The central feature of a Reading Disorder is that achievement falls substantially below the level expected given the child's chronoligical age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education. Achievement may be accuracy, speed or comprehension as measured by individually administered standardized tests. This disorder interferes significantly with academic achievement or with daily activities. With this disorder, also called Dyslexia, oral reading is characterized by distortions, substitutions, or omissions, and both oral and silent reading are characterized by slowness and errors in comprehension. Letter or number reversals are not uncommon through age nine.
It is rare for either a Mathematics Disorder or a Disorder of Written Expression to be present without this disorder. From 60 to 80% of people diagnosed with this disorder are males. This may be biased somewhat since school referrals may be based more on disruptive behaviors associated with Learning Disorders. More equal rates are found between boys and girls when careful diagnosis and stringent criteria are used rather than traditional school based referral and diagnostic procedures. It is estimated that 4% of school-age children have this disorder.
Symptoms of difficulty may occur as early as kindergarten, or when reading first occurs naturally. These may be an inability to distinguish among common letters, or to associate common phonemes (sounds) with letter symbols. However, the diagnosis is seldom made before the end of kindergarten because formal instruction does not begin until this point in most school settings. When this disorder is associated with high IQ, the child or adolescent may function at or near grade level in the early grades, and the disorder may not be fully apparent. Often this is in the fourth grade or later. With early identification and intervention, the prognosis is good in a significant percentage of cases. This disorder may persist into adult life. It is more prevalent in children with first degree biological relatives with learning disorders.
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