Acquired Dyslexia

Question:

Can dyslexia be caused by an illness or a brain injury?

Answer:

The information on this website is focused on developmental dyslexia — the type of dyslexia that is genetically influenced and becomes apparent in early childhood.

When dyslexia develops later in life tied to brain illness or injury, it is called “acquired dyslexia” — the symptoms may very well be the same, but the underlying cause is different.   Developmental (childhood) dyslexia is tied very closely to the process of brain development — the symptoms or the skills that are impaired do not develop in typical ways. The brain has developed normally, but in a way that makes it more difficult for the child to acquire skills such as learning to read in the same way as most other children.

In acquired dyslexia, the person’s brain had developed the ability to function in a typical way, but some sort of event, such as an illness or head injury, has caused damage to the brain that impairs that function.   The exact type of impairment and prognosis for recovery is variable because there is an essentially unlimited number of ways and levels of severity that brains can be damaged.

It is of course possible for a person to have both. For example, a person with a childhood history of dyslexia might experience an illness or injury that makes things worse.  This situation is fairly common with head injuries such as a concussion.

19 comments

  • N

    I have ‘Acquired Dyslexia’ after a serious RTA at age 14. Reading is still very slow sometimes hard at all. Writing is repleat with errors. But I found there were and are many ways to compensate in the field of learning. These got be through school, into university, and into great jobs later. Visual learning was the key. And as often as possible I use visuals to demonstrate things in writing, at work. This speaks the the most exciting part of intelligence – Creativity. “Creativity is the brain having fun” (as misquoted by Albert einstein or someone). My key to learning was through use of Mind Maps. I try to use these to teach my children now and recommend them – FOR EVERYONE. Overcome Dyslexia, TBI, ADHD, ASD with creative , visual learning. As one of the exponents of Mind Mappings (tony Buzan) says, Mind Maps are a visualisation on paper of the way our minds work.

  • Mackenzi

    My son was shaken at 3 months old, he is now 6 years old. He has trouble pronouncing words, frequently writes his name backwards and reads sentences backwards. Is this dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The symptoms you list are all common signs of developmental dyslexia in a 6 year old — that is, the type of dyslexia that occurs naturally, rather than as a result of an injury.

      It is also possible that the early infancy shaking incident caused some brain damage, that could also manifest as a form of dyslexia, but if that were the case you probably would have seen other evidence of brain damage by now.

      In any case, developmental dyslexia — the inborn, genetically-influenced type — is not tied to brain damage but rather is simply a difference in the way the brain wiring has developed, and is tied to many natural strengths as well as weaknesses. When we focus on the inner strengths, it is not at all difficult to give the child the tools needed to become a good reader — it’s just that they usually need extra help beyond the types of instruction typically provided in a school setting.

  • Mary D.

    Can I develop symptoms of dyslexia due to stress? I have been misspelling words (switching letters), sometimes the full word change places (like car red ILO red car), and even numbers, when I type them, I switch the number places. I am worried I might have to see a doctor, and I would not know where to start

  • C

    I’ve been plagued by dyslexia. The treatment I got was ridicule. I had a book called, dyslexia the solution to the riddle which claimed that dyslexia is the result of nystagmus. It recommended using anti-histamines and motion sickness medication. It seem to help some but it may be very drowsy. The book was written by a neurologist. I believe the dyslexia is curable or highly treatable but as the saying goes in American medicine, cure a patient lose a customer

  • Elizabeth Sclater

    My son was hit and knocked to the street by a child riding a bicycle when he was around two or three years old. He suffered a skull fracture. When he started school he had trouble reading and was diagnosed as being Dyslexic. Could this condition have been caused by the skull fracture or was it possibly inherited? Thanks for your opinion!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      It’s hard to say. With inborn (developmental dyslexia), there are often very early signs that become apparent in language development. Here’s a link to an article from the British Dyslexia Association listing some of the signs in very young children — https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/advice/children/is-my-child-dyslexic/signs-of-dyslexia-early-years

      We look for positive characteristics (strengths) as well as negative (weaknesses) — that’s part of the normal developmental process. For example, my son followed a common dyslexic pattern of being very adept at putting together legos and jigsaw puzzles. You might find it helps to fill out the assessment at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ — being sure to answer the “talented at” questions to get a sense of your child’s overall natural learning profile.

  • Thomas B.

    So, I’m fixing to turn 36 and I have suffered brain injuries as a child, but never experience what I am now. I have always been articulate at writing and over the last couple years I’ve been switching vowels and misspelling things left and right, it seems to be getting worse, could this be due to the old brain injury I had when I was like 4 years old? Or should I be concerned that perhaps I have suffered a new unknown injury or possibly a tumor?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I think with your history you would want a medical evaluation. There are all sorts of reasons why you could be experiencing these symptoms now that are not as serious as a brain tumor; sometimes these sort of problems are just tied to stress or fatigue. But as you have had only a recent onset of symptoms and do have a history of head injury, it’s probably best to start with a medical consultation, probably with a neurologist.

  • Christine Neubauer

    60 years later
    Just discovered this.
    My whole life, I’ve viewed what I have (this method of thinking) as an enhancement in every aspect.
    The trade offs only involve typical social interactions.
    I have experienced set backs (physical (or brain) injury or distress – but in knowing the nature of time- recovery is entirely attainable (inevitable)

    After going through a period of social isolation and during that period I discovered – How to conceptualize “Truth (in/of/around) Reason” <- when that's done as prerequisite for any thought there are no dis-orders, frustrations, restrictions, doubt, or delusions (there are no longer trade offs) or necessary analog measurements required.
    Only true things exist. (that's everything you can think of and more)
    Extreme optimism is a kin to clairvoyance in this sense.
    Demonstrating it to others is the only trick.

    Christine

    • Justin Rhodes

      I’m currently 35, and I’m concerned that I may either be “developing” some sort of late onset dyslexia – or I’m just now realizing it’s there since my injury. Having received my DAI over 5 years ago, my individual recovery has been a roller coaster ride, of sorts… Physical progress has been incredible, and I am so much more assertive in application of myself in life. I’ve been back in college since 5/9/18, less than 2 years after my injury. Since returning to college at 32, I’ve earned my AA and I’ve “stumbled” upon other educational accolades. Now I’m going through the Physical Therapy Assistant AS Program, and I’m beginning to encounter more standardized questions in quizzes, exams, and even study guides. I understand that these words are “meant” to trip the reader up…but I’m beginning to wonder if this is something that “has been”. I mean, it would explain some aspects of life nowadays. (ie. recently divorced after a 2-year marriage…MORE concentration problems…newfound difficulties in thinking and planning for both school-related, work-related, and even home-related topics…relationship hardship…) I’m beginning to feel torn, for lack of a better word. What are your thoughts?…

  • Chris k

    Hi, interesting. 34 yrs ago I had a brain infection called encephalitis. Before that I was an average 8 yr old student, I had some areas of improvement and some I believe I was getting on top of. Then after encephalitis I really struggled with education. Really slow at reading and writing.

  • Roy M

    One problem with illness or ability to get it diagnosed and then find a suitable treatment.I have had the dyslexia sense I was young ,but was never diagnosed until much older and that’s problem ,the only way I can describe it is being wired different than other people .I find I am fanatic at mental arithmetic ,but unable to do simple algebra .
    But that’s only one aspect of the illness there is many draw backs to his illness .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The issue that causes confusion is the difference between “developmental” dyslexia (the kind that shows up in early childhood), and “acquired” dyslexia — the kind that usually is caused later in life by an injury or illness. There can definitely be overlap in symptoms and it is possible for a person to have both. But developmental dyslexia is not an illness; it is a difference in the way a person perceives and processes information that is simply a variation on typical brain development.

  • Kevin L

    I had alway had poor reading, writing, and mathematical skills my entire life. I could never read aloud in class, because I couldn’t read clearly and it was pure torcher for me. I had these spells that were dream like and I would get this odd odor and taste in my mouth and break out in a could sweat. I thought it was normal or stress. But I felt stupid all my life. Here my entire family graduate from college and I could ready or write. Later in life I found out I had Left Temporal Lobe epilepsy, and the lesion is on my Wernike process.

    My question, I am attempting college, again, how do I defeat dyslexia. How can I get past not only the side effects of the drugs, but dyslexia? No one has give me an answer an it is driving me crazy, because I continue to fail and I do not want to fail any longer

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kevin, it is hard to say whether the methods we use could help you or not, because of the complicating factor of your brain lesion and eplipsy. You might want to start by reading (or listening) to the book, The Gift of Dyslexia — does it seem to describe the way you think and learn?

      You might also want to consult with a Davis Facilitator — you can find one at https://www.davismethod.org/

    • Wiseheart

      Hi Kevin,
      You may also contact your College/University’s student support services.
      In the UK, every learner can be assessed and support is given to overcome or at the worst manage Dyslexia as you study.
      Wishing you all the best! Keep being resilient!

    • Nana E

      Hi Kevin. I’m sorry I’m late I hope you ar getting on ok?

      Mine was caused by an accident and it a head injury.I was around 10 years and school was very hard, although I was one of the best in class class before and I could tackle anything. I have graduated from Uni since 2012 in Human Resource Management nut havnt had the opportunity to find a job in HR. due to lack of experience. I havve struggled to find a job due to adding in the application that I’m dyslexic, I believe. Hence no work experience ading to it. I have worked in Customer Services mainly nd now in a call centre. I hope you can learn and get to where you want to be. Good luck and Best wishes from me. Nana from England

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