Dyslexia and Brain Injury
Of all the areas of academic performance, having difficulty reading, most often characterized as dyslexia, is the most stressful. Your brain is an intricate organ that governs most of the skills that are needed to be academically successful. As you would expect, the academic deficits that can surface after a brain injury, such as a concussion or stroke/aneurysm, vary depending on the area of injury and the extent of nerve-cell damage in that area. With reading, writing, spelling, or math problems, the location of injury is believed to be the area between the back of the left parietal lobe and the left occipital lobe (Click on the photo of the brain). Problems with facial and symbol recognition, social relationships, dance steps, and creative expression are believed to originate in the corresponding area of the brain’s right hemisphere.
If the temporal lobe of the brain is affected by a concussion and/or stroke/aneurysm, some degree of short- or long-term memory loss often occurs. If this happens, you may encounter problems with word and letter identification, reading comprehension, or remembering and applying the principles of phonics. If the back of the brain received the impact, the occipital lobe, which is the part that oversees vision and recognition, may be injured. Problems with eye movement and hand-eye coordination can result, as can difficulties with perception and recalling words.
Personal Story of Dyslexia After Injury
Dr. Diane® was an avid reader prior to her accident, plowing through some 3,000 words per minute with 90% comprehension. Suddenly, she could not read simple instructions! Sometimes she could see the letters but had no idea what the words were or what they meant. At other times, she could read and understand, but was unable to recall what she had read minutes before. Her math skills were affected as well, and Dr. Diane® was shocked to find that as a former cost-accounting instructor at a local college, she was unable to even fathom monetary values. It was four and a half years before she could go to lunch with a friend and calculate her share of the bill!
She kept this ability until she got another concussion, which brought her reading level down, once again, from 3,000 words per minute to 285 words per minute. It took over a year to regain her former reading level.
What Academic Problems can arise after a Brain Injury?
A brain injury, whether from a concussion or stroke/aneurysm, has the potential to diminish skills in several academic areas. Notably it can be linked to specific deficits in reading, writing, spelling, and math. Problems that are encountered most often are described below:
When a brain injury has affected eye movement you may have trouble reading, struggle to focus or have trouble tracking; that is following the text from one line to the next.
If your memory has been affected, you will have trouble recognizing letters or words and remembering the information you were able to read. As you now know it is also common to experience dyslexia, which causes a mixed view of letters and letter sequences, trouble identifying words, and difficulty separating text from its background. Doing puzzles would also become difficult.
Alexiais a processing problem that makes you unable to recognize letters or words. As a result, you would see printed words as meaningless groups of marks on the page. Notably, Agnosia Alexia is the total inability to understand written words and is the result of damage to the left occipital lobe.
Some writing problems are muscle-related, this results in problems with finger, hand or wrist movement (fine motor movement). Depending on the location of your brain injury, you may also have trouble with hand/eye coordination which makes copying words difficult.
Dysgraphia results from injury to the parietal lobe which interrupts the flow of nerve impulses between the hand and brain. As a result, you won’t be able to perform the movements needed for readable handwriting. If you are suddenly dysgraphic, you may be unable to remember what letters and numbers look like, or how to write them.
Agraphia is a nerve-disconnection problem that interferes with your ability to write legibly—or, in some cases, at all. Another writing problem is Agitographia, which is described as rapid writing movements that cause letters, words, or parts of words to be distorted or left out.
Spelling problems are a part of dyslexia and often follow a brain injury, such as a concussion or stroke/aneurysm. If your visual memory has been affected, for instance, you may find yourself forgetting what certain letters or words look like. Auditory memory problems can affect your ability to “sound-out” words by limiting your recall of letter and word sounds, and the rules of phonics.
Dyssymbolia is the failure to understand numbers, math symbols, and musical notes may occur after a concussion (or post-concussive syndrome). Unfortunately, it also causes you to struggle to comprehend prices, sizes and measurements.
Dyscalculia affects your ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide—both on paper and in your head. Visual problems can cause you to forget the rules of complex math like fractions, decimals, and percentages. Also, math word problems may become difficult because your working memory is affected.