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Dr Miriam: We're on top of the word: Health Focus: Dyslexia; DYSLEXIA can affect people of all ages and is the most common learning difficulty, affecting 10 per cent of the UK population. Up to 4 per cent have severe dyslexia, including 375,000 schoolchildren. Dyslexia can occur at any level of intellectual ability and effective help is available.

Byline: Miriam Stoppard

READING, writing and spelling can all be tough if you have dyslexia.

You may also face problems with short-term memory, mathematics, concentration and personal organisation.

Dyslexia usually arises from a weakness in dealing with language-based information.

Biological in origin, it tends to run in families, but environmental factors also contribute.

Dyslexia isn't the result of poor motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or lack of opportunities - but it may occur alongside any of these.

But the upside, the good news, is that the effects can largely be overcome by skilled specialist teaching and finding ways to compensate for any weakness.

What causes it?

SEVERAL genes may be factors. If one parent is dyslexic, there is a 50 per cent chance any of their children will inherit dyslexia.

Brain imaging, like MRI scan, has shown differences in specific areas of the dyslexic brain compared to non-dyslexic brains.

The impact

THE difficulties dyslexia causes may affect a child's social and psychological development. Many dyslexic people have low self-esteem and self-confidence, and the frustration they feel can result in aggressive or disruptive behaviour.

What to do

ALL children suspected of having dyslexia should have a full formal assessment with an educational psychologist who will establish whether dyslexia is present.

Future prospects

DYSLEXIC people tend to be creative and artistic.

They are often good lateral thinkers and have good problem-solving skills, and often make good architects, designers, engineers, IT experts or surgeons.

While the effects of dyslexia can be alleviated, dyslexia cannot be cured. The most effective method of help is specialist tuition.Why Eddie has a different take on lifeABOUT 60 per cent of dyslexic people find it difficult to sort out the sounds within words. This means they have problems with reading, writing and spelling.

When does it become a problem?

CHILDREN are born with dyslexia, but it's when they begin to learn, using words and numerical symbols, that it becomes noticeable.

Is it intelligence related?

DYSLEXIA can occur at any level of ability and occurs in all socio-economic groups.

Is there an upside?

YES. There's a theory that the neurological features also give some dyslexic people visual, spatial and lateral thinking abilities to enable them to be successful in a wide range of careers.

They include famous names such as businessman Richard Branson, actor Keanu Reeves and comedian Eddie Izzard whose freewheeling style connects an amazing variety of ideas.

Are girls and boys affected equally?

RECENT research indicates they are, but data from the Dyslexia Institute suggests that three times as many boys as girls receive additional teaching because of their dyslexia.

Some dyslexic children have behaviour problems and they usually improve when the right kind of teaching for reading, writing, spelling and basic maths is provided.

Will careers be affected?

NOT at all. Each dyslexic person has his own pattern of strengths and weaknesses.

Many enjoy lateral thinking abilities and shine in such fields as the arts, theatre, design and computing.

What they need is to be identified and taught, to enable them to release their talents.CRUISE IN CONTROLHOLLYWOOD actor Tom Cruise says dyslexia blighted his early education and ruined his chances of becoming a professional pilot.

Tom admits he felt embarrassed when it came to dealing with his dyslexia, but now he teaches his own children to read and is a board member of a US education and literary problem foundation.

He says: "I don't want people to go through what I did."WHAT A PARENT CAN DOTHE first step is to learn as much about dyslexia as you can. You will learn a lot on the website of the Dyslexia Institute at www.dyslexia-inst.org.uk.

In a section called Recognising Dyslexia, there's a checklist to go through and questions for older children and adults.

At school, if you're concerned dyslexia may be the problem, talk to your class teacher, tutor or supervisor.

After consideration, the teacher may then ask for help from the school special educational needs co-ordinator.

The school should decide which school-based stage of the code of practice is appropriate and begin an individual education plan.

A good assessment of need should be carried out first by a specialist teacher, but preferably by a psychologist if the need is greater.

If you're seriously concerned, or are worried about possible delay and want to take immediate action, approach the Dyslexia Institute to find the address of a centre near your home. Each centre also has teaching outposts which could be nearer.

.The Dyslexia Institute has a special programme to support children at home. Ask if you can read their SPELLIT report.

FOR more information write to The Dyslexia Institute, National Training & Resources Centre, Park House, Wick Road, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0HH, tel: 01784-222300 or visit their website.

ACT NOW 1 Early recognition and intervention are the keys to success.

2 Dyslexia does not have to prevent an individual from achieving Many dyslexic people are successful in a wide range of careers.

3 Specialist multi-sensory tuition helps dyslexic people of all ages.

4 The Dyslexia Institute works to ensure all dyslexic people are identified and helped.

Miriam Stoppard

CAPTION(S):

GROUNDED: But Tom Cruise got to play a fighter pilot in Top Gun; FREEWHEELING: Eddie Izzard
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Title Annotation:M Health
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 12, 2004
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