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Dyslexia and Rett Syndrome

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 What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, or developmental reading disorder (DRD), typically runs in families and occurs when the areas of the brain which interpret language have difficulty. Despite affecting information processing, dyslexia does not interfere with a person’s ability to understand complex ideas nor their vision, making it difficult to diagnosis the disorder. In fact, many with DRD are known to have normal or above-average intelligence.

Often accompanied by developmental writing or arithmetic disorder, DRD is noted when a child has difficulty reading or identifying speech sounds. Furthermore, there is no cure for dyslexia, but children with the disorder continue to succeed with proper emotional support and specialized education programs.

Dyslexia vs. Autism

image012Both autism and dyslexia are linked to how the brain processes information, which is why many with autism are also diagnosed with dyslexia. Additionally, nearly 30-50% of children with dyslexia are also diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

Several differences can be noted between autism and dyslexia. The principal difference, however, is that autism refers to a childhood defect evidenced by social interaction and communication impairments while dyslexia is difficulty or inability to understand written words.


Children diagnosed with DRD will have difficulty learning to read because identifying the sounds created by groups of letters or words requires extra effort.  As such, DRD is not the just the confusing or transposing of letters (such as mistaking a ‘b’ for a ‘d’), but difficulty sounding out words and making sense of entire sentences.

The most common symptoms of DRD are as follows:

  • Trouble learning new words
  • Difficulty understanding simple sentences
  • Struggle recognizing written words, rhyming
  • Struggles with memorization, time management, and doing math problems
  • Trouble seeing or hearing the difference or similarities in letters or words


Dyslexia is a lifelong problem because there is no known way to correct the brain abnormalities which cause the disorder. As such, each person diagnosed will require a different strategy of treatment, such as an individualized education program.

Traditional educational remedial techniques encourage the use of extra learning assistance or remedial instruction, which teaches students the phonological regimen to help them connect various sounds with the written words.

Parents and students can seek out additional assistance with reading specialists, whom may use techniques such as guided oral reading to improve reading fluency. Lastly, positive reinforcement is vital for the success of dyslexic students as they may struggle with self-esteem.

What is Rett Syndrome?

image013Among the many forms autism may take, Rett syndrome is a rare and severe ‘girls only’ form which affects only one of 10,000 to 15,000 girls. Children with the condition develop normally from birth to six months, but symptoms of Rett syndrome may be noticed and diagnosed between six to eighteen months of age.

As a unique postnatal neurological disorder, Rett syndrome is sometimes misdiagnosed as autism, cerebral palsy, or non-specific developmental delay. Girls and families affected may feel overwhelmed since there is no cure. Early identification and treatment will help those affected understand and prepare for the future.


Studies show that Rett syndrome may be caused by a defect in the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) on the X chromosome. With two X chromosomes, females will be able to survive if only one of the chromosomes is defective. The syndrome appears to be genetic, even though the faulty gene is never inherited, but is actually a chance mutation in the girl’s own DNA. No method has been proven to prevent Rett syndrome, and the only risk is being female, while males with the condition will die shortly after birth.

A combination of blood and genetic tests will be needed to determine if a recognized MECP2 mutation is caused by Rett syndrome or a different disorder.


The symptoms of Rett syndrome can vary from mild to severe and may be caused by problems in brain function, especially those responsible for cognitive, sensory, emotional, motor, or autonomic function.

Children with Rett syndrome may present the following symptoms:

  • Normal development for the first 6-18 months
  • Deterioration of social and language skills around ages 1-4
  • Slowing of head growth around 5-6 months old
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Habitual wringing of hands
  • Difficulty controlling muscles or using proper coordination
  • Jerky, stiff-legged gait, or toe walking
  • Seizures
  • Typical first sign – floppy arms and/or legs
  • Breathing problems — problems tend to get worse with stress; breathing is usually normal during sleep and abnormal while awake
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Excessive drooling
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or severe constipation for long periods of time
  • Unusual sleep patters
  • Loss of desire for social engagements
  • Difficulty learning or below average cognitive skills
  • Issues with language development (such as struggling to learn new words)


Treatment programs available for girls with Rett syndrome concentrate on improving her quality of life, as well as learning independent living skills.

Any of the following treatment options should be considered:

  • Physical therapy to help control movement
  • Speech therapy for learning language skills
  • Occupational therapy to learn independent living skills
  • Medications for seizures or to help correct movement problems
  • Help feeding and/or diapering
  • Treatment methods for constipation and GERD
  • Scoliosis weight bearing exercises


BrainWorks Neurotherapy. (2014). Autism Spectrum, Dyslexia, and Developmental.

Autism Speaks. (2014). Parents Seek Help Recognizing Dyslexia in Child with Autism.

The Center for Autism and Dyslexia. (2006). Dyslexia.

International Rett Syndrome Foundation. (2015). About Rett Syndrome.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2014). Rett Syndrome Fact Sheet.