Five Minute Guides to dyslexia

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Five Minute Guides

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a type of learning difficulty where individuals struggle with reading. The condition can occur where there are no global reasons for the difficulty and it is therefore what is known as a specific learning difficulty. Reading is a complex skill requiring a number of different processes all working well. Problems with any combination of these can lead to reading difficulty. Therefore dyslexia can be thought of as a spectrum condition as the nature of the difficulties will vary between individuals.

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What are the main processes involved in reading?

Reading involves bringing together our understanding of spoken language with the visual representation of that language in symbols e.g. written letters and words.

In order to understand spoken language we need to hear the sounds, process the sounds and relate them to previous learning, so we make sense of their meaning. This ability is known as phonological awareness - when we hear and analyse the sounds within words.

When we talk we often speak in long sentences. For the listener to make sense they must temporarily store the beginning of the sentence whilst they listen to and process the end of the sentence. This ability is known as verbal memory - when we remember and manipulate information we hear.

In order to read we must learn to correctly and quickly match the visual representation of a sound with our stored understanding of the heard sound. This ability is known as verbal processing speed - when we rapidly access spoken information from memory.

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How does dyslexia affect children?

Each child is different and the severity and specific difficulties experienced will vary. The following are a range of symptoms that cover the dyslexia spectrum:

Slow reading and writing speed

Requiring more time to digest information, answer questions or participate in discussions

Weak reading comprehension

Spelling difficulties

Weak working memory

Poor long term memory retrieval

Poor organisational skills

Frequently misreads and makes errors copying

Weak vocabulary

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What about letter and number reversal?

Letters and numbers drawn facing the wrong way is incredibly common in all children when they are first starting to write. The majority will 'grow' out of this without the need for any additional support. Many people associate dyslexia with letter and number reversal but the truth is that very few dyslexic individuals have a problem with this. It is therefore not considered to be an indicator of dyslexia. However, mixing up the order of letters in words or the sequence of numbers in sums is often observed in dyslexia.

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Why do some children develop dyslexia?

Dyslexia tends to run in families, so a child with a parent or sibling with the condition is more likely to have dyslexia too. Children with delayed language development and weak oracy skills have an increased risk of developing dyslexia. Many children with ADHD have dyslexic difficulties.

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Who can diagnose dyslexia?

Dyslexia requires careful assessment using a battery of diagnostic tests. Generally only an educational psychologist or a specialist teacher with qualifications in the assessment of dyslexia will be able to make the diagnosis.

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What are the benefits of diagnosis?

A diagnosis of dyslexia can help both parents and teaching staff better understand the needs of the child as a learner. Children with dyslexia are often entitled to additional time in public examinations. The assessment process can highlight the specific nature of the child's difficulties and rule out any other cause.

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Five Minute Guide to dyslexia

A handy printable version of this five minute guide suitable for handing to parents, school staff and other professionals and carers. Use 2-sided printing (set printer to flip on short side) and fold in half to produce A5 leaflet.

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Got more than five minutes?

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Dyslexia Management

Working Memory

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