What is Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that makes it difficult for people to read, write and/or spell. It has nothing to do with the person’s intelligence. Having dyslexia does not mean that your child’s ability to learn is below average.

Dyslexia is a term of Greek origin, dys meaning “difficulty’ and lexia meaning ‘trouble with words. Therefore, dyslexia means trouble with words.

Dyslexia is a language-based hidden learning difficulty.  It mainly affects the development of literacy and language-related skills. It is characterized by difficulties with working memory, processing speed, accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities. People with dyslexia have difficulties learning to read, spell, and express thoughts in writing.  They may also experience difficulties in sequencing, remembering what they have read, listening, following directions, and organizing their thought or expressing them clearly

Dyslexia is the most common language-based learning difficulty and a common cause of failure in school. It occurs across a range of intellectual abilities.   It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category.  Undiagnosed early, individuals with dyslexia may be perceived as lazy, or unmotivated and often function significantly below their potential. Early identification is, therefore, key to early intervention.


  • Unexpected difficulty in learning to read, write and spell e.g. reversing letters (d, b) doy for boy, ded, for bed, Spells phonetically e.g. nek for neck, hed for head and can spell the same word in different ways in the same piece of work.
  • Trouble remembering facts and numbers, short memory processing.
  • Problem in Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relies heavily on memorization
  • Problem following a sequence of directions
  • Trouble with words in maths
  • Leaves out, repeats or adds extra words, or misses or repeats a line.
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he/ she cannot sound out the word


  • It is a genetic-specific learning disorder that runs in families.  It is inherited
  • It is best thought of as a continuum existing from mild to severe
  • It is independent of social and economic factors or intelligence
  • It is not an illness
  • Early identification is key in helping dyslexic person(s)
  • Dyslexia was first referred to as “word blindness” in 1878, by a German neurologist, Adolf Kussmaul and in 1887 a German ophthalmologist, Rudolf Berlin, was the first to use the word ‘dyslexia’ in place of word blindness. 
  • Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulty
  • Dyslexia is not overgrown, it is lifelong, however, the difficulties can be overcome by the use of appropriate intervention methods.
  • Dyslexia does not respond to conventional teaching methods, but individuals with dyslexia can achieve and even like reading if taught using a multi-sensory Structured Method.
  • Dyslexia is not discriminatory; it cuts across people of all economic levels
  • Dyslexia is not uncommon. Between 5-10% of people have dyslexia 
  • Famous dyslexic people include Richard Branson, Will Smith, and Tom Cruise, among others

Areas affected by dyslexia

Reading problems 

  • Loses place on the page, skip lines, or rereads lines.
  • Reads words in the wrong order.
  • Skips small words such as a the, to, of, were, and from.
  • Recognizes a word on one page but not on the another
  • Inserts extra letters in a word when reading. E.g. may read tail as trail. 
  • letters as the target word. Deletes letters in a word when reading example, may read sag instead of sang.
  • Switches the order of letters in a word. For example, may read mug as gum.
  • Ignores punctuation when reading.
  • Makes up part of the story based on the illustrations or context clues instead of reading the actual words on the page.
  • Reads at a level substantially below that of peers.
  • Demonstrates poor reading comprehension.
  • Has difficulty reading single words on a flashcard.
  • Is fatigued after reading for a short time
  • Claim stomach pain when reading


  • Deletes letters in a word when spelling. For example, may write craft instead of craft. Again, the misspelled word often has the same beginning and ending letters as the target word.
  • Switches the order of letters in a word. For example, may write special instead of special.
  • Has difficulty copying words from another paper or the board. Copies letter by letter, referring to the original copy for almost every letter.
  • Produces messy papers, including many crossed-out or erased words.
  • Misspells many common words like said, there, and does.
  • May be able to spell the words on a spelling test after much studying, but then misspells the same words outside of spelling class.

Some Typical spelling mistakes 

  • Spelling words as they sound e.g. wont instead of want 
  • Mixing up the sequence of letters – e.g. hlep instead of help
  • Reversing the sequence of letters – e.g. was instead of saw
  • Missing out a letter e.g. wich instead of which
  • Using the wrong letter e.g. showt instead of shout
  • Adding an extra letter e.g. when instead of went
  •  Using a ‘t ’ instead of ‘ed’ e.g. lookt instead of looked

Handwriting Problems

Many dyslexics also have dysgraphia, which is a developmental disability that makes it difficult to master handwriting. Dysgraphia can be related in part to sequencing difficulties and in part to fine-motor control.

some of the symptoms of dysgraphia:

  • Writes slowly and laboriously.
  • Creates irregularly shaped letters.
  • Grips a pencil improperly.
  • Does not establish a dominant hand until later than peers. 
  • May switch from right to the left hand while writing or coloring until after age 7 or 8.
  • May write letters in the wrong direction.
  • Improperly uses uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Confuses letters with a similar shape, especially the pairs b-d, m-w, and n-u. 
  • Poorly spaces letters, words, and sentences. Handwriting looks “childlike” even into the teen years.

Short-term memory processing deficit/working memory

Short-term or working memory impacts all stages of learning. For individuals with dyslexia, working memory deficits make it difficult to synthesize information while reading.  When reading, the working memory holds information long enough to put a sentence together and comprehend the text. However, in the case of a child with dyslexia, the working memory is overwhelmed and is not able to hold the information long enough.  Also, short-term memory deficit affects the child’s ability to take multiple instructions. 

A child with short-term memory problems will have difficulty learning the alphabet and struggle to associate phonemes with those letters.

Motor skill deficit

In learning, a deficit in motor skills will affect writing as it is difficult to hold a pencil/pen to write or even draw. Auditory Processing – Difficulty processing the basic sounds of language (phonemes).  The sound of letters and groups of letters result in very slow and labored reading


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Includes difficulty staying focused and paying attention, controlling behavior, and hyperactivity

  • Dysgraphia: Affects the handwriting ability and fine motor skills
  • Dyscalculia: affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math fact

Other specific learning difficulties

  • Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a condition of the nervous system.  T TS causes people to have ‘tic’s.  The person makes sudden uncontrollable twitches, movements, or sounds repeatedly. The person cannot stop their body from doing the sudden movements, sounds, and twitches.  It affects learning because one is not able to concentrate or even write without twitching.  The more they become anxious, the more the ‘tics’.
  • Non-verbal learning disabilities: Has trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language and may have poor coordination
  • Oral/written language disorder and specific reading comprehension Deficit: Affect an individual’s understanding of what they read or of spoken language. The ability to express one’s self with oral language may also be impacted.


Why early identification?

The importance of early detection of learning difficulties like dyslexia cannot be over-emphasized.  Dyslexia can have a profound impact on a learner’s ability to read and write and without these invaluable language skills, the learner with dyslexia can experience avoidable and lifelong educational, social and economic problems.

If identified early and proper effective support is given, the learner will significantly have fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than children who are not identified or helped. 

Early identification in school is necessary to address dyslexia-related learning challenges or difficulties before the child falls into spirals of failure or develops a need for special education services 

Without early identification, these initial learning challenges may instead develop into learning disabilities as the student’s reading, writing, and spelling skills do not develop at the expected rate. 

If dyslexia is not identified early within 2 years of joining the school and providing appropriate intervention, the children will start to exhibit more profound difficulties learning to read and write, which may lead to lifelong problems.

The identification needs to happen by grade 3 because this is the time when children transition from learning to read (decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet), to reading to learn other subjects. Thus, the academics of children with dyslexia, in general, may suffer significantly without early identification and intervention. Moreover, research shows it takes four times as long to intervene in grade 4 as it does in kindergarten, because of brain development and because of the increase in content for students to learn as they grow older. 

In addition, incorrectly addressed dyslexia can also lead to disruptive classroom behavior, anti-social behavior, low self-esteem, academic failures, truancy, depression, suicide, drug use, and crime.

Early identification of dyslexia is essential so that the student not only learns to read but also understands why reading is hard so that these social and emotional difficulties can be mitigated, and mental health issues prevented. 

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