Dyslexia Related Conditions
Separate diagnostic labels are given by professionals to developmental dyslexia (Specific Reading Disorder -DRD), dysphasia (Specific Language Impairment - SLI), dyspraxia (Developmental Coordination Disorder - DCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). Even though the patterns of behavioural and learning difficulties that define them are somewhat different, nevertheless some core symptoms are common to all of them, namely problems with focussing attention, short term memory and sequencing, so that there is much overlap between all these conditions (often called comorbidity). For example half of children with dyslexia have ADHD symptoms and more than half of dyspraxics have dyslexic problems.
Because of the different ways in which these conditions are defined, different professional specialists diagnose and manage each of them. SLI is usually the province of speech therapists. Dyslexia is usually managed by educational psychologists, and interventions typically focus on specialist teaching of reading, spelling and the underlying orthographic and phonological skills. Dyspraxia is usually managed by physiotherapists or occupational therapists via behavioural approaches aimed at improving coordination. ADHD is normally diagnosed by psychiatrists, with stimulant medication as the standard treatment. ASD is also normally diagnosed by psychiatrists, and is treated with a combination of pharmacological, behavioural and psychosocial methods.
Unfortunately these conditions are remarkably common, affecting up to 20 per cent of the school age population to some degree, and they account for the vast majority of children with special educational needs. The associated difficulties usually persist into adulthood, and cause great misery for the individuals affected, their families and society as a whole.
AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDERS
These children have problems with language and emotional communication, social interaction and they tend to produce stereotyped and repetitive behaviour. They have big problems with new surroundings and unfamiliar people. Sometimes these children are highly intelligent however, and milder versions of the problem can be easily missed in the early years.
Poor attention and concentration, easily distracted. The child can never sit still, tends to be over-excitable and disrupts everybody around him. His excessive energy means he can’t control himself at all, can’t relax, can’t get off to sleep. Severe forms are often treated with drugs such as Ritalin. Although this is often effective in the short term, there are doubts now about whether it is effective in the longer term.
An extreme difficulty with maths and the concept of number, which is not corrected by routine extra teaching help. Strictly this should be distinguished from dyslexia where problems sequencing the symbols, rather than problems with understanding numbers themselves, are the cause of poor mathematical skills. But it is often difficult to distinguish the two.
Dysphasia (often termed Specific Language Impairment - SLI) often begins with infant speech impediments such as lisps or other mispronunciations. Speech therapy is often needed to help these. Difficulties with pronunciation often impair memory for letter sounds and blends for learning to read and spell (phonics), so that many dyslexics have some degree of SLI before they begin to learn to read. These problems are often associated with difficulties with vocabulary and comprehension, hence difficulty with understanding what is being asked for in answering questions in tests and exams. Often this also leads to a tendency to take things too literally and failure to understand jokes, which can cause problems with making friends.
(Developmental Coordination Disorder - DCD) is a problem with both fine and gross motor control. They’re unusually clumsy, they tend to knock into things, fall over and have problems working in their personal space. This often leads to very poor hand writing; so again this overlaps greatly with dyslexia.