Dyslexia literally means "bad reading" or, more commonly, being able to read without understanding - in other words, seeing without perceiving the content of the printed matter. It is very important to keep this description of dyslexia in the forefront of our thoughts, as the topic is being actively viewed by many interested groups.
It has been said that 10 per cent of all children have some degree of reading difficulty before they reach seventh grade. Of this group, 25 per cent are dyslexic. If this is correct, the problem is of significant proportion. Dyslexia has, however, become a condition that is medicali]) overdiagnosed. To be philosophically correct, it can be stated that no person is a perfect reader and hence we all are dyslexic to some degree. But, like clinically symptomless people who might show an allergic response to allergy testing, not all dyslexies require treatment.
Who, then, identifies the truly dyslexic child and guides his treatment? As a pediatrician, I believe this job falls to us. To whom does the practitioner turn for specific information? Of course, interested and competent teachers, otolaryngologists, neurologists, and ophthalmologists. The child requires good intelligence, hearing, nervous system function, vision, emotional stability, and, of course, opportunity to achieve reading skills.
It is generally held that most dyslexia in children does not have a visual cause that directly relates to poor reading ability. Conversely, it is mandatory to note that if a child does not see, he does not read. Conditions that interfere with vision - such as certain refractive errors, cataracts, injury, and some "eye muscle" disorders - must be ruled out. This should be done not casually by disinterested persons but by those trained and experienced in pediatric ophthalmology. If a visual cause is identified, it can be met directly.
Treatment, however, must be carefully measured. Rabino vi tch points out:
In recent years, there has been a tendency toward very loose thinking and practice in relation to vision factors in reading, with too many children exposed to inappropriate and useless programs of retraining that simply add to their frustration and make valid therapeutic work more difficult.*