Dyslexia comes from the Greek : ‘dys’ meaning “difficulty” and ‘lexis’ meaning “words/language”. It was defined by the International Dyslexia Association in 2002 as: “a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, decoding and by poor spelling. 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 exposure to good quality literacy teaching. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”[1] Functional MRI scans show how, in a dyslexic brain, different areas in the are activated during literacy tasks. view PDF file

Dyslexia runs on a continuum from mild to severe, and there is a strong hereditary component; however, some students will be diagnosed as Dyslexic without any known sign of dyslexia within the family. The risk for dyslexia increases from a few percent among the general population to about 40% for a child whose parents and relatives have been affected.[2]

Clues that a student may have Dyslexia:

In preschool Years:

  • Trouble learning nursery rhymes
  • Lack of interest in and appreciation of rhymes and stories
  • Not knowing letters in own name

In Prep and Year 1

  • Difficulty matching letter names and sounds
  • Failure to understand that words come apart: toothache can be broken into ‘tooth’ and ‘ache’. Later on the student may have difficulty breaking words into sounds: tooth: /t/  /oo/   /th/.
  • Difficulty sounding out even simple words, such as hat, man, and bed etc.
  • Reluctance to read; becoming emotional when asked to read
  • Reading errors that don’t relate to the sounds of the letters

From Year 2 onwards:

  • Mispronouncing words
  • Pausing to think of a word mid-sentence
  • Confusing similar sounding words
  • Slow acquisition of reading skills
  • Difficulty reading unfamiliar words and small words
  • Reading one word differently on the same page
  • Omitting chunks of words
  • Reluctance to read- avoidance of reading aloud
  • Trouble spelling- with some words not even spelled phonetically
  • Slow, laboured reading

In Secondary School:

  • Poor reading and writing fluency
  • Poor reading comprehension- may need to read text multiple times
  • Slow reading
  • Lack of structure in writing
  • Poor spelling- limited knowledge of base words/ prefixes/suffixes
  • Limited working memory
  • Executive function weakness: Disorganised/difficulty managing time / planning

Students with Dyslexia often have wonderful strengths in key areas and can do things that other students can’t do.

Strengths to look for:

  • Curiosity
  • Great imagination
  • Good problem solving skills
  • Enjoyment of puzzles
  • Excellent comprehension of stories listened to
  • Excellence in areas not dependent on reading such as maths, art, music, science, and technology, etc.



Shaywitz, S, 2003; Overcoming Dyslexia, Vintage Books

Mather, N& Wendling, B 2012 Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention, Wiley


[2] Puolakanaho et al 2007