How Is Dyslexia Different From A Learning Disability?

A mom of a 7 year old boy named Javier recently asked me, “How is dyslexia different from a learning disability?”  This was a great question because sometimes the public school staff don’t like to use the word dyslexia.  Instead they use the words specific learning disability.  The term, “dyslexia” is in Florida’s law for qualifying children for special education services and an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a type of a learning disability that affects a child’s reading and spelling.  One key feature of dyslexia is a processing problem with phonological processing.  This is understanding the sound system of language and is a prerequisite for a child’s phonics development.

The International Dyslexia Association and the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development define dyslexia as, “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.  It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Here’s a quick comparison of what dyslexia is and is not.

Dyslexia is:

A type of learning disability
A neurological disorder
A confusion with the sound system of language
A deficit in phonological processing
Something that requires a specialized reading instruction

Dyslexia is not:

A medical diagnosis
Only reversing letters or numbers
Identifiable by one test
A myth

Testing Helps Identify if Your Child Has Dyslexia

It’ s important to identify if your child’s struggle is dyslexia because he or she needs to be taught how to read in a different way.  The primary specialized approach and gold standard for teaching dyslexics to read is called Orton-Gillingham multisensory reading instruction.   Dr. Samuel Orton and his student, Anna Gillingham, were pioneers in developing a specialized approach for helping dyslexics read.  This approach works but takes 18-36 months of instruction.

Call us if you are concerned your child’s reading struggle might be dyslexia.  We test children for dyslexia from ages 5.5 through college. Dr. Jim Forgan is a licensed school psychologist and certified dyslexia testing specialist.  Call (561) 625-4125