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What Is Deep Dyslexia?

By Jennifer Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Deep dyslexia is also known as acquired dyslexia, or alexia. It is one of the two forms of dyslexia. Unlike developmental dyslexia, acquired dyslexia is not present at birth. Acquired dyslexia occurs when parts of the brain that deal with reading and language are damaged. A person with acquired dyslexia could read and process visual language properly before the damage occurred.

Dyslexia is a condition that affects how a person reads, processes, and interprets visual language. Research has shown that although dyslexia is neurological, it is also due to a deficiency in phonemic awareness. When a person does not have phonemic awareness, sounds cannot be linked properly to letters. With deep dyslexia, words turn out wrong while reading and comprehending. A person with this type of dyslexia has gained enough knowledge of phonemes and the sounds of words, but they process wrong in the brain.

Deep dyslexia is the result of damage to the dominant side of a person’s brain. Most commonly, the damage occurs on the left side. In rare instances, this form of dyslexia occurs from damage to the parietal or occipital lobes of the brain. It is extremely rare to find this dyslexia following a stroke, but it is possible. Damage that leads to this type of dyslexia is often the result of an infection that has spread to the brain, or due to sharp blows to the head that have caused permanent damage.

Semantic errors are more common with deep dyslexia than other forms. Semantics is the process in which the brain connects words and their meanings. This form of dyslexia takes a word that is read and switches it with a meaning or with a closely related word. For example, the word error might appear as the word wrong or the word "table" might appear as the word "chair."

Although deep dyslexia presents problems with being able to read aloud, it is not a completely impossible task. For many dyslexics who have acquired this condition, areas in the undamaged side of the brain are able to compensate for the damaged side. If, for example, there is left hemisphere damage, the right hemisphere may be able to compensate. Unfortunately, this may only occur if there is enough phonetic and semantic knowledge stored within a dyslexic’s memory.

Treatment for deep dyslexia is similar to treatments for developmental dyslexia. In this instance, focus is on building phonetical awareness. Tutoring begins with identifying the individual sounds of letters and their representing symbols. From that point, the difficulty increases as blended sounds and full words are introduced gradually.

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