Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty interpreting words, pronunciations, and spellings.
Autism or autistic spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder where the brain processes sound and colors in a manner different from an average brain. Such people cannot understand visual cues and body language and exhibit socially awkward behavior.
The brains of individuals with both autism and dyslexia show minor variations in the cell structure and arrangement compared with an average brain. In both cases, there are issues with the language system. In autism, it is more about not understanding social cues resulting in awkward responses, whereas, in dyslexia, it is more of a struggle decoding and putting together words, their sounds, and meanings.
Autism may vary in severeness. Individuals with high-functioning autism (Asperger’s syndrome) have excellent hearing, pronunciation, decoding, and spelling skills. What they lack is responding to them in a way that is assumed to be socially normal. Individuals with low-functioning autism often have low intelligence, and they need assistance with feeding, clothing, and daily routine. Some individuals may have convulsion disorders (epilepsy), repetitive habits such as head banging and face twitching, eating non-food items, sleep disorders, and aversion to sounds, touch, and colors.
Dyslexia has milder symptoms. These kids have normal or slightly higher intellect than average children. They may be daydreamers who have self-esteem issues, anxiety, and depression due to poor performance at school.
How to spot warning signs for dyslexia and autism?
It is always prudent to monitor your child’s behavior and surroundings to spot early signs of any disorder.
Warning signs for autism are as follows:
- Absence of eye contact: The child does not look at you while feeding or talking.
- Delayed milestones: No cooing, babbling, smiling, or pointing to objects by one year of age.
- The child prefers to play alone and loves following rigid routines.
- The child does not like being touched.
- The child is unable to understand facial and verbal clues such as anguish and sarcasm.
- Stimming: Certain repetitive behaviors such as head flapping, twitching of the eyelid, twirling, flapping their hands, and spinning in circles are exhibited by the child.
- Regression of milestones: The child develops milestones as expected for age but loses them by 12-18 months and stops smiling, cooing, and pointing.
None of these are seen in dyslexia. The warning signs in dyslexia are as follows:
- The child starts talking late.
- The child learns new words very slowly.
- The child cannot pronounce the sounds well.
- The child gets the letters that sound similar (Sa-, Sha-, Cha-) mixed up.
- When the child starts writing alphabets, they present persistent mirror image writing, that is, writing the letters B, D, and R as a mirror image of itself.
- Kindergarten children with dyslexia often have trouble playing rhyming games, remembering or naming letters, numbers, and colors, and reading.
- They cannot spell even simple words.
- They read very slowly and make a lot of mistakes while reading. They often guess at sounding out the words they do not know.
- They are poor at naming the objects. For example, they may not be able to name a clock, but if you ask them to point at a clock, they will do it easily.
Autism is diagnosed earlier due to more pronounced signs. The average age of diagnosis of autism is three years, whereas the average age of diagnosis of dyslexia is around standard first (seven years), when the child starts spelling and attending regular classes.
Which of these disorders are curable?
None of these disorders are curable, but they can be managed with behavioral therapy if caught early.
Dyslexia: Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a structured, customized plan specific to your child’s needs in cases of dyslexia. This teaching method encourages learning through pictures, reading out loud to improve fluency in the language, and understanding pronunciations. Teachers give the child tips on how to remember things or help them stay organized. Children with learning disabilities might be given extra time to solve problems or take tests. The earlier your child gets diagnosed and treated for learning disabilities, the better they will cope with their issues to perform better in school in the future.
Autism: In cases of autistic disorders, early intervention during the preschool years (age three to five) can help the child manage their behaviors and teach them to cope better in social situations. They are taught the appropriate response for an appropriate situation. Behavioral therapy involves teaching parents to reach out to their children. Children suffering from autism and associated hyperactivity, convulsions, and sleep problems also need early medical management.
Each child is unique in their own way. Individual differences in brain structures give rise to most developmental disorders, but these can be dealt with proper counseling, and the child can reach their best potential.
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