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Most of us know what the three “Rs” of education are: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. But, how many of us know what the three “D’s” of learning disorders are: Dyslexia (Development reading disorder), Dysgraphia (Developmental writing disorder)   and Dyscalculia (Developmental arithmetic disorder)? How many of us know how these specific learning disorders  affect people? Notice, I didn’t ask how many of us know how these learning disorders affect students. That’s because if you have a learning disorder, it affects you all your life, in all areas of your life- not just when you are a student in school. You don’t outgrow learning disorders; you learn to cope with them.

Developmental reading  disorders are more prevalent than you might think. Most likely, you know someone who has a learning disorder. Experts tell us that up to 17 percent of the population have learning disorders. That’s a lot of people! It’s important for us to understand reading  disorders because we may have family members, friends, co-workers etc. who have them. If we understand the specific nature of DRD and the challenges the individuals face who have DRD, we can be more compassionate and helpful.

In this post, I’m going to examine the first “D” of the three “Ds”- developmental reading disorder also known as dyslexia.


  • Individuals with DRD  have average or above-average intelligence.
  • DRD is not connected with the ability to think or understand complex ideas.
  • It is not caused by a vision problem.
  • DRD is a function of the problems the brain has recognizing and processing symbols.
  • Individuals with DRD may have difficulty rhyming and separating sounds when they are listening to someone speak.
  • Rhyming and separating sounds are abilities crucial for learning to read.
  • DRD may be found in combination with dysgraphia or dyscalculia since all use symbols to convey meaning.
  • New research suggests brain scans can predict whether individuals will improve at reading.
  • Children with DRD who overcome their reading difficulties  bypass brain regions normally used for reading.


Difficulty in

  • rhyming;
  • learning to recognize words;
  • determining the meaning of simple sentences.


Before a diagnosis of DRD can be made the following  tests should be conducted to rule out other causes

  • complete medical, developmental, social, school performance , and family history
  • psychoeducational testing
  • psychological testing


Treatments can consist of special education services such as

  • Reading specialist help
  • Individualized tutoring
  • Individualized Education Plan specific to the student
  • Psychological counseling to help with self-esteem issues
  • Positive reinforcement


Students with reading problems can use software applications like Premier Software to read text to them.  I have my students input text by typing or scanning text into a word processing program and then the software reads the text to them.  My students take delight in listening to their text in a variety of male and female voices with different accents. I also  encourage my students to listen to the novels and plays in their courses.   In ” the old good days” I would have these books and plays on tape for my students, now I can get most of  these as audio books online from places like Audible or in regular bookstores and store them on MP3 players or discs to lend to students.    I’ve even seen an audio only bookstore here in town.  It’s   getting much easier to access audiobooks.  Although I enjoy reading books and do not have DRD, I also like listening to them. I’m always delighted when I get gift certificates for audiobooks.


  • Reading problems can cause behaviour  problems or self-esteem problems in school as a reaction to teasing by other students;
  • Remediation can help students become better readers, but students  will alway face reading challenges even in adults;
  • Reading problems  can lead to problems in certain careers and occupations;
  • Reading problems tend to run in families so families should try to recognize the signs early and seek help as early as preschool;
  • Early intervention can give the best results.

I encourage my students who have reading problems or DRD not to define themselves by what they can’t do or have difficulty doing.  Everyone is challenged in some way.  The point is to discover your strengths and use those to help you  achieve your best.  Find someone to help you with your weaknesses, and you in turn use your strengths to help someone with their weaknesses.  I have my students determine their multiple intelligences so they are aware of their strengths.  We share the information in class, and I encourage them to help one another.  As adults we do this, so why shouldn’t we teach our students to do this.  I think working together and using the various strengths of team members to accomplish a goal is a life skill.

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2 Responses to “Dyslexia-one of the three “Ds” of learning disorders”

  1. Kimberly on February 28th, 2011 12:11 am

    I’m a dyslexic and also dysgraphic. The dysgraphia causes me more problems. One thing I do is openly share what works for me and does not work for me with my students. For example they can not write in yellow or white on dark paper. I don’t see letters I see a complex optical illusion, when they do that.

    Other teachers regularly come to me for help with science and tech stuff. Last year I had a dyslexic student tell me, “If you are smart and dyslexic that means I can be smart and dyslexic too.”

    Way to many people still think LD = MR. We have to change that mind set.

  2. Elona Hartjes on February 28th, 2011 4:16 pm

    What you say about some people thinking that LD=MR is so true. But, I think we are slowly changing that one kid at a time. I like having my students discover their multiple intelligences to see that they have strengths other people might not have- ones who find reading and doing math easy. I have my students do a class poster on to which they paste a printout of a pie chart of their specific multiple intelligence strengths. The poster is a hit with all kids.

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