A- A A+

What Is Dyslexia?

What Is Dyslexia - What Is Dyslexic

Dyslexia at a Glance

  • Dyslexia is the name for specific learning disabilities in reading.
  • Dyslexia is often characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, decoding and spelling.
  • Dyslexia may cause problems with reading comprehension and slow down vocabulary growth.
  • Dyslexia may result in poor reading fluency and reading out loud.
  • Dyslexia is neurological and often genetic.
  • Dyslexia is not the result of poor instruction.
  • With the proper support, almost all people with dyslexia can become good readers and writers.













As with other learning disabilities, dyslexia is a lifelong challenge that people are born with. This language processing disorder can hinder reading, writing, spelling and sometimes even speaking. Dyslexia is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness. It is also not the result of impaired vision. Children and adults with dyslexia simply have a neurological disorder that causes their brains to process and interpret information differently.

Dyslexia occurs among people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds. Often more than one member of a family has dyslexia. According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15 percent of Americans have major troubles with reading.

Much of what happens in a classroom is based on reading and writing. So it's important to identify dyslexia as early as possible. Using alternate learning methods, people with dyslexia can achieve success.

What Are the Effects of Dyslexia?

Celebrities with Dyslexia | Famous People with Dyslexia

Dyslexia can affect people differently. This depends, in part, upon the severity of the learning disability and the success of alternate learning methods. Some with dyslexia can have trouble with reading and spelling, while others struggle to write, or to tell left from right. Some children show few signs of difficulty with early reading and writing. But later on, they may have trouble with complex language skills, such as grammar, reading comprehension and more in-depth writing.

Dyslexia can also make it difficult for people to express themselves clearly. It can be hard for them to use vocabulary and to structure their thoughts during conversation. Others struggle to understand when people speak to them. This isn't due to hearing problems. Instead, it's from trouble processing verbal information. It becomes even harder with abstract thoughts and non-literal language, such as jokes and proverbs.

All of these effects can have a big impact on a person's self-image. Without help, children often get frustrated with learning. The stress of dealing with schoolwork often makes children with dyslexia lose the motivation to continue and overcome the hurdles they face.

What Are the Warning Signs of Dyslexia?

The following are common signs of dyslexia in people of different ages. If you or someone you know displays these signs, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a learning disability. But if troubles continue over time, consider testing for dyslexia.

Dyslexia: Warning Signs By Age

Young Children

Trouble With:
  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds and blending sounds into speech
  • Pronouncing words, for example saying “mawn lower” instead of “lawn mower”
  • Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words
  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week or similar common word sequences
  • Rhyming

School-Age Children

Trouble With:
  • Mastering the rules of spelling
  • Remembering facts and numbers
  • Handwriting or with gripping a pencil
  • Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relying heavily on memorization
  • Reading and spelling, such as reversing letters (d, b) or moving letters around (left, felt)
  • Following a sequence of directions
  • Trouble with word problems in math

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:
  • Reading at the expected level
  • Understanding non-literal language, such as idioms, jokes, or proverbs
  • Reading aloud
  • Organizing and managing time
  • Trouble summarizing a story
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Memorizing

How Is Dyslexia Identified?

Common Warning Signs: Dyslexia - Grads 3-8

Trained professionals can identify dyslexia using a formal evaluation. This looks at a person's ability to understand and use spoken and written language. It looks at areas of strength and weakness in the skills that are needed for reading. It also takes into account many other factors. These include family history, intellect, educational background, and social environment.

How Is Dyslexia Treated?

It helps to identify dyslexia as early in life as possible. Adults with unidentified dyslexia often work in jobs below their intellectual capacity. But with help from a tutor, teacher, or other trained professional, almost all people with dyslexia can become good readers and writers. Use the following strategies to help to make progress with dyslexia.

  • Expose your child to early oral reading, writing, drawing, and practice to encourage development of print knowledge, basic letter formation, recognition skills and linguistic awareness (the relationship between sound and meaning).
  • Have your child practice reading different kinds of texts. This includes books, magazines, ads and comics.
  • Include multi-sensory, structured language instruction. Practice using sight, sound and touch when introducing new ideas.
  • Seek modifications in the classroom. This might include extra time to complete assignments, help with note taking, oral testing and other means of assessment.
  • Use books on tape and assistive technology. Examples are screen readers and voice recognition computer software.
  • Get help with the emotional issues that arise from struggling to overcome academic difficulties.

Reading and writing are key skills for daily living. However, it is important to also emphasize other aspects of learning and expression. Like all people, those with dyslexia enjoy activities that tap into their strengths and interests. For example, people with dyslexia may be attracted to fields that do not emphasize language skills. Examples are design, art, architecture, engineering and surgery.


This article is made possible by a grant from the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation.

Print