May 16


What Are the Different Types of Dyslexia?

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

May 16, 2021

If your child struggles with reading, sounding out words, or understanding what they’ve read, they may have a learning disorder called dyslexia. Dyslexia can be developmental (genetic) or acquired (resulting from a traumatic brain injury or disease), and there are several types of Dyslexia including phonological dyslexia, rapid naming dyslexia, double deficit dyslexia, surface dyslexia, and visual dyslexia. Each type of dyslexia presents its own unique set of symptoms and challenges, detailed below.

Estimates regarding the prevalence of dyslexia state that between five and 20% of the population experience reading challenges. In order to find the most effective teaching strategies, it’s essential to be able to identify the problem early and understand that there are several types of dyslexia.

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What Is Dyslexia?

Types of dyslexia
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Dyslexia is a learning disability that hinders an individual’s ability to read by affecting spelling, writing, and comprehension skills. Dyslexia is not a learning disability that a child will outgrow, so it’s important to pursue a diagnosis and implement strategies to improve reading ability at a young age. Anyone can be diagnosed with dyslexia, although the dyslexia test process is different for adults than it is for children. Often, individuals with dyslexia can be very creative and intelligent yet struggle with basic reading skills.

Dyslexia symptoms include:

  • Difficulty learning new words
  • Delayed speech development
  • Difficulty with rhyming words
  • Confusing letters for each other
  • Reading below the expected level for age
  • Grammar issues
  • Problems spelling
  • Poor sentence structure
  • Lack of phonemic awareness
  • Avoidance of reading aloud
  • Difficulty copying words from a secondary source

In addition, there are subtle behavioral signs to watch for in children with dyslexia, including:

  • Withdrawal from peers
  • Depression
  • Misbehavior or acting out
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Peer and sibling relationship difficulties
  • Loss of interest in school
  • Appearing unmotivated or lazy

Recognizing early symptoms of dyslexia can help diagnose the disability sooner, providing a more significant overall opportunity to improve.

What Are the Different Types of Dyslexia?

Experts have created categories to group several common types of dyslexia together to increase the effectiveness of treatment. Being familiar with the different types of dyslexia will allow educators to develop strategies specific to the child’s needs in order to provide the best support possible.

Phonological Dyslexia

This type of dyslexia is the most commonly thought of when someone mentions the word dyslexia. It deals with difficulties in matching sounds to symbols and breaking down the sounds of language. Individuals with phonological dyslexia struggle to decode or sound out words. It’s believed that phonological dyslexia is the most common type of dyslexia. Symptoms of phonological dyslexia may include:

  • Difficulty learning sounds made by letters/letter combinations
  • Difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Spelling the same word different ways on the same page
  • Slow reading
  • Avoiding reading activities
  • Difficulty recognizing familiar words in new contexts

Rapid Naming Dyslexia

People who struggle with the ability to rapidly name colors, numbers, and letters when presented with them may have rapid naming dyslexia. This type of dyslexia may be linked to both reading speed and the processing speed for reading. Individuals with rapid naming dyslexia can say the names of the colors, numbers, and letters, but it often takes them much longer to come up with the correct word. Symptoms of Rapid naming dyslexia may include:

  • Difficulty retrieving words
  • Frequently substituting words or leaving words out altogether
  • Slow to respond orally
  • Slower to complete reading or writing assignments
  • Making up nonsense words in place of real words
  • Using gestures in place of words

Double Deficit Dyslexia

A person with double deficit dyslexia struggles with two aspects of reading. These two aspects often include naming speed and identifying the sounds in words. This type of dyslexia is a combination of rapid naming and phonological and is not uncommon; however, it is largely regarded as the most severe type of dyslexia. Symptoms of double deficit dyslexia include:

  • Poor naming speed rate when asked to recall words
  • Weak phonological awareness

Surface Dyslexia

An individual who can sound out new words with ease but fails to recognize familiar words by sight may have surface dyslexia. In this case, experts believe that the brain fails to recognize what a word looks like in order to process the word quickly. This type of dyslexia affects words that need to be memorized because they don’t sound how they are spelled, making it more difficult to sound them out. Other names for surface dyslexia include visual or dyseidetic dyslexia. It’s not uncommon for an individual with dyslexia to also have both phonological and surface dyslexia. Symptoms of surface dyslexia can include:

  • Difficulty with whole word recognition
  • Slow to read
  • Avoidant of reading activities
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Difficulty reading words that don’t sound the way they’re spelled
  • Difficulty reading new words by sight

Visual Dyslexia

When a child struggles to remember what they saw on a page, they may have visual dyslexia. This type affects the visual processing, making it so that the brain doesn’t get the complete picture of what the eyes see. Visual dyslexia will affect the ability to learn how to spell or form letters because both require the brain to remember the correct letter sequence or shape, impacting the learning process. Symptoms of visual dyslexia include:

  • Text appearing blurred or going in and out of focus
  • Difficulty tracking across lines of text
  • Difficulty keeping place in text
  • Text appearing double or alternating between single and double
  • Headaches and/or eyestrain associated with reading

Categories of Dyslexia

Developmental Dyslexia

Developmental dyslexia refers to dyslexia which is genetic and/or present at birth. Developmental dyslexia includes both primary and secondary dyslexia. This type of dyslexia is more common in boys and typically diminishes as the child matures.

Primary Dyslexia

If the dyslexia results from a genetically inherited condition, it is considered primary dyslexia. A child whose parents have dyslexia increases the chance that they will also have dyslexia. Interestingly enough, primary dyslexia seems to have a familial connection with even more prevalence among males, especially left-handed ones.

Secondary Dyslexia

Secondary dyslexia is the result of problems with brain development during the early stages of pregnancy. Both primary and secondary dyslexia are developmental because the disability is present at birth.

Acquired Dyslexia

When a traumatic brain injury or disease affects the brain’s centers responsible for language processing, they can sometimes develop dyslexia. This type of dyslexia is also referred to as trauma dyslexia because it’s caused by trauma to the brain and is the only type of dyslexia with a known cause.

Other Learning Difficulties Associated with Dyslexia

There are several other learning difficulties that a person diagnosed with dyslexia may experience more prevalently. These are not types of dyslexia, and experts believe they are neurological in nature. These learning difficulties include:

  • Left-right disorder. The inability to tell your left from your right is sometimes referred to as directional dyslexia.
  • Dysgraphia. When individuals have difficulty with writing and other fine motor skills, that affects word spacing, sizing, spelling, legibility, and expression.
  • Dyscalculia. An impairment to the ability to performing accurate math calculations, problem solving and reasoning, learning number-related concepts, and performing basic math skills. Dyscalculia is sometimes called number or math dyslexia.
  • Auditory processing disorder. Individuals with auditory processing disorder experience problems with the brain’s ability to process various speech sounds. This disorder is sometimes referred to as auditory dyslexia.

Dyslexia Frequently Asked Questions

Can trauma cause dyslexia?

Yes, trauma – both physical and emotional – have been cited in potentially causing the onset of dyslexia.

Trauma Dyslexia, also commonly referred to as acquired dyslexia, can develop after a person has experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a fall from a ladder, a car accident, a sports injury, etc. Trauma Dyslexia can also result after suffering from a stroke or a concussion. While it can affect anyone, Trauma Dyslexia is more often seen in adults than children.

On the other hand, dyslexia may also result from emotional trauma. Although there is little research behind this type of dyslexia, it is cited that early exposure to stressful circumstances such as emotional abuse, neglect, environmental disaster, bullying, witnessing disaster or death, etc. may result in dyslexia and other learning disorders.

What does a dyslexic person see?

Every dyslexic person is different and what they see will not only depend on the type of dyslexia they suffer from, but also the severity of their dyslexia. One person might see letters and numbers backwards or upside down, while another person may not be able to distinguish between similar looking letters such as e, c, and o. There are other cases in which letters may appear all bunched together, or jumbled and out of order. In fact, some dyslexic people have no problem at all reading, but may struggle to connect the letters and sound out words.

There’s no one answer when it comes to what a dyslexic person sees or struggles with. The only way to know for sure is to get a proper diagnosis, during which the doctor may perform several assessments such as decoding, word recognition, reading fluency and comprehension, oral language skills, and more.

Can you outgrow dyslexia?

No, dyslexia does not go away and you cannot outgrow it; however, early intervention and appropriate instruction and support can go a long way in mitigating the struggles that accompany dyslexia. In addition to early intervention and support, there are a number of assistive technologies – such as text-to-speech – that can help accommodate individuals with dyslexia. In most cases, although dyslexia never fully “goes away”, individuals learn how to adapt and overcome the struggles stemming from their dyslexia.

Does dyslexia affect speech too or just reading abilities?

Yes, dyslexia can affect both reading abilities and speaking abilities. In fact, one of the first signs of dyslexia in children is delayed speech development. In addition to this delay, children with dyslexia may also suffer from a number of speech issues such as reduced phonological awareness, reduced phonological memory, jumbling up similar-sounding words, and stuttering or speech deficiency.

Undergoing speech therapy with a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist  can help to minimize the effects of dyslexia on a child’s speaking abilities. SLPs can help assess a child’s reading and writing abilities, as well as aid in early language acquisition.

Can you develop dyslexia later in life?

Most people with dyslexia have it from birth; however, it is possible to develop dyslexia later in life. More often than not, this late onset development is due to a traumatic brain injury – as stated above – such as a stroke or a concussion. On the other hand, if you’ve been diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult but haven’t suffered from a traumatic brain injury it’s more likely that you’ve had the dyslexia all your life and it simply wasn’t diagnosed until late.

Need Dyslexia Testing or Treatment in Arlington Heights, IL?

Start by having a conversation about your concerns with your family doctor. Concerns can include developmental delays, behavioral problems, or mental health issues. Involve your child’s teacher to get answers about how they perform in school, get along with others, and any struggles the staff might notice. Request further testing, either through your family doctor or your child’s school, to confirm a diagnosis of dyslexia.

Once diagnosed and the type of dyslexia is identified, the school will develop an individualized learning plan for your child. You can also seek alternative treatments outside of the school setting. If you have concerns about dyslexia, contact NeuroHealth Arlington Heights online or give us a call at (847) 584-1894 to learn more about diagnosis and treatment options. We serve Arlington Heights and the surrounding areas – including Palatine, Schaumburg, Des Plaines, Mt Prospect, and more – and our team of experts is ready to help your child on the path to success.

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NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

About the author

For over 20 years, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has been offering neuropsychological and psychological assessments and treatments for people of all ages. These assessments and treatments address Behavioral, Emotional, & Social Issues, Neurocognitive Functions, and Neurodevelopmental Growth.