Dyslexia and Autism

January 26, 2016

Autism is a complex disorder that has many related conditions that have similar symptoms and overlapping symptoms.  Dyslexia is one such related disorder that may be difficult to recognize among other symptoms of autistic children.  Let’s take a closer look at dyslexia and how it relates to autism.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia impacts approximately four to ten children in a hundred. The term refers to difficulties with the basic components of reading. This includes problems with decoding (sounding out words), encoding (spelling out words) and reading words quickly and accurately (fluency). For children with dyslexia, these skills are much lower than would be expected for their age and intellectual ability.  Dyslexia involves problems in “phonological awareness.” This refers to the ability to recognize the roles that sounds play in speech. So it includes detecting rhyming words and the beginning and ending sounds of words. It also includes being aware of smaller sound units such as syllables and “phonemes” – the smallest sound units. Children with dyslexia struggle with basic phonological processing, and this hampers their development of early reading skills. (Source: Autism Speaks)

Dyslexia and Autism

Most children with dyslexia are diagnosed in elementary school due to difficulty with reading, sounding out words and reading fluency.  Speech-language pathologists can evaluate children for dyslexia and create an individual education plan (IEP) specifically to intervene in reading disorders. Autism and dyslexia are both linked to the way the brain processes information. For this reason it is not unusual for people with autism to also have a diagnosis of dyslexia. Children with autism may have reading issues or speech issues that could interfere with diagnosing dyslexia or understanding the depth of the reading issue as it relates to decoding and encoding.  People with dyslexia and autism should seek appropriate treatment for both conditions. Speak with your child’s special education teacher, classroom teacher or guidance counselor to discuss both autism and the possibility that the reading difficulties your child is experiencing may be dyslexia or possibly another reading disorder.