Dyslexia Statistics: Questions from a Superintendent

Dyslexia Statistics: Questions from a Superintendent

Posted by Stephanie Cork on 6th Dec 2017

A Superintendent from a large district recently reached out to Brainspring with the following question….

“I was looking for some statistics regarding the rate of dyslexia in children ages 5-21.  Can you point me the right direction?  No one seems to have a real percentage. I just keep seeing 15-20% thrown around with no research behind that number. Thank you for any help you can provide.”

Dyslexia Statistics

The common statistic, 1 in 5 or 20%, comes from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.  Yale has been conducting longitudinal studies on dyslexia since the early 1980’s. Their studies have included thousands of students, making the Connecticut Longitudinal Study one of the largest studies on dyslexia to date.  Dr. Sally Shaywitz is the Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.  In her book, Overcoming Dyslexia, she writes, “The Connecticut study indicates that reading disability affects approximately one child in five”.  Dr. Shaywitz recently testified before Congress about dyslexia because she is thought to be one of the premiere experts on dyslexia.


Additional information comes from a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH), which has done extensive research on reading instruction and difficulties.  The NICHD has over 40 research sites including: Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and The Mayo Clinic.  The NICHD assembled a panel to evaluate reading research.  They set out to review over 100,000 studies!  This panel is known as The National Reading Panel.  Their extensive report, written in 2000, is known as the Science of Teaching Reading.


 According to the NICHD “About 40% of the population have reading problems severe enough to hinder their enjoyment of reading. These problems are generally not developmental and do not diminish over time, but persist into adulthood without appropriate intervention. Because the percentage is so large, an arbitrary cutoff point of 20% was selected for the purpose of labeling children as disabled in basic reading skills. The difference between a child who has a learning disability in reading and a child who is simply a poor reader is only a difference in the severity of the problem.”   


 Even though the last fact includes an arbitrary number for dyslexia, it does not diminish the severity of the problem.  It’s important to think of dyslexia on a continuum; similar to the Autism Spectrum.   Approximately 40% of children struggle with reading and about half of those struggle so severely it can have a negative impact on the quality of life.  Imagine not being able to read your mail, prescription labels or instructions of any kind.  The good news is that reading instruction that is effective for dyslexic students is also beneficial for those who struggle less severely.  And the recommendations for dyslexic students are some of the same recommendations for emerging readers.  Therefore, educators who are trained to remediate dyslexia are trained to help a wide variety of reading difficulties and can even help head-off reading difficulties of emerging readers.


In a classroom of 30 students, there may be as many as 6 dyslexic students.

In a school with 500 students, there may be as many as 100 dyslexic students.

And in a district of 10,000 students, there may be as many as 2,000 dyslexic students.


Brainspring’s Educator Academy helps teachers bring Orton-Gillingham based multisensory instruction to the classroom. Our nationally accredited Phonics First® curriculum helps transform struggling readers into skilled learners with an effective, fun, multisensory approach.

For more information please visit brainspring.com or call 1-8007323211


Grossen, B. (1997). A Synthesis of Research on Reading from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. University of Oregon. Retrieved from: The National Right to Read Foundation. http://www.nrrf.org/old/synthesis_research.html#ref

Shaywitz, S. M. D. (2003). Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: Vintage Books.