Dyslexia: Possible Causes

By Emily Lapkin

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Dyslexia is a common learning issue that affects reading and other skills. Researchers think genes and brain function might play a role in dyslexia. Find out what could cause dyslexia.

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Genes and Heredity

Researchers looking into the role of genetics in dyslexia say it can run in families. If your child has dyslexia, there’s a chance you or another relative may have it too. (Whether or not it’s been formally identified.) About 40 percent of the siblings of a person with dyslexia may have similar reading issues. Scientists have also located several genes associated with reading and language processing issues.

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Brain Anatomy

Everyone’s brain is different. This is also true of people who have dyslexia. The ways that the different parts of their brains interact and connect to one another may be inefficient. Many experts believe that the problems people with dyslexia experience aren’t a result of the how their brains are structured. Instead, it’s more about how their brains function.

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Brain Function

When we read, the brain translates the symbols we see on the page into sounds. Then it combines those sounds into meaningful words. Typically the areas of our brains responsible for language skills work in a predictable way. If your child has dyslexia, those areas don’t work together in the same way. Kids with reading issues end up using different areas of the brain to compensate.

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What’s Next

As researchers focus on better understanding the biological causes of dyslexia, they’re also learning how the brain can change. This concept is known as neuroplasticity. After a person with dyslexia receives effective reading instruction, MRI studies show different patterns of brain activation.

What does this mean for your child? With the right help, your child can make real and lasting improvements in reading ability. This window into how the brain “rewires” itself could also help lead to even more ways to help kids with dyslexia in the years to come.

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10 Movie and TV Characters With Dyslexia

Kids often look to TV and movie characters to help them make sense of the world. If your child has dyslexia, she may benefit from seeing her own struggles and successes played out on-screen. Here are some characters to watch together.

5 Common Myths About Dyslexia

Scientists know more than ever about the causes and effects of dyslexia. But a few myths persist. The next time a teacher, friend or family member offers outdated information about this reading issue, share these facts.

About the Author

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Reviewed by

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Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.

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