Dyslexia is the name given to a range of difficulties which usually relate to issues with reading, spelling, writing and personal organisation. It is a hidden disability – you can’t tell a person is dyslexic just by looking at them. You have to look closely at the behaviours they show – particularly when they are reading, spelling or writing. Recently, we have started to view dyslexia as a different approach to learning, rather than just difficulties with learning.
There is some disagreement about what dyslexia actually is. This is because there are a number of different possible causes and also because the signs and symptoms are different between individuals. Everybody has their own pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Even “identical” twins are different! People with dyslexia are no exception. Sometimes, there may be other issues such as dyspraxia (Developmental Coordination Disorder) alongside. Another factor relates to the demands made on the person – for example, dyslexia may only be seen where the need to read and write increases. Children who do not display obvious difficulties at nursery suddenly show problems when they move to reception class and need to develop formal reading skills. An adult worker is promoted because of their high skill level but is suddenly faced with much more paper work to do.
The word “dyslexia” comes from the Latin words “dys” (meaning difficulty) and “lexia” (meaning language, or words).
In our experience, the clearest signs of dyslexia are large inconsistencies in learning that can’t be easily explained. There are usually no “obvious” reasons such as medical problems or lack of education. A person may be quick to learn in one area, but not in another. Most people with dyslexia will have inherited it from their parents. It is helpful to find out if other family members experience similar problems.
Dyslexia is not being a “slow learner”. People of all levels of ability can be dyslexic.
Dyslexia is not being unable to read or spell. If you struggle with these skills, you might be dyslexic but there may be other reasons.
Some people have claimed that dyslexia is just an excuse for poor performance at school. However, the scientific evidence that dyslexia exists is very large and very few experts disagree with this. Dyslexia is mentioned clearly in the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Equality Act (2010). The government and the legal system clearly recognise dyslexia. The British Dyslexia Association estimates that up to 10% of the whole population are dyslexic. Up to 4% of people will display serious symptoms.