[ELI5] What exactly is dyslexia?

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[ELI5] What exactly is dyslexia?

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Dyslexia is a condition that affects your understanding of visual symbols, basically. Since writing is basically a bunch of visual symbols of sounds and words all put together, dyslexic folks often have a harder time reading.

Some fonts (like Comic Sans) can make it easier for dyslexic people to tell the difference between letters that are otherwise very similar (like d and b).

I have the opposite condition (hyperlexia) and it resulted in me teaching myself how to read when I was 2, which led to my parents believing I was a super-genius and really screwed up my social and educational experience growing up.

Usually, it means you only hear the words, instead of the individual letters. This makes the alphabet useless for you. (but writing in chinese characters is unaffected)

Dyslexia is a cognitive disorder that make reading difficult.
There are generally two main types of dyslexia: phonological dyslexia and lexical dyslexia.

These types affect different cognitive paths in the brain.

The phonological path is reading a word letter by letter or syllable by syllable. This is the way children first learn to read and this is the way adults read words that they are not familiar with, proper nouns or invented words or series of letters (logatomes). A person whose phonological path is affected by dyslexia will have troube reading this way, in particular with the seriation (putting sounds in order) of the letters and sounds.

The lexical path is the expert way of reading. When children become more adept at reading, they no longer read syllable by syllable, but rather sort of photograph the word they see and match it with an internal visual representation of the word that they recognize. This representation is linked to others that contain the phonological, semantic, metalinguistic informations. A person which lexical path is affected by dyslexia will have trouble matching the word to a representation and that can result in issues where words are not well identified or even replaced by logatomes (coffee can become goppee for instance).

This is all closely related to working memory and attention, so the intensity of the disorder might depend on things like concentration or being tired. People that are not dyslexic might exhibit symptoms when very tired or otherwise cognitively impaired by substances that affect high cognitive functions.

I will add that this information comes from cognitive psychology courses taught by speech therapists about 10 years ago and repeated here off the top of my head.

I would note is kind of like autism, in that it is a broad range of symptoms not a specific conditions. I was personally diagnosed at age 8, when I won the school reading contest and failed English class in the same year. I have a masters degree in engineering, but I am basically unable to write legibly by hand, as anything more than a 5 letter word I am unable to spell correctly without a word processor or auto correct. I often get stuck when autocorrect doesn’t even recognize the word I want.

I’m pretty dyslexic, I basically have to read a lot of things twice. I’ll read a title to a post on here and go what the hell then re read it and it then makes sense. If I write a paper I have to proof read it a bunch of times. Reading out loud is embarrassing but other than that it’s not too bad.