EARLY DIAGNOSIS KEY TO SUCCESS
IN TREATING DYSLEXIA
By David Mallory, M.D.
Dyslexia is difficulty learning to read, despite the
required intelligence and opportunity for learning and
proper instruction. Usually dyslexics can comprehend
material that is read to them but have difficulty
understanding what they read themselves.
The dyslexic child is too often the misunderstood child who
is alert and intelligent, but doesn't do well in school.
Parents and teachers assume that because the child is
obviously bright, that he isn't trying hard enough. As he
falls behind in reading, the dyslexic child becomes
frustrated, rebels and falls further behind.
Growing inadequacy leads to withdrawal, anxiety, depression,
delinquency and other anti-social behavior.
Reading with understanding is of tremendous critical
importance in our society today. Almost without exception,
problem and delinquent children have below average levels in
During the later school years almost 90 percent of the
student's studies depend directly upon his reading ability.
The dyslexic child has not mastered the language skills to
make him or her "reading ready" at age 6. The child is two
to three times more likely to be male and is usually of
normal or superior intelligence.
There is a persistence of the normal childhood tendency to
reverse letters such as "p" for "q" and "u" for "n" and also
a tendency to reverse words such as "stop" for "pots" or
"was" for "saw." Skipping words and the substitution of
words is common. The dyslexic child may show a tendency to
read from right to left, and in rare cases display actual
mirror writing, a reversed writing intelligible only when
viewed in the mirror. There may be a history of others in
the family who have difficulty reading.
The successful treatment of dyslexia depends upon the age at
which the diagnosis is made. The earlier the diagnosis is
made, the better the results.
The earliest stages of learning disabilities can often be
detected at age 3. It is important that all children have a
thorough eye examination to rule out and treat any eye
problems. It is most unlikely, however, that the eyes would
be the sole cause. The diagnosis of dyslexia involves
educational and psychological evaluation.
If parents suspect their child has a learning disability,
they should contact their child's teacher or principal, and
if necessary the local Director of Special Education.
Federal law requires schools to evaluate and properly
educate any child who is thought to have a learning
Treatment consists first and foremost of concerned parents,
who read aloud to and read with their child on a daily
basis. A knowledgeable, skilled teacher to provide
instruction is necessary.
One study showed that if dyslexia is identified by the
second grade, 82 percent could be brought up to grade level
in a 2-year period.
If, however, the learning-disabled child was not identified
until the fourth grade, only 15 percent could be brought
David Mallory, M.D. is a cataract, intraocular lens and
laser surgery specialist in practice at the Southwest Eye