Study Shows Children With Dyslexia Have Greater Emotional Responses Than Those Without

Study Shows Children With Dyslexia Have Greater Emotional Responses Than Those Without

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Children with dyslexia struggle the most in developing literary skills.

Experts have found that signs of dyslexia in children usually become apparent once they start going to school where they would have to learn how to read and write. This is because the minds of dyslexic people have a difficult time translating images from the person’s eyes to their ear. 

Recently, a collaborative study by UC San Francisco neuroscientists also discovered how children with dyslexia show stronger emotional responses as compared to kids without dyslexia. 

Higher Emotional Reactions From Dyslexic Children

child with dyslexia symptoms

Image Source: iStock

For the study, they recruited 32 children around the ages of 8 to 12 years old who were diagnosed with the “phonological” form of dyslexia and 22 children without it. 

The dyslexic children underwent tests to confirm whether they did have complications in reading and also were assessed on their comprehension regarding emotional terms. Researchers also gave questionnaires to the children and their parents about their emotional and mental health. 

At the UCSF Dyslexia Center, child participants were asked to watch short film clips made to elicit particular positive and negative emotions such as amusement or disgust. Meanwhile, the researchers took note of their reactions by monitoring their breathing, skin conductance, facial expression and heart rate. 

With this, they managed to find that children with dyslexia had greater reactions and emotional facial behaviour while they were watching the clips than the child participants without dyslexia. Researchers said this could be due to the correlation between the dyslexic’s children’s high emotional reactions with stronger connectivity in the brain’s salience network which is the system that supports generating emotion as well as self-awareness. 

Study Also Suggests Children With Dyslexia Have Great Social Skills

Their findings showed that children with dyslexia did not only have stronger emotional reactions but also showed signs of greater social skills, according to their parents. This suggests that dyslexic children are more capable of having successful social relationships since strong emotional response is a key factor of socialising. Adults with dyslexia have also shared that this helped their kids get through school by “charming their teachers.” 

“There are anecdotes that some kids with dyslexia have greater social and emotional intelligence,” said Dr Virginia Sturm, a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “We don’t want to say that all kids with dyslexia are necessarily gifted in this way, but we can think about dyslexia as being associated with both strengths and weaknesses.”

child with dyslexia symptoms

Image Source: iStock

Additional Symptoms of Anxiety And Depression

Although, while the study shows good social skills among children with dyslexia, they were also found to have great symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

This could be because dyslexic children detect emotional cues differently from others and therefore are at higher risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. 

“We need to base teaching on strengths as well as weaknesses. For example, kids with dyslexia may do better in one-on-one or group teaching scenarios depending on how they connect emotionally with teachers or peers. But we also need to be aware of their vulnerability to anxiety and depression and be sure they have adequate support to process their potentially strong emotions,” added Sturm, the study’s lead author. 

Researchers said that their findings may be far from complete but could add to further understanding dyslexia and how it could be treated. Gorno-Tempini, another professor of neurology and of psychiatry, shared that, “Whenever I share these results with families they are astounded because it helps them understand that dyslexia is about far more than academic challenges — it’s about having a particular kind of brain with its own strengths and weaknesses, just like all of us.”


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Written by

Ally Villar

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