What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a “Specific Learning Difficulty” (SpLD) that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Dyslexia in children can present in different ways, and is not a straightforward diagnosis.
There are a number of different definitions and descriptions of dyslexia, which may be appropriate for certain contexts or purposes.
In 2009 Sir Jim Rose’s Report on ‘Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties’ gave the following description. This was adopted by the British Dyslexia Association Management Board, but with the addition of the further paragraph shown below:
‘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.’
Definitions of Dyslexia
In addition to the characteristics described in the Rose Report, the British Dyslexia Association 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.
In October 2007, the BDA Management Board approved the following definition:
“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities.
It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effect can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counselling.
- Dyslexia Action
- British Dyslexia Association
- The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust
- NHS information on dyslexia
- Swindon Borough Council has produced a series of brochures which explain how dyslexia can be recognised and formally identified
- The Rose Report on Dyslexia, 2009
- Milton Keynes Council has a range of updated documents regarding dyslexia
Dyslexia in Children: Some Key Points
- 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 dyslexia difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention.
- The Equality Act of 2010 officially defined Dyslexia as a disability,
- It is estimated that around 10% of the UK population are dyslexic to some extent, with around 4% suffering from severe difficulties and impairment.
- Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis.
Dyslexia and Educational Psychologists
If you think your child may have dyslexia, the first step is to speak to their teacher or the school’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) about your concerns. Educational Psychologists can work with children who have literacy difficulties, and if the child meets the criteria, can be diagnosed as dyslexic. Whatever the nature of the literacy difficulties, the educational psychologist can provide advice for teachers and parents to support the child/young person. Schools can purchase time with an educational psychologist, or request staff training on dyslexia.
Educational psychologists use the definitions of dyslexia found on this page, and as such there isn’t a single test or assessment that they can do that diagnoses dyslexia. They will consider whether the child / young pupil has a specific learning difficulty, and whether it meets the criteria to be diagnosed as dyslexia.