Several factors affect child intelligence, from environment to nutrition to quality healthcare and even parenting. You can influence most of the factors, so, of course, you would.
On the other hand, some factors are way out of your control. One such is a learning disability like dyslexia. If your child has dyslexia, then you’ve probably wondered whether it can affect their intelligence.
So, let’s find out. Can dyslexia really affect your child’s intelligence?
What Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia simply describes a learning disorder that impacts the ability to read, write, and spell. While it is a pretty common condition, many people still believe a good number of misconceptions about it. One popular one is that it could have some effect on intelligence.
However, the fact is that dyslexia is simply a learning disability. It does not indicate low intelligence, neither does it serve as a herald for your overall cognitive abilities.
What Causes Dyslexia?
There is no established cause of dyslexia yet. However, certain factors may contribute to its appearance. They include:
Differences in how the brain develops: In kids with dyslexia, the parts of the brain that enable reading form and function differently. The brain of a dyslexic person sees less activity in the parietal and occipital areas. The occipital area functions in reading fluently and automatically with a great degree of skillfulness. The parietal lobe, on the other hand, functions in decoding the meaning of words and recognizing said words.
Family history: Family history could be a factor here. If there is a history of someone in your family having it, then your child could, too. According to research, a child has a 40% to 60% chance of being dyslexic if their parent is. Furthermore, a history of certain genetic conditions like Down Syndrome could raise the chances of having a dyslexic child.
Early childhood problems: Pregnancy or childbirth complications can up the odds of your child having dyslexia. These include:
Low birth weight.
What Are the Symptoms of Dyslexia?
Dyslexia symptoms are usually apparent pretty early, and if you keep an eye out, you can pick them up. Here are some of the symptoms that commonly exhibit:
Poor reading ability: your child may have dyslexia if they struggle to recognize words. Being below reading fluency level for their age could be a sign, too.
Difficulty when spelling words: Children with dyslexia find it hard to spell words correctly. You may notice that they omit some letters or replace these letters with the wrong ones while they spell. This is one of the common signs of dyslexia.
Lack of phonemic awareness: Your child may find it difficult to identify sounds and pronounce words correctly. This is also one of the pretty common signs of dyslexia.
Difficulty when writing: You may notice that your child can speak well but finds it hard to write down their thoughts.
Confusion with direction: Your child may be unable to tell their left from their right.
Difficulty when solving math: Some mathematical problems require reading written instructions. Therefore, you may notice your child struggling with word problems in math.
Common Misconceptions about Dyslexia
There is much information backed by research about dyslexia; however, this hasn’t eliminated misconceptions. For starters, dyslexia is a pretty common disability, affecting around 1 in 5 people.
Let’s clarify some common misconceptions that would clear up some of the notions you may already hold:
Dyslexia is a sign of low intelligence: Dyslexia does not impact your child’s intelligence in any way. As a matter of fact, many dyslexic students are super intelligent and bursting with talent. The only challenge they have is that their brains process language differently.
Dyslexia can be outgrown or cured: Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. This means that it cannot be cured or outgrown. But do not fret; this does not mean they’ll never learn to read. With the right support from an early age, they would do just great.
Dyslexia concerns only reading and writing: While dyslexia does concern troubles with reading and writing, there may be other aspects. You may also notice that they struggle with math, memory, and spatial awareness.
Dyslexia results from laziness: No, dyslexia doesn’t result from laziness. It is is a neurological condition, and you cannot control it.
All dyslexic individuals experience identical symptoms: Dyslexia symptoms vary across the board. The symptoms that some other child exhibits may differ greatly from your child’s.
Dyslexia and Intelligence
Because of the reading challenges they experience, children with dyslexia usually perform below their grade level in school sytems.
This makes it easy for people to equate dyslexia to lower intelligence levels. This is false. It is, therefore, vital for you, as a parent, to learn to separate your child’s intelligence from their inability to read.
There is a wide range of cognitive skills that intelligence covers, including:
According to research, dyslexic students may shine in some of these areas—such as problem-solving and creativity. Here’s a further breakdown of areas where these young children can excel:
Creativity: Dyslexic children can be highly creative with high iq. They also have pretty active imaginations. This allows them to do really well at activities like drawing, painting, and singing. This is especially reinforced with the existence of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.
Problem-solving: Since dyslexia doesn’t impact intelligence, your kids can effectively provide excellent solutions to problems. They would be able to think outside the box and analyze challenges.
Entrepreneurship: Many dyslexic kids grow up to become successful entrepreneurs — providing products and services that address societal problems. Their ability to think outside the box and see things in ways that others can’t often lead them to groundbreaking ideas. This is what sets people like Richard Branson and Sally Shaywitz apart. They are both dyslexic, and while Richard Branson is a wealthy businessman, Sally Shaywitz is a neuroscientist and co-founder of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.
Interpersonal Skills: Dyslexic young children are usually very intuitive and empathetic, excelling in social interactions and communication.
When Should You Test for Dyslexia?
You can screen your kid for dyslexia as early as before kindergarten, which is prior to when they start to read. However, the ideal time would be in their first school year or around five years old.
If you see any of these signs of dyslexia, you should consider testing:
Delayed reading skills
Persistent spelling difficulties
Struggles with phonemic awareness
Family history of dyslexia
Frustration with reading or avoidance of reading and writing activities
The sooner dyslexia is identified, the sooner you can arrange the appropriate interventions for the child, allowing the child to access the support they need to succeed academically and build on their strengths.
How to Test a Child’s Intelligence
Carrying out an intelligence test or iq test can let you know what you need to know regarding your child’s intelligence levels – whether they have above average iq or low iq based on their iq scores.
Trained and certified professionals are usually in charge of conducting the iq test. They typically make use of standardized tests which measure children’s cognitive abilities based on the iq scores.
Common methods for testing include the following:
The Wechsler Scales: The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) is a popular option. If your child is between 6 and around 16 years old (usually in high school), this scale can predict pretty accurately. The test reviews intelligence in the following areas: Verbal Comprehension, Visual Spatial, Fluid Reasoning, Working Memory, and Processing Speed.
Non-Verbal Tests: If your child has a language or communication challenge, nonverbal intelligence tests can help determine their intellectual ability. These tests evaluate the child’s ability to solve problems and think abstractly without depending on language. Examples of non-verbal tests for your kids include:
Raven's Progressive Matrices
Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test
Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test,
Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence
Observation and Interviews: Aside from the standardized tests mentioned above, your child’s intellectual capacity can also be determined through observation and interviews. This usually involves sessions with the psychologist, during which they relate with the child and take note of their behavior and responses.
They may also conduct interviews with you or your kid’s teachers to find out more about the child’s everyday functioning. The information they gather would be instrumental in determining your child’s intelligence level. However, they would not conclude based on these alone.
How to Support a Dyslexic Person
If your kid has dyslexia, they will need a lot of support from you. With proper support, they can go on to improve both academically and in other areas. Here are practical ways to help:
Academic Support: to improve their academic performance, your child may need an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). For this, you would have to work with your child's school or school systems generally. This plan usually contains unique and personalized approaches to education, thus ensuring your child can learn at their own pace.
Structured Literacy Programs: Consider enrolling your child in a structured literacy program focusing on phonemic awareness. These reading programs are specially designed to help dyslexic children systematically decode words, helping them build essential reading skills.
Tech Tools: Thankfully, technology has developed better ways for a dyslexic person to learn. You can make use of specific tech tools that are designed to make reading less frustrating and improve comprehension, such as
Text Presentation Controls
Reading Focus Tools
Speech Recognition Software
Writing Assistance Software
Text to Speech (TTS) Readers
Encourage Them: When working with a dyslexic child, it is essential to let them know that their condition does not define their intelligence. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with them. Be sure to give a lot of verbal encouragement and celebrate their accomplishments. This would effectively motivate them to keep pushing forward.
Read Together: Beyond reading programs, reading with your child regularly not only promotes bonding but can also considerably help them to read better. When choosing books to read, make sure you go for texts that are relatively easy for their level.
Advocacy: Advocacy for more attention to dyslexic students in public school, such as having a school psychologist or teachers being familiar with psychological science and phonological awareness, can do a lot. You can also advocate for donations to the International Dyslexia Association.
What Are the Conditions That Can Affect Intelligence?
While dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence, some other conditions could do. Some of these directly impact, while others may just be co-occurring.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Children with autism typically have a hard time navigating social interactions and communicating. They could also exhibit repetitive behavior that could affect their intelligence. However, they may show high intelligence or high iq levels in certain other areas.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): While this condition does not directly affect the child’s intelligence, it may impact their day-to-day performance. If your child has trouble focusing or controlling their impulses, it could be a sign of ADHD. So, this does not necessarily cause low iq.
Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD): SLDs may hurt academic performance. However, they do not necessarily affect the child’s overall intelligence. Here are some examples of SLDs:
Dyslexia (impacts reading ability)
Dysgraphia (impacts writing)
Dyscalculia (impacts learning math).
Traumatic Brain Injury: If your child was involved in an accident and experienced brain trauma, this could impact intelligence, causing a low iq.
Mental Health Conditions: Mental health illnesses can significantly impact the focus, memory, and decision-making abilities of your child. Some of these include:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Genetic Syndromes: Certain genetic conditions like Down syndrome and Williams syndrome could significantly impact overall intellectual capability, resulting in less than above average iq or low iq.
First and foremost, your major takeaway should be that dyslexia doesn’t impact your child’s intelligence negatively. While they may struggle with learning activities like reading and writing, it doesn’t make them any less intelligent. With the proper support, they can get better and go on to reach their full potential.