What is Dyslexia?

Types of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific type of learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. It is sometimes known as 'a specific learning or language difficulty (SpLD)'.
Dyslexia can affect different people in different ways and its effects range from mild to severe.

Dyslexia is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities and is not an indication of intelligence or lack thereof. It is biological in origin and is defined by a lack of phonological awareness, which is an ability to convert letter combinations to sounds and vice versa.

The impact of dyslexia is extensive: if you cannot learn to read, you cannot read to learn and everything we do at school and throughout life requires us to have the skills to be able to read fluently and accurately. Above and beyond the difficulties and barriers that dyslexia presents, is the damage that low self-esteem can cause (definition from Dyslexia Action 2012).

However, with the right help and support, strategies to overcome difficulties associated with dyslexia can be learnt and dyslexia needn't be a barrier to achievement.

Below is a list of general indicators of dyslexia. It is not exhaustive nor should it be used as a screening test.


  •  Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  •  Labelled lazy, dumb, careless, immature, "not trying hard enough," or "behaviour problem."
  •  Isn't "behind enough" or "bad enough" to be helped in the school setting.
  •  High in IQ, yet may not test well academically; tests well orally, but not written.
  •  Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  •  Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering.
  •  Seems to "Zone out" or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
  •  Difficulty sustaining attention; seems "hyper" or "daydreamer."
  •  Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.

Vision, Reading and Spelling

  •  Complains of dizziness, headaches or stomach aches while reading.
  •  Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
  •  Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
  •  Complains of feeling or seeing non-existent movement while reading, writing, or copying.
  •  Seems to have difficulty with vision, yet eye exams don't reveal a problem.
  •  Extremely keen sighted and observant, or lacks depth perception and peripheral vision.
  •  Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
  •  Spells phonetically and inconsistently. "

Hearing and Speech

  •  Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds.
  •  Difficulty putting thoughts into words; speaks in halting phrases; leaves sentences incomplete; stutters under stress; mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases, words, and syllables when speaking.

Writing and Motor Skills

  •  Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.
  •  Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks; prone to motion-sickness.
  •  Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right, over/under..

Math and Time Management

  •  Has difficulty telling time, managing time, learning sequenced information or tasks, or being on time.
  •  Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can't do it on paper.
  •  Can count, but has difficulty counting objects and dealing with money.
  •  Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.

Memory and Cognition

  •  Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
  •  Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced.
  •  Thinks primarily with images and feeling, not sounds or words (little internal dialogue).

Behaviour, Health, Development and Personality

  •  Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly.
  •  Can be class clown, trouble-maker, or too quiet.
  •  Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoes).
  •  Prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods, additives, and chemical products.
  •  Can be an extra deep or light sleeper; bedwetting beyond appropriate age.
  •  Unusually high or low tolerance for pain.
  •  Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
  •  Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.

"The looks,the stares,the giggles... I wanted to show

everybody that I could do better and also that I could read."

- Magic Johnson