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FACTS Information provided by The International DYSLE IA Association

What is dyslexia? learning disability in reading and language
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. processing. Nevertheless, many more people
Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which perhaps as many as 1520% of the population as
result in people having difficulties with specific a wholehave some of the symptoms of
language skills, particularly reading. Students dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading,
with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar
other language skills such as spelling, writing, words. Not all of these will qualify for special
and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects education, but they are likely to struggle with
individuals throughout their lives; however, its many aspects of academic learning and are likely
impact can change at different stages in a to benefit from systematic, explicit, instruction in
persons life. It is referred to as a learning reading, writing, and language.
disability because dyslexia can make it very Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and
difficult for a student to succeed academically in intellectual levels. People with dyslexia can be
the typical instructional environment, and in its very bright. They are often capable or even gifted
more severe forms, will qualify a student for in areas such as art, computer science, design,
special education, special accommodations, or drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music,
extra support services. physics, sales, and sports.
What causes dyslexia? In addition, dyslexia runs in families; parents
with dyslexia are very likely to have children
The exact causes of dyslexia are still not with dyslexia. For some people, their dyslexia is
completely clear, but anatomical and brain identified early in their lives, but for others, their
imagery studies show differences in the way the dyslexia goes unidentified until they get older.
brain of a person with dyslexia develops and
functions. Moreover, most people with dyslexia
What are the effects of dyslexia?
have been found to have problems with
identifying the separate speech sounds within a The impact that dyslexia has is different for each
word and/or learning how letters represent those person and depends on the severity of the
sounds, a key factor in their reading difficulties. condition and the effectiveness of instruction or
Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence remediation. The core difficulty is with word
or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and
methods, students with dyslexia can learn writing. Some individuals with dyslexia manage
successfully. to learn early reading and spelling tasks,
especially with excellent instruction, but later
How widespread is dyslexia? experience their most debilitating problems when
more complex language skills are required, such
About 1314% of the school population as grammar, understanding textbook material,
nationwide has a handicapping condition that and writing essays.
qualifies them for special education. Current
studies indicate that one half of all the students People with dyslexia can also have problems
who qualify for special education are classified with spoken language, even after they have been
as having a learning disability (LD) (67%). exposed to good language models in their homes
About 85% of those students have a primary
Dyslexia Basics Page 2

and good language instruction in school. They IDEA law, whether or not the student is
may find it difficult to express themselves receiving instruction under an RTI model.
clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean
when they speak. Such language problems are A comprehensive evaluation typically includes
often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to intellectual and academic achievement testing, as
major problems in school, in the workplace, and well as an assessment of the critical underlying
in relating to other people. The effects of language skills that are closely linked to
dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom. dyslexia. These include receptive (listening) and
expressive language skills, phonological skills
Dyslexia can also affect a persons self-image. including phonemic awareness, and also a
Students with dyslexia often end up feeling students ability to rapidly name letters and
dumb and less capable than they actually are. numbers. A students ability to read lists of
After experiencing a great deal of stress due to words in isolation, as well as words in context,
academic problems, a student may become should also be assessed. If a profile emerges that
discouraged about continuing in school. is characteristic of readers with dyslexia, an
individualized intervention plan should be
How is dyslexia diagnosed? developed, which should include appropriate
accommodations, such as extended time. The
Before referring a student for a comprehensive
testing can be conducted by trained school or
evaluation, a school or district may choose to
track a student's progress with a brief screening outside specialists. (See the Dyslexia Assessment
test and identify whether the student is Fact Sheet for more information.)
progressing at a "benchmark" level that predicts
success in reading. If a student is below that What are the signs of dyslexia?
benchmark (which is equivalent to about the 40th The problems displayed by individuals with
percentile nationally), the school may dyslexia involve difficulties in acquiring and
immediately deliver intensive and individualized using written language. It is a myth that
supplemental reading instruction before individuals with dyslexia read backwards,
determining whether the student needs a although spelling can look quite jumbled at times
comprehensive evaluation that would lead to a because students have trouble remembering letter
designation of special education eligibility. Some symbols for sounds and forming memories for
students simply need more structured and words. Other problems experienced by people
systematic instruction to get back on track; they with dyslexia include the following:
do not have learning disabilities. For those
students and even for those with dyslexia, putting Learning to speak
the emphasis on preventive or early intervention Learning letters and their sounds
makes sense. There is no benefit to the child if Organizing written and spoken language
special instruction is delayed for months while Memorizing number facts
waiting for an involved testing process to occur. Reading quickly enough to comprehend
These practices of teaching first, and then Persisting with and comprehending longer
determining who needs diagnostic testing based reading assignments
on response to instruction, are encouraged by Spelling
federal policies known as Response to Learning a foreign language
Intervention (RTI). Parents should know, Correctly doing math operations
however, that at any point they have the right to
request a comprehensive evaluation under the Not all students who have difficulties with these
skills have dyslexia. Formal testing of reading,
Dyslexia Basics Page 3

language, and writing skills is the only way to What are the rights of a person with
confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia. dyslexia?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
How is dyslexia treated? 2004 (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. With proper Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities
help, many people with dyslexia can learn to read Act (ADA) define the rights of students with
and write well. Early identification and treatment dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities.
is the key to helping individuals with dyslexia These individuals are legally entitled to special
achieve in school and in life. Most people with services to help them overcome and
dyslexia need help from a teacher, tutor, or accommodate their learning problems. Such
therapist specially trained in using a services include education programs designed to
multisensory, structured language approach. It is meet the needs of these students. The Acts also
important for these individuals to be taught by a protect people with dyslexia against unfair and
systematic and explicit method that involves illegal discrimination.
several senses (hearing, seeing, touching) at the
same time. Many individuals with dyslexia need Suggested Readings
one-on-one help so that they can move forward
at their own pace. In addition, students with Moats, L. C., & Dakin, K. E. (2008). Basic facts
dyslexia often need a great deal of structured about dyslexia and other reading problems.
practice and immediate, corrective feedback to Baltimore: The International Dyslexia
develop automatic word recognition skills. For Association.
students with dyslexia, it is helpful if their
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new
outside academic therapists work closely with
and complete science-based program for
classroom teachers. reading problems at any level. New York:
Schools can implement academic
accommodations and modifications to help
students with dyslexia succeed. For example, a
student with dyslexia can be given extra time to The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) thanks
complete tasks, help with taking notes, and work Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D., and Karen E. Dakin, M.Ed., for
their assistance in the preparation of this fact sheet.
assignments that are modified appropriately.
Teachers can give recorded tests or allow
students with dyslexia to use alternative means of
assessment. Students can benefit from listening
to audiobooks and using text reading and word
processing computer programs.

Students may also need help with emotional

issues that sometimes arise as a consequence of
difficulties in school. Mental health specialists
can help students cope with their struggles.

promoting literacy through research, education and advocacy

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Tel: 410-296-0232 Fax: 410-321-5069 E-mail: Website:
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