Quick Overview of Dyslexia

Posted by Brainspring on 29th May 2014

Hi everyone,

I’m pumped that Stephanie’s response last week got tons of shares!  Please comment or email your questions so we can keep Questions and Answers going.

I thought the article featured in last Thursday’s post was really interesting.  After posting it though, I realized that dyslexia is a complicated term many people (myself included) only have a passing familiarity with.  A brief introduction to dyslexia will help us all form a basic understanding of this complex term that we can build on in future posts.

My information for this post is from Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention by Mather and Wendling.  I’m in the process of reading it now, so I’ll have tons of information to keep sharing with you.



Let me know what specific questions you have about dyslexia.  I’ll be on the lookout for answers as I research!


What is Dyslexia?

Although there are many definitions of dyslexia out there, they all refer to dyslexia as “a neurobiological disorder that causes a marked impairment in the development of basic reading and spelling skills (pg. 3).”   Dyslexia causes deficiencies at the word-level: decoding (pronouncing written words) and encoding (spelling words).  Dyslexia can occur with other types of disabilities, but dyslexia itself is limited to these areas.  It does not include difficulties with comprehension, oral language, intelligence, or behavior.  These difficulties and disorders can also be present, but they are not part of dyslexia.

In some school districts and states “dyslexia” is not the term used for students with reading disabilities.  Sometimes students are diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in reading.  SLD is a broader term than dyslexia “encompass[ing] several different types of disorders, including dyslexia (pg. 3).”


Some Characteristics of Dyslexia

To help you get a better idea of what you might observe in a student with dyslexia I’m going to list some common characteristics from the book (pg. 7).  Please note though that this list is not exhaustive and it’s definitely not intended to be used to identify if a student has dyslexia.  The opposite is also true: a student with dyslexia might not show any of these characteristics.

  • “Difficulty learning to rhyme words.”
  • “Difficulty learning letter names and letter sounds of the alphabet.”
  • “Confusion of letters and words with similar visual appearance.”
  • “Confusion of letters with similar sounds.”
  • “Reversals and transpositions of letters and words that persists past the age of 7.”
  • “Trouble arranging letters in the correct order when spelling.”
  • “Spelling the same word different ways on the same page.”
  • “Spelling words the way they sound rather than the way they look”
  • “Difficulty pronouncing some multisyllabic words correctly.”
  • “Slow word perception that affects reading rate and fluency.”


Main Types of Dyslexia

1)      Phonological: difficulty with phonological awareness and phonics, especially non-word reading

2)      Surface: difficulty reading irregular words, like Red Words

(There is also Deep dyslexia, but it is mostly caused by a stroke or brain injury.  People with deep dyslexia have a severe reading impairment along with other kinds of word reading errors.)


I hope you learned something from this short introduction to dyslexia.  Let me know in the comments below if you thought this was helpful.


Dyslexia itself is a complicated disorder; it’s made even more complicated for educators because of the misconceptions that abound and the lack of solid information (more on misconceptions of dyslexia in a later post).

Estimates for the prevalence of dyslexia range from 5%-20% of the school-age population (pg. 9).  We need to keep ourselves informed because chances are some of the students we work with will have some degree of dyslexia.


Leave your questions about dyslexia in the comments below or add information from your own research or experience.

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