Typically characterized by the impairment of reading speed, accuracy and comprehension, reading disorders can affect any age and any demographic. When a person has a reading disorder, he or she typically cannot perform reading tasks equivalent to his or her intelligence level. There are two basic types of reading disorders: reading problems and reading comprehension problems. Both types typically can be diagnosed in childhood, and there are treatment options available.
Reading disorders can significantly interfere with a child’s academic achievements, daily activities and self-esteem. They are different from other types of learning disorders such as mental retardation or attention deficit disorder, because there is a gap between the expected performance level and actual results based on the person’s intelligence. Reading disorders can affect a person on many different levels and extremes. Some researchers claim that up to 50 percent of reading disorder cases are inherited.
Reading problems such as difficulty understanding sounds, letters and words are sometimes called dyslexia. Dyslexia can affect spelling and writing as well. Some symptoms of this type of reading disorder include problems with letter and word recognition, slow reading speed, reversal of words or letters when reading and difficulty pronouncing words out loud (phonics).
Reading comprehension problems include difficulties understanding the meaning of words, sentences and paragraphs. Symptoms of this reading disorder include remedial vocabulary skills, memory problems, omission of words when reading aloud and poor comprehension of what was read. This type of reading disorder can be more difficult to detect than dyslexia and is sometimes misdiagnosed.
There are several ways to detect and diagnose the different reading disorders. Learning to read involves several components, such as coordination of eye muscles, visual memory, ability to sequence, integrating visual cues with learned phonetics and the association of sounds with meanings. When any part of the process is disrupted, reading disorders occur. Affected persons typically have symptoms including difficulties identifying words, problems with word meanings, spelling problems, transposing words or letters and poor comprehension.
Treatment options are available for reading disorders. Complete evaluation of the child’s hearing, vision and intelligence should be done to see if there are any other learning disabilities affecting the reading ability. Some children also have autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well. Once the problem is pinpointed, a specific treatment program can be created. Treatment can include medication, individualized tutoring, corrective reading exercises and positive reinforcement.