Thursday, July 31, 2014
Doctor's Perspective
The many 'dys' causes for learning issues

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
I spend a lot of time evaluating children with learning related issues in school. Most of them come to see me because of concerns about ADHD. However, ADHD does not cause learning issues by itself. Most of the children who have poor grades also have a learning disorder. Most people are familiar with dyslexia which causes issues in reading. I have written in the past that dyslexia is just a symptom. There are many causes of poor reading that all result in reading issues. Thus, dyslexia is not really a diagnosis. There is usually a specific cause of the reading problems. The term dyslexia comes from the words "lex" meaning reading and "dys" meaning problems with it. We know a number of items that begin with the prefix "dys." They include dysfunction, dysphagia, dysentery and muscular dystrophy. What many people do not realize is that there are many other learning disorders besides dyslexia. For example, dysgraphia refers to a problem writing. Individuals with this have unreadable handwriting. They may have issues figuring out what to put on paper and even when they do write it down, it does not come out grammatically correct. I knew a hand surgeon. He was an excellent surgeon technically. I traveled from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. to have him operate on my finger. However, his handwriting was so bad, no one could read it. It was not a motor control issue. He had no problems with fine motor skills in the operating room. They decided to give him a typewriter to type his notes. The notes still came out garbled. It was an issue with getting the ideas down on paper. A related, but obviously different condition is dyspraxia. This is the ability to do things with the correct amount of motor control. These individuals may also have writing issues. However, it is more because they cannot control their pen. They also might have issues with balance or coordination of other types. Some individuals have a condition called dyscalculia. This refers to an inability to do math. It is not that they have a hard time doing calculations. A lot of people have that issue. Thank goodness for calculators for that group of individuals. As a matter of fact about 1/3 of the population will tell you that they cannot do math. They are exaggerating. They understand math concepts but they just need help with actual calculations. Dyscalculia exists in less than 5% of the population. These individuals do not get math at all. They do not understand the concepts. It is not a calculation problem. It is an understanding problem. They also tend to have issues with understanding time. Time zones will be a disaster for them. They have issues with money. They might not be able to figure out how much change they are supposed to get and they will have trouble balancing their checkbook. It is a pervasive issue. Unfortunately, most of these individuals will not really outgrow their problem.

They will carry it into adulthood like my orthopedist friend. We need to realize that everyone is different. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. In addition to dyslexia, there are many other "dys" issues. If you have comments about this column or suggestions for other topics, send an email to Dr. Anthony Policastro at

Annual Eleanor Soltner Memorial Golf Outing The 4th Annual Eleanor Soltner Memorial Golf Outing to benefit the Delaware Hospice Center will be held Wednesday, Aug. 6, at The Rookery North in Milford. Registration and a light breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. followed by a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Contests include Team Putting, Longest Drive Ladies & Men and Closest to the Pin Ladies & Men, along with team prizes. Registration is $100 per person, which includes greens fees, cart, light breakfast, refreshment cart, range balls, and an awards reception with lunch. Silent auction items will be available. Participants may bring a guest to the awards reception for $25. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, call Bob Burd at 302-422-3501.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital hosts Blood Drive Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Blood Drive for the Blood Bank of Delmarva from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, in the Medical Staff Conference Room. To make an appointment, visit or call 1-888-825-6638.

Delmarva Free to Breathe Run/Walk August 10 The Delmarva Free to Breathe Run/Walk featuring a 5K run/walk and 1-mile walk for all fitness levels, will be held on Sunday, Aug. 10 at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes. All proceeds support Free to Breathe, a nonprofit lung cancer research and advocacy organization. To register and begin fundraising, visit

New Maternal Medical Record Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Mother and Baby Care Unit has successfully implemented its new electronic medical record, called PowerChart Maternity. The new system is helping to promote positive outcomes by providing a more complete picture of the mother and baby during labor and delivery while enhancing the coordination of care between the physicians and nursing staff. Multiple fundraisers in the community and within the hospital, as well as donations have made it possible to transition to all electronic documentation and fetal monitoring in one single system. Not only do physicians and midwives have access to all data at any point in time, even while not in the hospital, but also now have the ability to access the fetal monitoring system from their office or home.