Dyslexia: What Is It?

Dyslexia is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to learn reading, spelling, writing -- despite average or higher intelligence -- using standard teaching methods. The cause of dyslexia is neurological - it's caused by a brain difference that affects 17 to 20 percent of people everywhere.

A person with dyslexia has great difficulty hearing sounds within words -- the individual "phonemes." As a result, when they learn the alphabet, they don't solidly understand the relationship between letters and sounds. Without special training, most never learn how to "sound out" unknown words. That means their reading will "top out" between second- and third-grade level - limited by the number of words they can memorize. These students then fall farther behind each year. Many drop out before high school graduation.

People with dyslexia CAN learn to read, but only with special systems that:

  1. Focus on the sounds within words (phonemes).

  2. Involve intense practice, using simultaneously multisensory exercises.

  3. Present information in a systematic, logical sequence.

  4. Don't rely on memorizing, but instead teach rules that the student can apply broadly.

  5. Teach reading and spelling together, so they reinforce each other.

All the reading and spelling systems that are effective with dyslexic people are based on the work of Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham -- done clear back in the 1930's! These Orton-Gillingham systems require special training for the teacher or tutor, because they are so different from standard methods.

Dyslexic children are at high risk for dropping out of school, using drugs, or becoming teen-age parents. Unless someone steps in and teaches them to read and spell using an Orton-Gillingham system, many will end up in low-paying jobs, on welfare, or in prison.

Symptoms of dyslexia, appropriate ways to diagnose dyslexia, and information on effective teaching are on the Bright Solutions For Dyslexia website.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, June 7). Dyslexia: What Is It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Last Updated: August 12, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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