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Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (International Dyslexia Association, 2002)

Reading problems can be traumatic on the whole family. If your child is struggling, the first thing to do is to find out why. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. It's a learning disability that can affect both boys and girls, and is more common in children whose parents also had difficulty with reading and writing. Children with dyslexia can go on to become successful readers, but it's important to get extra help early!

Facts about dyslexia and related language-based learning disabilities:

  • Fifteen to twenty percent of the population has a reading disability.

  • Eighty percent of students identified as having a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) have deficits in reading. 

  • Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties.

  • If dyslexic children receive explicit, systematic reading instruction in kindergarten and first grade, they have significantly fewer problems learning to read at grade level than children who are not identified or supported until third grade. 

  • Evidence-based (explicit, systematic) reading instruction raises the reading rates of all children, not just dyslexic children.

  • First grade reading levels are predictive of high school reading levels (Reading level in 1st grade, moreover, is an astonishingly good predictor of reading achievement into high school (Catts et al., 1999; Cunningham and Stanovich, 1997; Shaywitz et al, 1999; Fletcher et al. 1994). It is unusual for a student to “catch up.”

  • Dyslexia is likely an inherited trait. This is why a Family Questionnaire is valuable as a screening tool. 

  • Dyslexia impacts males and females, and people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, equally.


In preschool and kindergarten, a student with dyslexia may demonstrate:

  • Problems pronouncing words correctly;

  • Delayed language development;

  • Difficulty reciting the alphabet and days of the week sequentially;

  • Difficulty with quickly naming things (RAN) like colors, shapes, familiar objects when shown pictures of objects;

  • Difficulty rhyming;

  • Poor memory for nursery rhymes and chants; and

  • Inability to recall the right word (word retrieval). “Describes” the word they are trying to say. 

In grades first through fourth, a student with dyslexia may demonstrate:

  • Difficulty learning and remembering the alphabet letter names;

  • Delay learning the connection between letters and sounds (phonics);

  • Lack of a systematic approach to sounding out unfamiliar words;

  • Difficulty in reading words (by sight and by decoding)

  • Frustration and avoidance of reading tasks leading to “behavior issues;”

  • Strong listening comprehension but weak reading comprehension;

  • Difficulty learning mathematics facts, especially multiplication tables;

  • Difficulty telling time and understanding time concepts such as before and after, yesterday, tomorrow, last night;

  • Difficulty following multi-step directions;

  • Messy handwriting;

  • Difficulty getting ideas onto paper;

  • Growing anxiety and lack of self-esteem related to inability to do school work



In grades fifth through eighth, a student with dyslexia may demonstrate:

  • Weak decoding skills; guesses multisyllabic words;

  • Poor sight word vocabulary

  • Poor oral reading skills; lack of fluency;

  • Difficulty with word problems in mathematics;

  • Difficulty with rote memorization;

  • Strong oral self-expression, weak written expression; and

  • Anxiety and poor self-image worsen; thoughts or actions of self-harm are not uncommon.

In high school, a student with dyslexia may demonstrate: 

  • Poor spelling;

  • Poor written composition;

  • Avoidance of reading or writing assignments;

  • Incorrect reading of information;

  • Trouble with summarizing;

  • Poor memory skills;

  • Slow work speed;

  • Problems with organizing work and managing assignments;

  • Difficulty with performing in classes that have reading and writing demands;

  • Difficulty in learning a foreign language; and

  • May show anxiety related to school work and poor self-image.


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