Dyslexia and Screening for Common Comorbidities/Co-occurring Conditions

Dyslexia is a condition that causes difficulties with reading and language due to issues with identifying speech sounds and their connections to letters and words. Dyslexia believed to affect up to 17% of the population, is a permanent condition that may cause difficulties in math, reading comprehension, spelling, and writing. Complicating the problem, many individuals affected by dyslexia have co-occurring conditions that negatively impact their learning process.

Importance of Dyslexia Screenings

Private or school-based evaluations can provide a dyslexia diagnosis. However, these assessments should identify common comorbidities to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

One of the most common pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders, ADHD, is present in 25-40% of people with dyslexia. ADHD is generally first spotted in childhood and persists into adulthood. Individuals with ADHD typically display excess energy levels, act impulsively, and have difficulty paying attention.

Anxiety and Depression

Individuals with dyslexia are also likely to experience depression or anxiety, which may cause low mood, persistent or excessive worry, or feelings of nervousness and fear. One study suggests that almost 29% of children with learning disabilities may suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD includes a range of challenges, including repetitive behaviors, speech, nonverbal communication, and social skills. The CDC estimates that 1 in 36 American children are affected by autism. Approximately 12% of dyslexic children also display autistic symptoms. Overlapping symptoms of the two disorders include difficulties with language, although those with autism have more misunderstanding of social cues.

Atypical Sensory Processing

The human brain often adapts quickly to sensory input, such as sounds and images. However, researchers discovered that sensory processing for those with dyslexia is approximately half as efficient as individuals without the disorder, which could explain why they experience difficulties filtering out noise and other distractions.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

Reading disorders often go hand-in-hand with developmental coordination disorders, characterized by delays in developing motor skills and difficulties coordinating movements to complete everyday tasks. Because research has shown that between 3 and 13% of children with language-related disorders also have DCD, experts recommend conducting screenings for fine motor skills and other movement problems.

Specific Learning Disabilities

Individuals with dyslexia frequently exhibit additional learning disorders. The following are common co-occurring conditions:

  • Dysgraphia refers to an impaired ability to produce letters by hand. This disorder can interfere with learning to spell and can impede writing fluency. 
  • Dyscalculia is a learning disorder involving problems processing numerical concepts, like understanding measurements, money, quantity, number facts, and calculations. 

Find a Comprehensive Assessment

A comprehensive dyslexia evaluation should include assessments for conditions that often co-occur with language impairment difficulties. A multidisciplinary team should plan for the treatment of these comorbidities to ensure the child is best prepared for school and life. Browse online resources to learn more about how to help kids in school with (TOD™) Tests of Dyslexia and other assessment tools.

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