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  • Writer's pictureEmily Wagner, MS

Exploring the Comorbidities of Dyslexia



Dyslexia is a learning disorder that impacts your child’s ability to read. Children with dyslexia often have other learning or emotional problems that affect their dyslexia — which also impacts their mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. When a person has 2 or more health conditions at the same time, they’re referred to as comorbidities. 


This article will provide a brief overview of the different conditions associated with dyslexia. To learn more about comorbidities, we encourage you to talk to your child’s doctor. 


Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that often begins in childhood. Children with ADHD struggle to focus, daydream throughout the day, and easily forget important tasks.1 Studies estimate that up to 30% of people with dyslexia also have ADHD.2 


When a child has both dyslexia and ADHD, focusing on reading and writing can be even more difficult. This is because both conditions make it harder to pay attention while reading. Your child may fatigue more easily while trying to read, write, or complete other activities requiring concentration.


Executive dysfunction also goes hand in hand with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and other neurological problems.3 Children with executive dysfunction:


  • Have trouble planning and executing tasks, such as sitting down and doing their homework

  • Can’t focus on too many things at the same time

  • Daydream or “space out” throughout the day, especially during classes

  • Can’t motivate themselves to start a difficult or uninteresting task 

  • Struggle with impulse control 

  • Speak before they think, such as blurting out an answer rather than waiting for their turn


Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia


Dysgraphia and dyscalculia are specific learning disorders (SLD) that occur in children with dyslexia. 


Dysgraphia is a neurological condition that makes it hard for children to put their thoughts down into writing. Those affected by dysgraphia often have messy handwriting, trouble spelling, and difficulty organizing their thoughts on paper. Symptoms of this condition typically start when a child is learning to write.4 


Dyscalculia affects a child’s ability to understand information presented in numbers — especially in mathematics. Children with this condition struggle to4:


  • Count upwards, such as counting from 1 to 10

  • Connect a number of something to the object in front of them, such as 3 blocks 

  • Organize numbers in a list from smallest to largest 

  • Count and use money 

  • Count in their head and use their fingers instead


Studies show that of people with dyslexia, 30% to 47% also have dysgraphia.5 While they are two separate conditions, they share similar symptoms, including difficulties with orthographic coding or the ability to form, store, and recall letters and numbers. Around 26% of children with dyslexia also struggle with dyscalculia for the same reasons.6 


Anxiety

Dyslexia is a stressful condition that can leave children feeling anxious, nervous, or sad. Your child may worry about reading out loud in front of a class or avoid activities involving reading altogether. Or maybe their classmates tease them because they have a harder time than others.7 


Parents and teachers need to watch out for signs of anxiety in children with dyslexia.8 They can include:


  • Crying often

  • Avoiding classwork, homework, or reading activities

  • Complaining of stomachaches or headaches 

  • Acting out in class, especially during reading times 

  • Becoming angry or cranky for no apparent reason 

  • Being afraid to make mistakes, even small ones 

  • Worrying about small things that are out of your child’s control 


If left untreated, dyslexia and ADHD conditions can lead to low self-esteem, aggression or a desire to act out, and withdrawal from friends and adults.9 Remember, your child is feeling this way because they’re having a hard time. Addressing their dyslexia and anxiety will help them feel more confident in their reading abilities and themselves. 

Language Processing Disorder

Language processing disorder (LPD) is a learning disability that affects a child’s ability to process, understand, and express language. Children typically have normal intelligence with no speech or hearing problems. However, their brains struggle to grasp the grammar, sentence structure (syntax), and vocabulary of a language.10 


According to the Learning Disabilities Resources Foundation Action (LDRFA), around 5% of American children are living with LPD.10 Since LPD interferes with a child’s ability to understand language, many also have dyslexia. 


Irlen Syndrome


Irlen syndrome is a visual processing disorder that affects the brain’s ability to process different wavelengths of light. This makes it difficult for people to see in fluorescent or bright lighting. A child with Irlen syndrome often has reading and writing difficulties because11:


  • The lights in a classroom or at home may strain their eyes 

  • The print in a book or worksheet becomes difficult to read 

  • They get headaches or fatigue easily when reading 

  • They have poor depth perception 

  • They can’t read words on white paper due to glare from lights in the room 


Children with Irlen syndrome are more likely to have many of the same problems seen in dyslexia. 


How Can Bridging the Gaps Dyslexia Center Help?


At Bridging the Gaps Dyslexia Center, we assess for dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, Irlen Syndrome, and ADHD. We provide the appropriate intervention for these struggles which reduces stress and anxiety because the student is successful at performing their academic tasks. We make a visible difference in the lives of the students we serve.


References


  1. Symptoms of ADHD — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  2. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Dyslexia — International Dyslexia Association

  3. Executive Dysfunction — Cleveland Clinic

  4. Dysgraphia — Cleveland Clinic

  5. Disorder of Written Expression and Dysgraphia: Definition, Diagnosis, and Management — Translational Pediatrics

  6. An Epidemiological Study of Prevalence and Comorbidity of Non-Clinical Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia Symptoms in Public and Private Schools of Pakistan — Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences

  7. The Dyslexia-Stress-Anxiety Connection — International Dyslexia Association

  8. Dyslexia: Symptoms & Causes — Mayo Clinic

  9. Dyslexia and Anxiety in Kids — Understood

  10. What Is Language Processing Disorder? The Complete Guide — Learning Disabilities Resources Foundation Action 

  11. What is Irlen Syndrome? — Irlen

  12. Reading Problems, Dyslexia, Learning Difficulties — Irlen 

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