What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a common, specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading, writing and spelling. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected by Dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis, but support is available to improve reading and writing skills and help those with the problem be successful at school and work.

Unlike Autism and ADHD where diagnostic criteria are internationally agreed upon and defined in either the DSM or ICD, Dyslexia is subject to several definitions in different places. For our audience, the most helpful are those agreed in Scotland and the definition used by the British Dyslexic Association.


“In January 2009, the Scottish Government, Dyslexia Scotland and the Cross Party Group on Dyslexia in the Scottish Parliament agreed on the following working definition of Dyslexia:

‘Dyslexia can be described as a continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and/or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual’s cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.

The impact of dyslexia as a barrier to learning varies in degree according to the learning and teaching environment, as there are often associated difficulties such as:

  • auditory and /or visual processing of language-based information
  • phonological awareness
  • oral language skills and reading fluency
  • short-term and working memory
  • sequencing and directionality
  • number skills
  • organisational ability.

Dyslexia exists in all cultures and across the range of abilities and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a hereditary, life-long, neurodevelopmental condition.

Learners with dyslexia will benefit from early identification, appropriate intervention and targeted effective teaching, enabling them to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.'” (Dyslexia Scotland)


“In the same year Sir Jim Rose’s Report on ‘Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties’ gave the following description of Dyslexia:

  • ‘Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
  • Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
  • Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
  • It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
  • Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
  • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention.’

In addition to these characteristics, the BDA acknowledges the visual and auditory processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process. 

Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.

So, dyslexia can affect the way you communicate, and it’s different for everyone. Unidentified dyslexia can result in low self esteem, high stress and low achievement.

People with dyslexia will benefit from spotting it early, and with support can find ways to learn which suit them better.” (British Dyslexic Association)


NHS UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dyslexia/

Dyslexia Scotland: https://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/definition-dyslexia

British Dyslexic Association: https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic