What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia can be described as a continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and/or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual’s cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.

The impact of dyslexia

Dyslexia is independent of intellectual ability. The impact of dyslexia as a barrier to learning varies in degree according to the learning and teaching environment, as there are often associated difficulties in the areas of:

  • Auditory and /or visual processing of language-based information
  • Phonological awareness
  • Oral language skills and reading fluency
  • Short-term and working memory
  • Sequencing and directionality
  • Number skills
  • Organisational ability

Dyslexia exists in all cultures and across the range of abilities and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a hereditary, life-long, neurodevelopmental condition. It affects up to 10% of the UK population at some level and can affect anyone of any age and background. Learners with dyslexia will benefit from early identification, appropriate intervention and targeted, effective teaching, enabling them to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. Dyslexia Scotland January 2020.

How do the dyslexic challenges become apparent?

Dyslexia may range from mild to severe; the difficulties may only come to light through challenges in the environment such as:

  • Starting school and being confronted with literacy tasks
  • School becoming more difficult as the reading load increases and the assumption is made that you can read to learn when you have not really mastered learning to read.
  • Reading is effortful rather than fluent and automatic
  • Transition to secondary education with a plethora of teachers and subjects: may highlight difficulties with organisation, memory of verbal information and increased written output demands
  • Transition to tertiary education where the support of family and school is removed: may expose challenges in independent learning
  • The workplace can be difficult or become more difficult with promotion increasing admin duties or a change of management style imposing new systems or requirements of qualifications: no offer of reasonable adjustments for those who may process information more slowly than their peers.
  • At all stages frustration, withdrawal and behavioural problems may well be a feature. For children, reluctance to go to school may cause problems. Anxiety management skills can be helpful for those who present with dyslexia. It is critical that those with dyslexia are supported by family, friends, educators and workplaces.

For indications in the Early Years click here
For indications at Primary level click here
For indications at Secondary level click here
For indications at Adult level click here


As dyslexia can exist on a continuum from mild to severe, difficulties may not be noticed in the early years, particularly with bright children who may unconsciously be compensating for their difficulties. The root cause of a reluctance to attend school or unacceptable behaviour in the classroom may be a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.

Co-occurring difficulties

It is now generally recognised that people with dyslexia often have co-occurring difficulties such as dyspraxia and ADHD. Often the symptoms may look similar; for example the dyslexic pupil may look as if they have attention deficit when the explanation may well be that they are finding it difficult to attend because of the nature of the work they are being asked to complete.

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