What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a lifelong learning difficulty that limits reading, writing and spelling abilities and can also impact how you process and remember information, but it doesn’t affect intelligence.
It’s very common, with around 10% of the population thought to be affected, and it’s usually diagnosed in childhood.
What causes dyslexia?
It’s not exactly known what causes dyslexia, but there’s some evidence that it can be linked to certain genes inherited by your parents.
Typical dyslexia symptoms can vary according to your age, for example:
Dyslexia symptoms for pre-school children
- Slower speech development than what’s expected for your age
- Pronunciation problems
- Difficulties using language to express yourself
- Problems learning the alphabet
Dyslexia symptoms for primary school children
- Difficulty learning letters, putting letters in the wrong order or making anagrams of words
- Confused by numbers and letters that appear similar (for example, b and d or 6 and 9)
- Reading slowly and finding it hard to read aloud
- Feeling like the words on a page are moving around or blurred
- Difficulty completing written tasks, poor handwriting and writing slowly
- Finding it hard to learn sequences, like months of the year
- Struggling to follow instructions
- Difficulties telling the time, bad timekeeping and problems remembering days of the week
- Can be easily distracted and use avoidance techniques rather than working
Dyslexia symptoms for secondary school children and adults
Additional symptoms in this age group can include:
- Appearing knowledgeable about a subject but not being able to express this through writing
- Problems studying for exams, essays or reports
- Avoiding reading and writing whenever possible
- Struggling to meet deadlines
- Difficulties remembering a list of instructions
- Being disorganised and forgetful in daily life
If your child shows difficulties with reading and writing, the first step is to talk to their teacher. If you both agree that there are obvious problems, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor. They will be able to check their health for underlying issues, like hearing or eyesight, that might be at the root of the problem.
Once any underlying health problems have been ruled out, you can talk to your child’s school about what specialist educational support they can offer. This is given through the school’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCO).
If your child continues to have difficulties, you can request that your child is referred for an in-depth dyslexia assessment. This will be carried out by an educational psychologist or a dyslexia specialist.
The dyslexia assessment might include:
- A pre-assessment questionnaire sent to you and your child’s school
- Observing your child at school
- Talking to teachers
- Tests to assess reading and writing skills, memory, vocabulary, language developments, processing skills and organisational skills
Dyslexia support and interventions
After the assessment, you’ll receive a report covering your child’s strengths and weaknesses, with suggestions of how to improve the areas they’re struggling with.
There’s a range of support and interventions available if your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, depending on how severe it is and what they need the most help with.
Many children receive all the support they need through SENCO services in their school. An individual action plan will be drawn up for your child, which may include one-to-one support and small group work.
Helping your child at home
Talk to your child’s school about the best ways that you can support this plan at home. Younger children can benefit from reading together, being read aloud to and getting lots of encouragement. It’s also important to set a good ‘reading example’ by reading in front of your child.
Older children and adults who are dyslexic can benefit from working on a computer rather than a book. Text-to-speak functions and speech recognition software can be helpful, and there are lots of apps and other software available to help make their learning more engaging.
As an adult, many of the approaches that work for children still apply. In addition to exploring how technology can help you, think about how to approach complex tasks in a multisensory way. For example:
- Use a dictaphone to record a lecture or a meeting at work rather than struggling to take notes
- Find videos to learn about new topics before turning to text-heavy information
- Draw mind maps to help you remember more complicated information or instructions
It’s a good idea to tell your employer about your dyslexia as there are lots of ways that they can support you. They are also required by law to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you.
This might include assistive technology, giving you extra time for difficult tasks and giving you the information in more accessible formats.
- Reviewed by:
Dr Rhianna McClymont
Lead GP at Livi
- Last updated: