Reading is a life skill that will serve you throughout your life. If you have problems reading in school it will follow you throughout life – through low self-esteem, lost job opportunities and even the prevention of getting a driver’s license.

The National Institutes of Health estimates the number of people with learning disorders range from 5%–15% of the general population. About 80% of people with a learning disorder have reading disorder, and the most common reading disorder is called dyslexia – which usually includes problems with spelling and writing as well.  Other studies suggest that about 4% of school age children have reading disorder.

Symptoms of reading disorder include poor comprehension, reversal of words or letters while reading, and difficulty decoding syllables or single words with the ability to associate them with specific sounds (phonics). People with reading disorders are more likely to have a parent or sibling with the disorder.

Academic under-achievement or disruption of daily activities result from reading disorders. People with the disorder usually perform well below their own mental capabilities. This means people of normal to above average intelligence may have a reading disability.

Learning to read is a complex brain function. If there are problems in any of the following areas the process could be disrupted:

§         Eye coordination to follow print lines

§         Spatial orientation to interpret letters and words

§         Visual Memory to retain meanings of letters and words by sight

§         Grasp of sentence structure and grammar

§         Ability to analyze and put things into categories

§         Integration of visual cues and memory with specific sounds

In order to diagnose a reading problem the examiner must take into account the child’s age, intelligence, educational opportunities, and such cultural factors as whether the language spoken at home is different from the language taught and used at school.

Approximately 60%-80% of children with reading disorders are boys, which could suggest that girls with reading disabilities are not being diagnosed correctly. Diagnosis is complicated by the fact that 20%–55% of children with reading disorder have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a behavioral disorder that aggravates learning difficulties. In addition, about one-quarter of children with reading disorder have conduct disorder.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus have issued a policy statement warning against visual treatments and recommending a cross-disciplinary educational approach that would include:

  • Phonics based study – based on sound/symbols that break words down into the letters and the sounds associated with them.
  • Mental associations that stimulate multi senses – visual, auditory and kinesthetic channels. The student sees, feels, and says the sound-symbol association at the same time. (Example: a student may use his/her finger to trace the letter or letter combination while pronouncing the letter or word aloud.)
  • Repetitive drill and practice through highly structured remediation serves to form necessary associations between sounds and written symbols.

Many famous and successful people, including two Presidents of the United States, have suffered from reading disorders. Generally, the prognosis is good if the condition is diagnosed early, and the child is enrolled in a good remedial program. Overcoming the disorder increases if there is a support system of family, friends and teachers, and the subject learns to develop high self-esteem.

This is Ron White; two-time USA Memory Champion. Fostering the ability to read, and finding out why some people are not able to read at a normal level, is important to building a good memory as well as a productive life.




Society for Neuroscience – Reading Failure:

Reader’s Digest – The Boy Who Couldn’t Read, September 2005, pgs. 72A-72F.

Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders – Reading Disorder: