Clinical, Social, and Emotional Aspects Of Dyslexia

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Affecting between 5 to 10 percent of people, dyslexia is a common condition characterized by a learning disability in reading (Team, 2019). Those who are dyslexic often have trouble reading at a stable pace and they have a hard time reading without stumbling over words and making mistakes (Team, 2019). In addition, they struggle also with comprehension, writing, spelling, and even math (Team, 2019). But beyond just the clinical definition, dyslexia has a deeper effect on the people who have it, specifically in their emotional and social lives. First, we will need to fully understand the clinical aspects of dyslexia and debunk some common myths about this condition. By learning the clinical portion, a better understanding of dyslexia can develop and a stronger sense of how it affects the lives of those who are afflicted will be gained.

Clinical Aspects

Although some may assume dyslexia is caused by a problem with intelligence, people who are dyslexic actually have normal intelligence and normal vision (Dyslexia, 2017). What dyslexia does affect are the areas of the brain which process language (Dyslexia, 2017). This, in turn, causes difficulties in reading, comprehension, and other areas. There are currently no cures for dyslexia but early assessment and intervention play a major role in bringing about the best results (Dyslexia, 2017).


In order to diagnose and help those with this condition, it must quickly be recognized and then addressed. The Mayo Clinic actually provides a very detailed list of symptoms that parents can use when trying to determine if their child may have dyslexia (Dyslexia, 2017). It also features symptoms that may be present in older age groups such as teens and adults (Dyslexia, 2017).


Before School

  • Late talking
  • Learning new words slowly
  • Problems forming words correctly, such as reversing sounds in words or confusing words that sound alike
  • Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers, and colors
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games

School Age

  • Reading well below the expected level for age
  • Problems processing and understanding what he or she hears
  • Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
  • Problems remembering the sequence of things
  • Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
  • Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading

Teens and Adults

  • Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
  • Slow and labor-intensive reading and writing
  • Problems spelling
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Mispronouncing names or words, or problems retrieving words
  • Trouble understanding jokes or expressions that have a meaning not easily understood from the specific words (idioms), such as 'piece of cake' meaning 'easy'
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Difficulty summarizing a story
  • Trouble learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty memorizing
  • Difficulty doing math problems


Although scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of dyslexia, the condition has proven to be very hereditary (Dyslexia, 2017). It tends to run in families and appears to be related to certain genes that inhibit the brain’s ability to process language and reading (Dyslexia, 2017). Risk factors that may lead to dyslexia include:

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  • A family history of dyslexia or other learning disabilities (Dyslexia, 2017)
  • Premature birth or low birth weight (Dyslexia, 2017)
  • Exposure during pregnancy to nicotine, drugs, alcohol, or infection that may alter brain development in the fetus (Dyslexia, 2017)
  • Individual differences in the parts of the brain that enable reading (Dyslexia, 2017)


Problems caused by dyslexia can range from learning issues to social problems and various other complications (Dyslexia, 2017). One major impact is that dyslexia can impede the person’s ability to learn and comprehend information. This is due to the fact that reading is one of the most important skills because it serves as the foundation for other school subjects (Dyslexia, 2017). In order to understand science material or comprehend equations in mathematics, a child needs to know how to read. So, in people with dyslexia, there are major complications in the way that they can process and intake information because there is an issue with their reading (Dyslexia, 2017). Other pressing issues caused by dyslexia are social problems. When left untreated, dyslexia can cause behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, aggression, and withdrawal (Dyslexia, 2017). This can lead to rifts between the afflicted person and his/her family and friends. The last major impact is the effect dyslexia can have on a person’s ability to reach his/her fullest potential (Dyslexia, 2017). When this does not happen, children grow up with the inability to develop mentally and emotionally because of reading and comprehension complications (Dyslexia, 2017). These effects can have long-term consequences on a person’s educational, social, and economic state.

Social and Emotional Aspects

As aforementioned, dyslexia can lead to a plethora of complications, mostly including social and developmental consequences. In fact, in order to fulfill their hopes and dreams, people with dyslexia must work extra hard to overcome the many barriers they are faced with. In order to give them a better chance at attaining that fulfillment, it is imperative that they are assessed at an early age (Sako, 2016). In fact, studies have shown that “people with dyslexia learn better once they are taught in their preferred learning style (Sako, 2016).” However, people should never assume that children with dyslexia can learn to read properly if they just ‘try harder’ (Morin, 2019). It has to be understood that in kids with dyslexia, the brain functions differently (Morin, 2019). Although continuing to read over a long period of time can stimulate brain activity and alter comprehension issues, it is a very moderate change. What really helps to approach them with the right type of instruction (Morin, 2019). With good instruction and more importantly an abundance of patience, dyslexic kids can and will improve in their quality of reading (Morin, 2019).

Major emotional problems that arise from living with dyslexia are constant feelings of frustration and discouragement. “The frustration of children with dyslexia often centers on their inability to meet expectations (Sako, 2016).” They have to live with the pain of feeling as though they will never be able to achieve other people’s expectations or standards. Additionally, they may feel as though they can never surpass their inability to achieve goals. What are some emotions that may result from these feelings of frustration?

Well first, dyslexic people feel a lot of anxiety. Anxiety is a very common emotional symptom or manifestation of frustrated feelings (Sako, 2016). Dyslexic children become very dreadful at school because they experience constant frustration and confusion (Sako, 2016). As a result, when entering into adulthood, they avoid branching out or getting into new, unfamiliar situations because they feel it will lead to inevitable disappointment and failure (Sako, 2016).

Dyslexia can also lead to the manifestation of anger. According to Enkeleda Sako’s (2019) excerpt on The Emotional and Social Effects of Dyslexia:

Many of the emotional problems caused by dyslexia occur out of frustration with school or social situations. Social scientists have frequently observed that frustration produces anger. This can be clearly seen in many dyslexics. The obvious target of the dyslexic's anger would be schools and teachers. However, it is also common for the dyslexic to vent his anger on his parents. Mothers are particularly likely to feel the dyslexic's wrath. Often, the child sits on his anger during school to the point of being extremely passive. However, once he is in the safe environment of home, these very powerful feelings erupt and are often directed toward the mother. Ironically, it is the child's trust of the mother that allows him to vent his anger.

Another major trigger for feelings of anger is the expectations of society for young dyslexic adolescents. As youngsters reach adolescence, society expects them to become independent. The tension between the expectation of independence and the child's learned dependence causes great internal conflicts. The adolescent dyslexic uses his anger to break away from those people on which he feels so dependent. Because of these factors, it may be difficult for parents to help their teenage dyslexic. Instead, peer tutoring or a concerned young adult may be better able to intervene and help the child. (Sako, 2019)

These feelings of anger are definitely far from healthy because not only are they projected on to the wrong people, such as the parents, it also leads to further isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Other emotional struggles deal with self-image or the way the dyslexic person views him/herself (Sako, 2019). They will most likely fluctuate between feelings of vulnerability and feelings of inferiority because they genuinely do not believe they can succeed in life (Sako, 2019). According to Erik Erikson, issues concerning self-image must be resolved during the first years of school because if they are not, it can have a long-lasting effect well into adulthood (Sako, 2019). Dyslexic people also struggle with feelings of depression, which is a frequent complication (Sako, 2019). They are more prone to having intense feelings of sorrow and pain because of their low self-esteem (Sako, 2019). They tend to have both negative thoughts as well as a negative perspective of the world (Sako, 2019). They also suffer a loss of confidence and severe loss of zeal for learning (Sako, 2019). All of these complications can continue well into adulthood and can very much lead to family problems and a nonexistent social life (Sako, 2019). So now the biggest question is what can be done? Are there any forms of help for those who suffer the emotional and social effects of living with dyslexia? The simple answer is yes!

Overcoming the Odds

The biggest help to those who are living with dyslexia is just having someone who is extremely supportive and understanding (Sako, 2019). Just like anyone else, dyslexic children really need the presence of someone who is willing to remain patient and guide them while they figure out their emotions like pain, frustration, anger, and confusion. Other helpful factors are:

  1. Education: Parents of dyslexic children are not the only people who should understand the condition. Everyone needs to educate themselves because this allows for better communication and it will help to lessen tensions, especially in schools. (Sako, 2019)
  2. Testing: Assessing whether or not a child is dyslexic can have a huge impact on how they will group up to be. The faster it is detected, the faster they can receive the help they need. (Sako, 2019)
  3. Self-Advocacy: this directly correlates with education because the dyslexic person themselves need to understand their condition and true capacities. “A dyslexic person who understands their diagnosis can be taught to advocate for themselves (Sako, 2019).”

When all of these factors are applied, it could mean a huge help for someone who has dyslexia. Dyslexia does not have to be a condition that defines who they are and what they can do. People who are dyslexic are more than capable of overcoming the obstacles they face. We can all have a part in aiding them with their journey by staying educated and knowing the facts, remaining patient and most importantly being understanding. If everyone is able to fulfill those aspects, then people living with dyslexia no longer have to suffer feelings of depression or frustration.

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