What is Word Blindness?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Word blindness is an acquired neurological condition which causes people to become unable to read. In some cases, people completely lose the ability to read, while in other instances, their comprehension is severely restricted, with patients understanding only basic words in written text. This condition is also known as text blindness, alexia, or visual aphasia, and it can be combined with other symptoms as well.

Most classically, word blindness is caused by lesions on the brain, or by a stroke which causes brain damage. Typically the rear left part of the brain is affected, as this is the region which processes visual information like text. Since brain damage is rarely precisely selective, word blindness is often accompanied with an assortment of neurological symptoms.

Some people with this condition also experience agraphia, the inability to write. In other cases, patients can write just fine, but they are not able to read what they wrote. Word blindness can also be paired with aphasia, the inability to communicate coherently, and some patients have difficulty comprehending spoken communications from other people. Because this condition involves damage to the brain, treatment can be challenging, with doctors focusing on rehabilitation in the hopes that the brain can repair itself.


Alexia can be extremely upsetting, which can add to the difficulty in treatment, as the patient attempts to cope with the trauma of being suddenly unable to read. The support of family members and specialists can be crucial to ensure that the needs of patients are met, and the services of an experienced neurologist are also beneficial in treatment.

Some people also use the term “word blindness” to refer to people with severe dyslexia, a processing disorder which can make it difficult for people to understand printed material. In the case of dyslexia, a wide assortment of treatments can be used to cope with and eventually overcome the obstacles posed by the disorder, with many dyslexics going on to become very successful individuals.

Students with learning disabilities may develop some form of word blindness in this sense, due to a variety of factors. Students who have difficult reading should be referred to a learning disorder specialist for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment recommendations. The earlier such problems are addressed, the better the results will be. If a student with dyslexia or another learning disorder slips through the cracks, he or she will not have a chance to receive an education, which would be a great loss.


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There are many more ways to treat learning disabilities in children than even a couple of decades ago. One great resource can be child psychologists, who can help parents determine if a child has some sort of word blindness, dyslexia, or something along the autism spectrum. Often, people with these problems can learn, they just need to approach materials in a different way from their peers.

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