Learning disabilities, which include reading disabilities, are frequently diagnosed in children. Learning disabilities can occur for a variety of reasons and often require a multidisciplinary approach to address some of the more complex problems that can surround the diagnosis. Early diagnosis and referral to qualified educational professionals for evidence-based assessments and therapies offers the best chance for an improvement in quality of life. Learning disabilities are primarily language-based disorders; vision problems do not cause primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Although there are some vision problems that can interfere with the development of vision, the neurodevelopmental issues surrounding learning disabilities generally involve other areas of neural processing.
Diagnostic Criteria (DSM5)
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5). In this latest edition, specific learning disorder (SLD) is the umbrella term for mathematics, reading, and written expression disorders. It is now a single, overall diagnosis, incorporating deficits that impact academic achievement. Rather than limiting learning disorders to diagnoses particular to reading, mathematics and written expression, the criteria describe shortcomings in general academic skills and provide detailed specifiers for the areas of reading, mathematics, and written expression. The diagnosis requires persistent difficulties in reading, writing, arithmetic, or mathematical reasoning skills during formal years of schooling.
Specific learning disorder with impairment in reading includes possible deficits in:
Word reading accuracy
Reading rate or fluency
Impediments to successful reading may be caused by one or more impairments to the 3 skills necessary for reading: (1) word decoding, as in dyslexia; (2) automaticity of letter and word recognition, but intact decoding of words, as in a reading fluency problem; and (3) understanding the meaning of words, when decoding and fluency function well, as in a reading comprehension disorder.
Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.
Dyslexia is traditionally defined as an unexpected difficulty learning to read despite adequate intelligence, motivation, and educational opportunities. Longitudinal studies have demonstrated an association between dyslexia and language delays. Children may also have developmental problems with either expressive language, receptive language, or both. Such children are more likely to developing reading disorders. Many children with difficulties with reading, expressive language, or receptive language can also develop behavior disturbances in the home or classroom. These behaviors may ultimately impact their psychosocial development.