasks is reading. Language-based LDs often include dyslexia, which is caused by language-processing difficulties. The two terms are often used interchangeably because the majority of people with LD have dyslexia.5 The Center for the Study of Learning, Georgetown University Medical Center. (nd). Frequently asked questions about dyslexia. Retrieved from http://csl.georgetown.edu/dyslexia/faqs.shtml
Why, indeed, are there so many terms in the field? This is partly due to different manifestations of a disorder in different people. It is also because the field is still unclear about many of these disorders. For example, researchers still cannot determine if specific language impairment and dyslexia are distinct disorders.6 Ramus, F., et al. (2013). Phonological deficits in specific language impairment and developmental dyslexia: Towards a multidimensional model. Brain, 136, 630-645. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/aws356
At Dysolve®, we look beyond labels in efforts to identify specific processing problems affecting each person using our program. Besides, labels serve little purpose when the condition can change through intervention.
Why is learning to read so difficult for some?
This can be due to any number of reasons, but if the problem is caused by the way the brain processes information, then a learning disability (LD) is likely involved. LDs can affect math skills, handwriting, motor coordination, attention, and reading. This site is devoted to the most common LD, dyslexia, which affects about 85% of this population.7 The Center for the Study of Learning, Georgetown University Medical Center. (nd). Frequently asked questions about dyslexia. Retrieved from http://csl.georgetown.edu/dyslexia/faqs.shtml (For other LDs, visit the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.)
Dyslexia is actually more than just a learning or reading disability. It is often just one of a host of visible signs displayed by someone who has difficulty processing language. Since reading and language underlie all academic activities, students with dyslexia will likely struggle in school. The problems are often severe but, with the right evaluation and training, not insurmountable.
What is dyslexia, exactly?
What is dyslexia, exactly?
Dyslexia is an “unexpected” reading problem. That is, affected individuals should have been able to read, given their intelligence, upbringing, home and school environment, literacy training, motivation, intact vision and hearing. This reading problem leaves parents and teachers puzzled as to why these students can’t learn to read despite great effort.
Dyslexia is merely the effect of a set of deeper underlying problems. These underlying problems affect language processing. 8 Others may include non-language-based disorders under the dyslexia label. But at Dysolve®, we distinguish the types of causal factors in order to deal with the condition effectively. Most, if not all, of the students who come to us for evaluation display such problems.
This is why individuals with dyslexia often show other difficulties such as
- Unclear or inaccurate pronunciation
- Slow recall of words
- Word mix-ups
- Weak memory
- Limited attention
- Poor concentration
Individuals with dyslexia typically have one or more of the root causes affecting language processing and cognitive (mental) functioning. We process language when we speak, listen, read, and write. We function cognitively when we understand, remember, and transform ideas and problem-solve. Language processing and/or cognitive functioning is disrupted in the brain for people with dyslexia.
Because the number and type of root causes differ from person to person, dyslexia occurs on a spectrum with wide individual variation.
Brain studies consistently link reading disability with reduced or absent activity in the left hemisphere (temporoparietal regions) during certain tasks.9 Hoeft, F., et al. (2006). Neural basis of dyslexia: A comparison between dyslexic and nondyslexic children equated for reading ability. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 10700-10708. See also Hoeft et al. (2007) and (2011). Typical readers show dominant activation of the left hemisphere to process language rapidly and automatically while reading. In contrast, those with dyslexia tend to hyperactivate the right hemisphere instead. When language input is not processed rapidly and automatically, many daily and academic tasks are affected.
Complexity of reading
To understand a passage such as this one, we need to coordinate many processes at the same time:
- Match the words on the page with ones learned before and stored in memory
- Retrieve the spelling, pronunciation, meaning, and all types of associations triggered by a word
- Decipher the overall meaning of a sentence based on the order and combination of words
- Match word order to previous knowledge of phrases and sentences
We have to perform these processes and others rapidly so that we don’t forget the beginning of a sentence by the time we get to the end.
Automatization of reading
That is why we perform many of these subprocesses of reading automatically. Automatic processing frees up mental resources to enable us to think about what we are reading and respond with new ideas. The complexity of reading explains why many individuals with dyslexia get overwhelmed by the task.
Generally, for each person with dyslexia, one or more underlying root causes may result in a multitude of surface problems. Thus Dysolve® first separates out the causes from the effects. For example, if someone misspells simple words and misarticulates others, which is the effect and which is the cause?
If you or your child is facing such questions, you need an experienced evaluator to analyze the data necessary to answer questions about underlying causes accurately and fully. Only then can you pursue the best available solution to address the problem.
Dysolve® takes this logical approach.
How do I know if my child has dyslexia?
The fact that you are actively seeking an answer to this question suggests that you do not believe a simple lack of effort is behind your child’s reading difficulties. Parents are often very attuned to their children’s learning problems because parents get to see their children function holistically in a wide variety of situations. In contrast, your child’s teacher may only get to see your child function in limited roles in the classroom.
We strongly encourage parents to ask questions and pursue solutions when they believe their children are having difficulty learning.
Dyslexia is a language-related condition. Besides reading problems, if your child has dyslexia, he or she may also have trouble
- Speaking clearly
- Using words correctly
- Spelling simple words
- Recognizing familiar words
- Remembering what was said
Dysolve® consultants report that parents sometimes do not notice their children’s speech problems because they have grown used to their children’s speech habits. Does your child’s voice seem muffled or breathy? Does he or she mispronounce certain sounds?
Besides these general symptoms of dyslexia, your child may also reveal other behaviors in language and cognitive tests specifically designed to identify dyslexia. Dysolve® tests often uncover unexpected problems with simple language tasks. Dysolve® specifically designs these tasks to differentiate such learners.
First, you should get your child properly evaluated. A good evaluation may identify the exact root causes of your child’s language-processing problem. Complete and precise identification of the root causes of dyslexia is fundamental to addressing your child’s problem satisfactorily.
What are common dyslexia symptoms?
Many people with dyslexia find these difficult:
- Understanding and remembering spoken language
- Reading aloud fluently
- Recognizing small, common words (e.g., the, in)
- Recalling familiar words
- Spelling simple words
Based on Dysolve’s own fieldwork with this population, we can explain why these symptoms occur:
UNDERSTANDING AND REMEMBERING SPOKEN LANGUAGE — Many people with dyslexia have problems processing speech sounds and thus often face difficulties understanding speech as a result. Consequently, they may not store what was said accurately for later recall.
FLUENT READING — People who cannot process spoken language efficiently find reading demanding because of a host of difficulties. They may have trouble storing and retrieving word forms and spelling, confuse similar-sounding words, overburden their memory when tracking and analyzing sentence structure and meaning.
RECOGNIZING SMALL, COMMON WORDS — Small function words such as the, in and on are not prominent acoustically in speech and may be missed by people who have processing problems, especially since speech is uttered at a fast rate.
RECALLING FAMILIAR WORDS — Familiar words such as function words may be missed for the reason given above. Also, people who have trouble processing spoken language may store words in less efficient ways that are not sound-based. As a result, they may take longer to retrieve words or fail to do so successfully.
SPELLING SIMPLE WORDS — People with dyslexia may not be fully aware of the sounds that make up the words they use and thus have trouble translating sounds to letters in spelling. Speaking does not require conscious knowledge of the sounds of words, but spelling does.
There are many more symptoms that Dysolve® researchers have documented, many of which have gone unnoticed by others. These signs of dyslexia often surface when affected individuals perform Dysolve’s targeted yet comprehensive tests.
Beyond common symptoms of dyslexia, Dysolve® tests probe deeper for root problems specific to each individual. Dysolve® is designed to track and correct each root problem found.
I’ve tried hard to learn to read. Why isn’t it working?
A common misconception is that those who cannot read lack intelligence. In fact, intelligence and language ability are not directly related. Dyslexia is not caused by a lack of effort either.
There’s an underlying problem in the way your brain processes language. Which language processes are affected? How do these deficits manifest themselves while you’re speaking, listening, spelling, reading, and writing? What are the root causes of the language deficits seen?
To answer these questions, you need a complete and accurate evaluation of your language-processing abilities. Only at Dysolve® are evaluations customized to locate each person’s specific underlying deficits. Only at Dysolve® are evaluations continuous and integrated with corrective training.
Where can I get more informed about dyslexia?
We strongly urge you to learn as much as possible about dyslexia so that you can act effectively as your child’s or your own advocate. Many parents also want to support their children academically at home. This is important because less than 10% of US school teachers are fully trained to deal with reading disabilities.10 10 Wegner, L. M., & Reed, M. (2005). Language-based learning disorders. Pediatric Annals, 34(4), 300-309. Moreover, a 30-year review finds little scientific evidence for the effectiveness of approaches commonly used in schools to provide reading remediation.11 Ritchey, K. D., & Goeke, J. L. (2006). Orton-Gillingham and Orton-Gillingham-based reading instruction: A review of the literature. The Journal of Special Education, 40(3), 171-183. See also Rose, T., & Zirkel, P. (2007). Orton-Gillingham methodology for students with reading disabilities: 30 years of case law. The Journal of Special Education, 41(3), 171-185.
The field of dyslexia research is still young, with many major questions still unanswered.12 See Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The dyslexia debate. New York: Cambridge University Press. The information on this site is based on our own studies, which involve over 30 years of research and 20 years of fieldwork with individuals with language disorders. This information is supported by findings from other peer-reviewed sources.13 Peer-reviewed sources include books and academic journals. These publications have been screened rigorously by experts in the field before they are accepted. Many of these publications have low acceptance rates (e.g. 5-20%), meaning that most manuscripts submitted are rejected. Many journals also use blind review, in which journal referees render objective judgments without knowing the identity of the manuscript’s author.
Read our book, Dyslexia Dissolved: Successful Cases of Learning Disabilities, ADHD and Language Disorders. Visit Dysolve.com/Research regularly as we provide the latest findings.
Evaluation and therapy
I think I have dyslexia. What should I do?
First, learn as much as you can about dyslexia. We have provided up-to-date research here so you can make informed choices at every step. There are standards you should demand of any program, and you can use the criteria on the Dysolve® site to evaluate ours and others.
You can take our brief, free pre-screening test with no obligation. Or you can sign up for a monthly subscription to begin our full Dysolve® Dyslexia Testing at no extra charge.
Remember, this is a commitment on both our parts. There is no magic pill to make dyslexia go away. We will commit to helping you tackle the problems identified — so long as you commit equally to working diligently with us every week. Typically former students using the Coral Method® have dissolved language-processing issues in 1-2 years.14 Results may vary among participants. The Dysolve® Program uses the Coral Method®.
Do I need extensive testing? Where can I get it? How much will it cost?
People with dyslexia do not all experience the same kind of problem. You need an accurate, targeted evaluation to determine the exact nature of your processing problem. You should not be subjected to a standard battery of tests with parts that do not apply to your particular problem. Unnecessary testing drives up the cost of evaluation, which can often amount to several thousand dollars.
Go to free pre-screening or sign up to begin full Dyslexia Testing.
See Dysolve® fees >
Do I need brain scans or genetic testing?
You do not need brain imaging, genetic studies, and IQ tests to evaluate dyslexia. The state of knowledge is such that even experts cannot yet evaluate dyslexia and recommend specific therapies based on brain scans and genetic tests.15 Mather, N., & Wendling, B. J. (2012). Essentials of dyslexia assessment and intervention. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. The field has long discredited IQ testing in diagnosing dyslexia.16 British Psychological Society. (1999). Dyslexia, literacy and psychological assessment: Report by a Working Party of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology of the British Psychological Society. Leicester: British Psychological Society. Dysolve's members include those who had spent thousands of dollars unnecessarily on such testing before learning of Dysolve®.
Dysolve® interweaves evaluation with training: testing identifies specific problems that are then targeted for correction. Assessment occurs continually during training to chart progress. Researchers repeatedly recommend that assessment be linked directly to remediation.17 See extensive research survey in Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The dyslexia debate. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Will my problem with dyslexia ever go away?
At first, the problems facing an individual with dyslexia may seem overwhelming, because many aspects of verbal behavior and mental functioning may be affected. That’s why it’s important to sort out the causes from the effects as the first step in tackling this problem. For this, get a proper evaluation. A good evaluation not only can explain the specific problem involved but can provide a roadmap for the kind of training needed to address each language and/or cognitive issue found.
Your first goal should be to try to correct the problems identified. Only if that is not possible would you turn to the alternative of compensating for it. Remember, coping or compensatory techniques mean that these problems remain as lifelong challenges. This is why even successful adults with dyslexia use elaborate methods to cope with these problems. They do so at great personal cost, whether in terms of time spent reading or in the stress of constant struggle. Our experience has demonstrated that too many providers merely help students compensate for their problems instead of considering corrective methods first.
Do not settle. Dysolve® dyslexia. See What is Dysolve®? >
See case studies who used the corrective Coral Method® >
If my child goes through therapy, how much will she improve?
The extent of improvement depends on
- the accuracy and/or scope of the initial evaluation
- the precision of the recommendations in the initial evaluation
- the expertise of the specialist treating your child
- the specialist’s philosophy (corrective or compensatory focus)
- your child’s and your commitment to the training regimen
- length and scope of training
- your child’s age
Does age matter when using a corrective method for dyslexia? Age matters because research has established that the core deficit in persons with dyslexia is their lack of phonological awareness. That is, persons with dyslexia are not fully aware of the sounds (phonemes) and sound patterns of their language. They may seem articulate in speech and use sophisticated words, but they are not fully conscious of the sounds that make up these words.
Language development is tied to a critical period, which ends around puberty. Beyond the critical period, language development is still possible but becomes increasingly harder. Of course, one can still acquire vocabulary far into adulthood, but development of the phonological component gets more difficult. It is important to seek help immediately instead of waiting for the next grade to see if your child’s problem will disappear on its own. Dyslexia will not disappear without intervention.18 Much of the field considers it a lifelong condition. But Dysolve® focuses on correcting it. See Elliott & Grigorenko (2014), Mather & Wendling (2012), Shaywitz (2003) and other sources referenced on this site.
While some individuals with dyslexia can thrive and succeed academically and professionally, they may reach this goal by spending much more time reading slowly and sacrificing precious time with family and friends or in the pursuit of other interests. Many with dyslexia do not thrive and never reach their full potential.
See hard facts >
Can adults correct language processing or only children?
Younger brains may be more plastic (flexible) in retraining. In Dysolve’s experience, the biggest hurdle for adults is in finding the time to train in the face of competing obligations. So long as they can commit their time, adults in the Dysolve® Program often see improvements in their weekly scored performance.
How long will it take for my child to catch up with her classmates?
This depends on the severity of her problem. Even in severe cases, an intensive training program of 1-2 years may allow students to catch up. This, of course, depends on adhering to an efficient and effective program, together with various factors.
After addressing the underlying root causes of dyslexia, your child will have to catch up on her vocabulary acquisition. Remember, your child’s classmates had been acquiring new words at a rate of about 3,000 a year in Grade 3, rising to about 10,000 by Grade 5.19 Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Therefore, even after the underlying problem has been resolved, your child’s reading level may still be below her grade, until her vocabulary matches that of her classmates.
See Resolve Program >
If your child is in Special Education, we recommend not having her declassified until her reading speed and vocabulary match those of her peers.
See the progress of Dysolve® case studies >
Can my child ever excel?
With effective intervention, your child can learn to read and build up her vocabulary. Because she had been using other parts of her brain to compensate for the deficit earlier, she may have developed enhanced abilities from that previous experience. Therefore, if your child can now function as effectively as her classmates, she may now stand out because of the special abilities developed earlier to compensate for her deficit.
Students who have dyslexia and special talents are called “twice-exceptional children” in giftedness research. Indeed, children who are intellectually gifted may be able to function well enough in school despite having dyslexia because their high intelligence can compensate for the deficit. That is, their intelligence masks this learning disability. Once their learning disability is evaluated and addressed, these children can excel in school and beyond.
See Dysolve® case studies >
Dyslexia and school
How can I help my child in school?
Here’s what you can do to be your child’s most effective advocate:
- EVALUATE — Get your child evaluated for the deficits underlying dyslexia to take control of the problem(s).
- PLAN — Ask the school for accommodations suggested in the evaluation report.
- MONITOR — Monitor your child's activities in school to ensure adequate accommodations.
- CONVERSE — Get feedback from her teachers periodically to share with her intervention program.
- LEARN — Learn as much as you can about dyslexia so you can educate others who are helping your child learn.
When you sign up for Dysolve®, you receive an evaluation report and updates, plus educational materials as these become available. You may also take online courses at no extra charge in some plans.
See Member benefits >
Why didn’t my child’s teacher recognize this problem?
If your child had been struggling in school for some time and was only diagnosed with dyslexia recently, do not direct your frustration or anger at the school staff. Dyslexia is not easy to diagnose since it is not a single condition. Dysolve® is the only automated program that can design unique tests that enable each student to probe the problem deeply enough to get to the root cause.
Now that you know, you can advocate for your child in school. You can also join our online community to advocate for other children.
See Member benefits >
Dysolve® offers professional development on dyslexia intervention to participating schools. Encourage your school to contact us.
How can I help my child at home?
Certainly, you should continue to read with and to your child at home to emphasize the importance of reading and to prevent her from losing interest in books. Have your child read aloud to you so that you can see for yourself which words are difficult for her to learn.
But to help her most effectively, you need a complete and precise evaluation of her problem so that you can focus your precious time and energy on combatting it directly. In our experience, some therapy programs require too much time or effort to be practical for most home or school settings. The Dysolve® Program empowers the child to take charge with self-pacing, interactive sessions. Parents can track their children’s progress online.
See Dysolve® Program >
Dysolve® supports parents’ efforts with online courses and educational materials. See Member benefits >
College and career
Can my son still go to college even though he has a reading disability?
The general trends are discouraging. Researchers concluded in 2014 that there's no effective solution available for middle schoolers who had not improved from remediation in primary grades.1 Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The dyslexia debate. New York: Cambridge University Press. About 74% of these students keep the "reading disabled" classification from Grades 3-10.2 Gunning, T. (2003). The role of readability in today’s classroom. Topics in Language Disorders, 23(3), 175-185. Dysolve® practitioners have met Grade 10 students who read at the Grade 5 level. As a result, 20% of students with a specific learning disability drop out of high school compared to 7% of the general population.3 US Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs. (2014). 36th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2014. Washington, DC. Only 15% of students with LD go to college compared to 66% of the general population.4 US Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs. (2014). 36th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2014. Washington, DC.
It was out of this gloomy outlook that Dysolve® was developed to change the prospects of the millions of students affected with language-processing difficulties. The online program launched in 2017.
See Dysolve® Program >
How hard is it to go through college with dyslexia?
With hard work, some students with dyslexia can complete college. Colleges usually offer support services for those who qualify. But colleges, especially selective ones, require heavy reading, efficient note-taking, and facility with verbal instructions. Undergraduates with dyslexia often sacrifice personal and social time because they take longer to read. The quality of their work may suffer, and little time may remain for extracurricular opportunities. Some fear the embarrassment of having to read aloud passages in class. More importantly, they may have to forgo certain majors and career paths. We advise students to deal with their problem with dyslexia as early as possible, preferably before college. However, Dysolve® provides corrective intervention to students of all ages, up to and beyond college.
See Dysolve® Program >