Social and Emotional Problems Related to Dyslexia

Do emotional disorders cause dyslexia?

Research indicates that dyslexia is caused by biological factors not emotional or family problems. Samuel T. Orton, M.D. was one of the first researchers to describe the emotional aspects of dyslexia. According to his research, the majority of dyslexic preschoolers are happy and well adjusted. Their emotional problems begin to develop when early reading instruction does not match their learning style. Over the years, the frustration mounts as classmates surpass the dyslexic student in reading skills. Recent research funded by the National Institute of Health has identified many of the neurological and cognitive differences that contribute to dyslexia. The vast majority of these factors appear to be caused by genetics rather than poor parenting or childhood depression or anxiety.

Why is dyslexia discouraging and frustrating?

The frustration of children with dyslexia often centers on their inability to meet expectations. Their parents and teachers see a bright, enthusiastic child who is not learning to read and write. Time and again, dyslexics and their parents hear, “He’s such a bright child; if only he would try harder.” Ironically, no one knows exactly how hard the dyslexic is trying.

The pain of failing to meet other people’s expectations is surpassed only by dyslexics’ inability to achieve their goals. This is particularly true of those who develop perfectionistic expectations in order to deal with their anxiety. They grow up believing that it is “terrible” to make a mistake.

However, their learning disability, almost by definition means that these children will make many “careless” or “stupid” mistakes. This is extremely frustrating to them, as it makes them feel chronically inadequate.

The dyslexic frequently has problems with social relationships. These can be traced to causes:

  • Dyslexic children may be physically and socially immature in comparison to their peers. This can lead to a poor self-image and less peer acceptance.
  • Dyslexics’ social immaturity may make them awkward in social situations.
  • Many dyslexics have difficulty reading social cues. They may be oblivious to the amount of personal distance necessary in social interactions or insensitive to other people’s body language.
  • Dyslexia often affects oral language functioning. Affected persons may have trouble finding the right words, may stammer, or may pause before answering direct questions. This puts them at a disadvantage as they enter adolescence, when language becomes more central to their relationships with peers.

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