Fast Facts

About Dyslexia

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin and is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

As a result, secondary consequences may occur and include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience impeding vocabulary development and background knowledge.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability and refers to a cluster of symptoms which result in children having difficulties with specific language skills, especially reading. Other difficulties include spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. A child with dyslexia struggles in school and academic success is difficult to attain.

What Are the Causes of Dyslexia?

The causes of dyslexia are both neurobiological and genetic. Anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a dyslexic person develops and functions. Most dyslexics have difficulty identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent sounds. Deficits in phonological decoding skills play a causal role in failing to learn to read. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or the desire to learn.

How Prevalent Is Dyslexia?

Approximately 15% of the school population in the United States have a handicapping condition and are eligible for special education services. One-half of all students who qualify for special education are classified as having a Learning Disability. About 85% of those students have a primary learning disability in reading and language known as Dyslexia.

Many more students, as much as 20% of the population, demonstrate signs of dyslexia including poor reading, writing, and spelling. These children continue to struggle in school, but yet may not be classified. They also require direct, explicit instruction in reading, writing, and language to reach success in academic learning.

Dyslexia has no boundaries and affects people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. Dyslexics are often very bright and can be gifted in many areas. Dyslexia can be genetic and parents with dyslexia often have children with dyslexia.

What Are the Effects of Dyslexia?

Dyslexia impacts different children in different ways and is contingent upon the degree or severity of the disorder as well as the overall effectiveness of the remediation provided. Early diagnosis and intensive remediation are necessary for a dyslexic child to be successful in school. As a child progresses in school and, if dyslexia is not treated, the academic gap widens and the child falls further behind.

If gone untreated, dyslexia can have devastating effects upon a child's life. Current research indicates that if children do not read proficiently by the end of third grade, they remain poor readers and are likely to drop out of high school.

Dyslexia affects one's self-esteem. Children with dyslexia often do not feel that they are smart or capable like their peers. They become disengaged in the learning process due to the frustration and failure they experience in school. Stress and anxiety become part of the child's repertoire leading to discouragement about continuing in school.

The primary areas affected by dyslexia are word recognition, reading fluency, decoding, spelling, and written language. Although a child with dyslexia may eventually acquire these skills with substantive instruction, the most severe problems occur later on in school when more complex language skills are required, such as writing essays, doing research, comprehending informational text, and learning grammar.

Dyslexia also has far-reaching effects well beyond the school setting. Because dyslexia is a language-based disorder, problems can occur in the workplace, in relationships, and at home. Children with dyslexia often have difficulty with receptive and expressive language. They have difficulty understanding the spoken word and expressing themselves clearly.

How is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

Children can be screened for dyslexia using a reading benchmark level which predicts success in reading. Tracking a child's progress aids in the identification process. A comprehensive evaluation is then necessary to determine a diagnosis and/or eligibility for special education services.

What Does an Evaluation Include?

A comprehensive evaluation includes both academic achievement and intellectual testing; assessing the language skills associated with dyslexia is also critical to establish markers. These include receptive and expressive language skills, phonological processing skills, phonemic awareness, automaticity/fluency skills, decoding, word recognition, spelling, reading comprehension, and vocabulary knowledge.

What Are the Warning Signs of Dyslexia?

The core difficulty displayed by children with dyslexia is in acquiring and using spoken and written language. The main areas of deficit are in reading, writing, spelling, and/or math. Other problems include:

  • Learning to speak
  • Learning letters and their corresponding sound
  • Organizing spoken and written language
  • Memorizing number facts
  • Reading fluently
  • Persisting with and corresponding longer reading passages
  • Spelling
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Correctly doing math operations

Due to retrieval issues, dyslexics have trouble recalling sound-symbol relationships and forming word memories. This results in poor spelling where letters are jumbled. It may appear that dyslexics "read backwards", but this is a myth.

How Is Dyslexia Treated?

Dyslexia must be treated by an educational therapist or Learning Consultant who is trained in using a multisensory, structured language approach. Children with dyslexia must receive direct, systematic, explicit instruction involving all the senses simultaneously. They require intensive practice and must have immediate corrective feedback. The goal is to have the child develop word recognition skills until the level of automaticity is reached.

The pacing of instruction and spiral review are crucial in developing reading skills. School accommodations are provided to help the child succeed academically.

What Are the Rights of a Person With Dyslexia?

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) define the rights of a child with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Their rights are protected and are legally entitled to special education services to help then compensate for their learning differences.

In 2013 and 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law three laws regarding educational reform for Dyslexia in New Jersey Schools. One of the laws states that New Jersey school districts must provide a minimum of two hours of Dyslexia training through professional development. This training is for general education teachers in pre-K to Grade 3, special education teachers, basic skills and ESL teachers, LDTC's, reading specialists, and speech-language therapists.

What Are the Common Warning Signs of Dyslexia?

Does your child have difficulty with:

Pre-K to Grade 2


  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week
  • Naming people and objects
  • Delayed speech and language
  • Using age-appropriate vocabulary
  • Staying on topic
  • Interested in stories
  • Mispronunciation of words
  • Rhyming words
  • Distinguishing words from other words that sound similar
  • Understanding instructions
  • Repeating what has just been said


  • Naming letters
  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, and blending sounds when speaking
  • Knowing sound-symbol associations
  • Accurately blending sounds within words
  • Recognizing sight words
  • Distinguishing between similar letters and words
  • Recalling new vocabulary words
  • Learning to copy and write
  • Writing numbers and letters in the right sequence
  • Accurately spelling words
  • Editing written work
  • Sense of direction/spatial concepts
  • Performing consistently on tasks from day to day

Grades 3 to 8


    • Understanding directions
    • Repeating what has just been said in proper sequence
    • Staying on topic
    • Naming people and objects
    • Speaking with precise language and proper grammar
    • Distinguishing between words that sound similar
    • Pronouncing words correctly
    • Speaking fluently without hesitation
    • Rhyming
    • Understanding humor, puns, and idioms


    • Reading fluently
    • Comprehending while reading
    • Recalling sight words
    • Learning new vocabulary words
    • Analyzing unfamiliar words
    • Reading words in the correct order
    • Understanding math word problems


    • Spelling correctly
    • Generalizing spelling rules
    • Writing letters, numbers, and symbols in the correct order
    • Proofreading and correcting work
    • Expressing ideas in an organized fashion
    • Organizing writing assignments
    • Listening and taking notes simultaneously


    • Remembering facts and numbers
    • Remembering new skills
    • Sense of direction/spatial concepts
    • Performing consistently on tasks from day to day
    • Applying skills


High School


    • Speaking fluently using a rich vocabulary
    • Understanding directions
    • Using correct grammar and vocabulary
    • Staying on topic
    • Summarizing a story
    • Understanding non-literal language
    • Distinguishing between words that look and sound similar


    • Reading fluently
    • Reading precisely without omissions or substitutions of words
    • Recognizing sight words
    • Using word analysis in detecting unfamiliar words


    • Spelling accurately
    • Proofreading and editing written word
    • Outlining
    • Expressing ideas in a logical way
    • Fully developing ideas in written work


    • Managing time
    • Organizing tasks
    • Reading charts and maps
    • Understanding space and direction
    • Performing consistently from day to day
    • Memorizing
    • Applying skills
    • Learning a foreign language


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