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The formal definition of dyslexia is: 

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.  It is characterised 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 the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

So what does that mean?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference.  It affects the organisation in the brain that controls the ability to process the way language is heard, spoken, read, or spelt.  It primarily affects the skills in accurate and fluent reading, writing, and spelling.  Dyslexic children often have problems translating language into thought (such as listening or reading) or translating thought into language (such as in writing or speaking).  Dyslexia can also manifest in difficulties with working memory, attention, and organisation.  

Dyslexia can be genetic, and ranges on a continuum from mild to severe.  It is also important to know that dyslexia is fairly common and people with it are not lacking in motivation or intelligence, but in fact are typically average to above average in intelligence.

Characteristics of Dyslexia in Various Areas Relating to Reading Instruction


  • Late learning to talk 

  • Difficulty pronouncing words  

  • Trouble acquiring vocabulary and grammar 

  • Trouble following directions  

  • Confusion with concepts  

  • Difficulty learning the alphabet and rhyming 


  • Trouble putting ideas on paper 

  • Uncertainty with directionality (concepts of right or left) 

  • Handwriting difficulty 

  • Difficulty organising written language 

  • Trouble copying 

  • Spelling errors 

  • Trouble applying rules in daily work 

  • Poor proofreading ability 


  • Poor phonological awareness (difficulty learning letters and sounds) 

  • Trouble with reversals and order of letters 

  • Omits or misreads short words 

  • Trouble decoding longer words 

  • Difficulty reading aloud or silently 

  • Slow reading rate 


  • Poor sense of time 

  • Downward trend in test scores 

  • Inconsistent schoolwork 

  • "Lazy syndrome" 

  • Appears inattentive during academic tasks 

  • Difficulty putting thoughts into words (or finding the right word) 

  • Difficulty with foreign language 

Signs & Symptoms of Dyslexia Through the Years

Students in kindergarten may experience:

  • delay in learning to talk 

  • difficulty pronouncing words  

  • trouble acquiring vocabulary and grammar 

  • trouble following directions  

  • confusion with concepts, such as positional language 

  • difficulty learning the alphabet and rhyming 

Students in Grade 5 to Grade 8 may experience:

  • trouble putting ideas on paper 

  • uncertainty with directionality (concepts of right or left) 

  • handwriting struggles 

  • difficulty organising written language 

  • trouble copying 

  • spelling errors 

  • trouble applying rules in daily work 

  • poor proofreading ability 

Adults may:

  • hide their reading problems, many subterfuges 

  • spell poorly, may rely on others 

  • avoid writing, or may not be able to write 

  • be competent in verbal language 

  • have good "people skills” 

  • have exceptional spatial intelligence (engineers, architects, designers, artists, mathematicians) 

  • be very good at "reading" people (intuitive) 

  • be employed in jobs below their intellectual capacity 

  • have difficulty with planning and organisation 

  • have difficulty with time (often too early, late or forgets appointments) 

  • rely on digital watches, as they cannot tell time  

  • be entrepreneurs. 

Students in Prep to Grade 4 may experience:

  • trouble learning letters and sounds - poor phonological awareness  

  • trouble with reversals and order of letters 

  • omits or misreads short words 

  • trouble decoding longer words 

  • difficulty reading aloud or silently 

  • slow reading rate 

Students in highschool may:

  • poor sense of time 

  • downward trend in test scores 

  • inconsistent schoolwork 

  • "lazy syndrome" 

  • apparent lack of attention or focus during academic tasks 

  • difficulty putting thoughts into words (or finding the right word) 

  • difficulty with foreign language 

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