Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the ability to learn to read and spell. It often runs in families and stems from a difficulty in processing the sounds in words. Some 10% of the UK population are affected.

The main points are:

  • It affects the ability to learn to read and spell.
  • It involves difficulties in dealing with the sounds of words, which makes it especially hard to learn to use phonics to read words.
  • It can affect short-term memory and speed of recalling names.
  • Other kinds of difficulties, for example with maths or with co-ordination, sometimes go alongside dyslexia, but they do not always.
  • Dyslexia is not the same for everyone:
  • It can be mild or severe;
  • It varies depending on other strengths, or difficulties;
  • It varies depending on the kind of support and encouragement that is given at school, at home and at work.

People with dyslexia often have strengths in reasoning, in visual and creative fields; dyslexia is not related to general intelligence; and is not the result of visual difficulties. Dyslexia usually runs in families, but there is still much that can be done, especially if intervention is given early.

Many people learn strategies to manage the effects of dyslexia, but it does not go away and its effects may be felt in new situations or in times of stress. People with dyslexia often, but do not always, show characteristics of other specific learning difficulties such as dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder or dyscalculia.

Dyslexia can make some things harder to learn. But, almost always, those barriers to learning can be overcome, especially with the right kind of help and support.

Symptoms of dyslexia

The most common signs and symptoms associated with dyslexia are:

  • Learning to read - the child, despite having normal intelligence and receiving proper teaching and parental support, has difficulty learning to read.
  • Milestones reached later - the child learns to crawl, walk, talk, and ride a bicycle later than the majority of other kids.
  • Speech - apart from being slow to learn to speak, the child commonly mispronounces words, finds rhyming extremely challenging, and does not appear to distinguish between different word sounds.
  • Slow at learning sets of data - at school, the child takes much longer than the other children to learn the letters of the alphabet and how they are pronounced. There may also be problems remembering the days of the week, months of the year, colours, and some arithmetic tables.
  • Coordination - the child may seem clumsier than their peers. Catching a ball may be difficult.
  • Left and right - the child commonly gets "left" and "right" mixed up.
  • Reversal - numbers and letters may be reversed without realizing.
  • Spelling - might not follow a pattern of progression seen in other children. The child may learn how to spell a word today and completely forget the next day.
  • Phonology problems - phonology refers to the speech sounds in a language. If a word has more than two syllables, phonology processing becomes much more difficult. For example, with the word "unfortunately" a person with dyslexia may be able to process the sounds "un" and "ly," but not the ones in between.
  • Concentration span - children with dyslexia commonly find it hard to concentrate. Many adults with dyslexia say this is because, after a few minutes of non-stop struggling, the child is mentally exhausted. A higher number of children with dyslexia also have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), compared with the rest of the population.
  • Sequencing ideas - when a person with dyslexia expresses a sequence of ideas, they may seem illogical.
  • Autoimmune conditions - people with dyslexia are more likely to develop immunological problems, such as hay fever, asthma, eczema, and other allergies.