January 11


What is Phonological Dyslexia?

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

January 11, 2024

dyslexia, phonological dyslexia, types of dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder where a person has difficulties with reading, spelling, writing, and language processing. It’s a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how the brain processes written and spoken language, leading to challenges in sounding out words, recognizing sounds within words, and spelling accurately.

People with dyslexia may struggle with reading, word recognition, and general comprehension despite having normal intelligence, vision, and educational opportunities. It’s important to note that dyslexia is not a reflection of intelligence but rather a difference in the way the brain processes language. In this article, we explore phonological dyslexia, what causes it, and how you know if you or your child has it. We also include examples and the differences between phonological dyslexia and deep dyslexia.

What Is Phonological Dyslexia?

a close up of a book with words on it
Image by Rob Hobson is licensed with Unsplash License

Phonological dyslexia, also known as dysphonetic dyslexia, is a type of reading disorder where a person struggles with phonological processing — the ability to recognize the sounds of spoken language. It’s the most common type of dyslexia and has nothing to do with intelligence or vision. It has to do with how the brain interprets and processes language and is often more associated with auditory than visual processing challenges. If you have phonological dyslexia, you may find it difficult to understand the relationships between letters and their corresponding sounds, which can impact your ability to read and spell.

What Causes Phonological Dyslexia?

The root cause of phonological dyslexia is not yet fully understood, and research is still ongoing. However, the condition is believed to stem from various risk factors, such as:

  • Genetics: There’s evidence to suggest a genetic component in dyslexia, where a family history of reading or learning difficulties can increase the likelihood of a person developing phonological dyslexia.
  • Birth factors: Exposure to alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs during pregnancy, a prenatal infection, or a premature or low birth weight may be a risk factor for dyslexia.
  • Brain differences: Differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas associated with language processing and phonological awareness, may contribute to phonological dyslexia.
  • Environmental factors: Limited exposure to language and literacy activities in the early years, limited access to educational resources, or insufficient reading instruction may contribute to the development or worsening of phonological dyslexia.
  • Neurobiological factors: Dysfunctions, such as problems in certain brain regions that handle language, may make it harder to understand sounds in words and affect reading.
  • Stroke or Alzheimer’s disease: Conditions such as a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease can bring on phonological dyslexia in later years.

When it comes to phonological dyslexia, it’s often not caused by just one factor. It’s usually a combination of various factors that contribute to the development of phonological dyslexia in children and adults. Research is ongoing to better understand its underlying causes so we can develop effective interventions.

What Is an Example of Phonological Dyslexia?

If you have phonological dyslexia, you may struggle to read or pronounce unfamiliar words or numbers. This is because you find it hard to recognize or pronounce the individual sounds within the word. For example, when encountering the word “cat,” you may have trouble breaking down the sounds “c,” “a,” and “t” and blending them to form the word “cat.” You may have difficulty identifying the individual sounds represented by the letters and, as a result, have challenges with accurately sounding out or pronouncing the word.

How Do You Know if You Have Phonological Dyslexia?

Identifying phonological dyslexia involves recognizing certain signs or symptoms related to reading, spelling, and phonological processing. Here are some indicators that may suggest you or your child has phonological dyslexia:

  • Struggling to decode words: Difficulty sounding out or pronouncing unfamiliar words, especially any words that have various spellings.
  • Struggling to spell correctly: Difficulty spelling words based on their sounds, which can lead to frequent spelling errors.
  • Reading difficulties: Slow or laborious reading, with hesitations or errors when reading out loud.
  • Phonological awareness difficulties: Challenges with identifying or manipulating individual sounds within words, such as rhyming, segmenting, and blending sounds.
  • Struggling with word retrieval: Difficulty recalling words or frequently using placeholder words, such as “um” or “uh”, while speaking.
  • Avoiding reading or writing tasks: A strong dislike for reading or writing activities due to the associated challenges.

It’s important to note that experiencing one or more of these difficulties doesn’t necessarily mean that you have phonological dyslexia. A formal assessment by a qualified professional, such as a specialist in learning disabilities at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights, is key. This ensures we can accurately diagnose and determine whether you or your child has phonological dyslexia or other reading difficulties.

What Is the Difference Between Phonological Dyslexia and Deep Dyslexia?

Phonological dyslexia and deep dyslexia are two different forms of reading disorders. Phonological dyslexia includes struggling with phonological processing and associating letters with sounds. This can lead to difficulties with sounding out words, spelling based on sounds, and issues with phonological awareness tasks, such as deleting, manipulating, segmenting, or blending sounds.

Deep dyslexia encompasses a broader spectrum of reading difficulties that goes beyond these phonological difficulties. It includes semantic errors where you substitute words with similar meanings or visual errors where you misread words that look the same. For example, you may misread “house” as “horse” based on visual similarity or read “chair” as “sofa” due to a semantic association between related words.

Do You or Your Child Have Dyslexia?

While phonological dyslexia can make it difficult to read, there are ways to learn how to process language. With the right treatment, someone with dyslexia can learn to read just as well as their peers. At NeuroHealth Arlington Heights, we use a personalized approach that caters to your or your child’s specific needs or challenges. If you’re wondering if you or your child may have dyslexia, schedule an appointment with NeuroHealth Arlington Heights today for phonological dyslexia testing or treatment. Take a proactive step toward empowering yourself or your child with the necessary tools and strategies to read more effectively.

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.