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Understanding Dyslexia

brain injury and your brain diagramYour brain is a complex organ that controls the skills that are needed for learning. You can be born with dyslexia or get it after a brain injury. Dyslexia can cause several problems in school or work, which can create a lot of stress.

“Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called reading disability, dyslexia affect areas of the brain that process language.” – Mayoclinic.org

Personal Story of Dyslexia After Injury

Dr. Diane® was an avid reader before her concussion. She could read 3,000 words per minute and comprehend 90% of it. Then after the accident she couldn’t read simple instructions. Sometimes she saw the letters but didn’t know what they meant when put together. Other times, she could read and understand, but was unable to remember what she had read minutes before. Her math skills suffered as well and even as a former cost-accounting instructor, Dr. Diane® found that she could no longer understand the value of money. 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 her next concussion, which brought her reading level down again. It took over a year to regain her skills.

Problems caused by Dyslexia, Acquired Dyslexia and Similar Disorders

As stated above, it’s possible for a brain injury to trigger dyslexia and similar disorders, or you can be born with it. Either way, it is linked to loss of ability in reading, writing, spelling, and math. Common problems that occur are described below:

Reading Problems

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.

Writing Problems

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

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.

Math Problems

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.

Location of Injury and Skills Affected

The skill loss that happens after a brain injury (concussion or stroke/aneurysm) will vary depending on the area of injury.

Damage to the area between the left parietal lobe and the left occipital lobe (Click on the photo of the brain) can cause problems with reading, writing, spelling, and math. If the brain’s right hemisphere is damaged then problems with facial recognition, social relationships, dance skills, and creativity will result.

A temporal lobe injury will affect your short- or long-term memory. This type of injury can cause problems with reading comprehension and remembering the rules of phonics. An injury to the occipital lobe, would cause problems with eye movement, hand-eye coordination, and word recall.

Find Help and Hope in Dr. Diane’s Book!

Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

If you're suffering from a concussion, or any other form of mild traumatic brain injury, pick up Dr. Diane's book Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and start healing today!


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Dr. Diane® Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.
7 Hodges Street
N. Andover, MA 01845
Phone: (800) 500-9971

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Image Credit Elaine Boucher

Within each person shines an inner light that illuminates our path and is the source of hope. Illness, trauma, suffering and grief can diminish the light and shroud hope. I am a catalyst for hope and change, offering a way to rekindle this inner light.

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