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What is a Learning Disability in Reading?

A Learning Disability in Reading, sometimes called a Reading Disability or Dyslexia, is more formally called a Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading, according to DSM-5, a reference guide clinicians use to determine whether experiences and challenges are consistent with a diagnosis. Reading difficulties must have persisted for at least 6 months, even when efforts are made to support learning, in order for a Learning Disorder to be diagnosed.

A Learning Disorder in reading can affect some or all of these reading skills:

Accuracy:
What challenges look like:

  • misreading or mispronouncing words
  • trouble sounding out letters and blends systematically 
  • guessing based on the beginning letter, or what a word generally looks like (e.g., writer might be read as winter)
  • NOTE: Dyslexia is another term used by clinicians when diagnosing challenges sounding out words

 

Rate: reading speed
What challenges look like:

  • reading slowly with lots of effort
  • pausing between words and sentences
  • needing extra time to read detailed text

 

*Fluency is a term that means rate + accuracy. So weak reading fluency would mean slow and inaccurate reading.

Comprehension: understanding what is read
What challenges look like:

  • trouble making sense of stories and paragraphs
  • difficulty connecting ideas
  • trouble making inferences when information is not stated directly

 

If reading is a concern, consider a comprehensive assessment of attention, too, since reading difficulties and ADHD often go together. 

Early intervention with scientifically-supported reading programs can make a big difference in reading skills, especially in sounding out skills. Accommodations like Assistive Technology can also help students access text through audio book options.