What is dyslexia?

Ten per cent of the population is believed to be dyslexic. Therefore, it's likely that you will encounter dyslexic pupils in the classroom. To help your students achieve their full potential it is essential that you have a good understanding of dyslexia and the challenges that it can present for the dyslexic learner.

As each person is unique, so is everyone's experience of dyslexia. Dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties rarely occur in isolation, and so most dyslexic learners will show behaviours characteristic of a combination of other SpLD. These are often described as co-occurring difficulties, however, an alternative and more positive definition is to view these as a range of neurological differences - neurodiversity.

Whilst this can be challenging for the dyslexic learner, and their teacher, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that each student will also have their own strengths. Through effective teaching techniques you can build on these to help your student achieve success.

'Drive for Literacy: What is dyslexia?' video by Driver Youth Trust.

  • Definition of dyslexia
    • Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. The characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
    • Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual abilities and it is best thought of as a continuum rather than a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
    • Co-occurring difficulties (or differences) may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
      (Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties, Sir Jim Rose; 2009)

    This Ted-Ed 'What is dyslexia?' video by Kelli Sandman-Hurley is a good introduction to dyslexia.

    BBC Teach: Sophie's story
    Sophie is a nine year old girl who suffers from dyslexia and struggles with reading and spelling. She talks about how she feels about the condition and how she finds ways to do things differently.

    BBC3: Things not to say to someone with dyslexia

It is important to remember that, as well as facing challenges, many dyslexic people show strengths in areas such as reasoning and in visual and creative fields. There are many organisations which can provide information and support for dyslexic people and those supporting, teaching or working with people with dyslexia.

  • Helpful organisations

    The British Dyslexia AssociationUK national organisation that offers a wide range of information and advice for parents, teachers, employers and dyslexic individuals.

    Driver Youth TrustThe Driver Youth Trust is a national charity dedicated to improving the life chances of children and young people, with a focus on those with literacy difficulties and who may have SEND, particularly children with dyslexia. The website holds a lot of useful information and resources to support dyslexic children in the classroom.

    Helen ArkellHelen Arkell offer dyslexia support and advice to anyone who may need it, whether they think they have dyslexia or care for someone who may have dyslexia.