Understanding How Dyslexia Affects Speech

by Team Stamurai

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that can be diagnosed in early childhood. It affects one’s ability to read, write, spell and speak.

Between 5% and 10% of the US population shows symptoms of dyslexia. These symptoms may include trouble spelling, slow reading, and jumbling up words.

Adults may have dyslexia. They have likely had dyslexia throughout life but they didn't receive an early diagnosis.

What Causes Dyslexia?

Difficulties in spelling, reading, and speaking are all signs of dyslexia and not the causes of this learning disorder.

The genetics of developmental dyslexia show that it is a highly heritable disorder. You will notice that this learning disorder tends to cluster in families. A child is more likely to have dyslexia if their siblings, parents, and other close family members also have it.

The genetic differences account for anomalies in parts of the brain involved in language processing. Recent imaging studies of children and adults with dyslexia show that parts of the brain involved in processing language remain under-activating during reading.

In the case of dyslexia, the brain has a difficult time connecting the letters to the sounds, sounds to the words, and the words to their meanings.

Dyslexia is also a spectrum – someone may have a very mild form, which causes them to make fewer spelling mistakes. While others may have a severe form that not only affects their reading and spelling, but also daily communication and livelihood.

How Does Dyslexia Affect Speech?

Effect #1 of Dyslexia on Speech: Phonological Awareness or Recognition of Language Sounds

It refers to one's ability to perceive, understand and distinguish the different sounds of a language. It gives them the ability to remember and manipulate the sounds at phoneme, syllable, word, or sentence levels.

Someone with dyslexia has low phonological awareness. As a result, they often have trouble recalling and retrieving the words they need to express themselves.

Effect #2 of Dyslexia on Speech: Phonological Memory or “Forgetting” Words

Children and adults with dyslexia often find themselves searching for “the right word.” It is common for those with dyslexia to forget simple, everyday words like remote, automobile, and even names.

If you have dyslexia, you may have encountered that feeling of trying to remember a word that’s “at the tip of the tongue.” You may find it difficult to recollect the exact sound combination for making that word.

Effect #3 of Dyslexia on Speech:  Phonological Production or Jumbling Up Words

People with dyslexia often mix up similar-sounding words. For example, they may mix up “cat” and “cot” because they are phonetically similar. Both have entirely different meanings.

Research shows that resulting language deficits are not restricted to spoken language. Those with dyslexia make similar mistakes while writing as well.

Not finding the right word at the right time is one of the most common signs of dyslexia, although it is not unique to the learning disorder!

Effect #4 of Dyslexia on Speech:  Difficulty in Procedural Learning

Recent research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University shows that dyslexia might affect procedural learning in individuals.

According to the published results, learning complex speech-sound categories via procedural learning is affected in dyslexia. The difficulty individuals with dyslexia face in processing speech are not the cause but the effect of the disorder.

Effect #5 of Dyslexia on Speech:  Delayed Speech and Language Acquisition

If your family has one or more members with dyslexia and your child shows signs of speech delay, they might be at risk of dyslexia.

A child with dyslexia may also learn new words slowly, and confuse similar-sounding words while talking. They may also have trouble learning and saying names, numbers, symbols, and colors!

Effect #6 of Dyslexia on Speech:  Stuttering or Speech Disfluency

Around 17 out of 50 participants in a cohort study reported stuttering in early childhood. Around 34% of adults with dyslexia experience stuttering or have experienced it during their formative years.

Only 1% of the world's population stutters, but among those with dyslexia, the percentage of those with stuttering is significantly higher. Those with severe dyslexia have higher chances of stuttering than those with milder forms of this learning disorder.

Stuttering and dyslexia share many common features. People with dyslexia (PWD) and PWS share similar gene groups (alleles) that cause an under-activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus and the left arcuate fasciculus.

Treatment of Dyslexia

Speech therapy or working with a licensed speech-language pathologist can help those with dyslexia. During an early intervention, an SLP can assess reading and writing skills, and aid early language acquisition.

Leaving this learning disorder unattended may lead to severe communication difficulties that influence an individual's higher education, career choice, and quality of life.

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