Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it hard to learn to read and understand written language. Even students with average or above-average intelligence can have dyslexia.
A common assumption about dyslexia is that letters or words seem reversed, like the word "was" appearing like "saw." But the major problems for students with dyslexia are phonemic awareness, phonics, and rapid word recognition. To a person with dyslexia, words may look like this:
Dyslexia is not a visual problem. Dyslexia occurs because of subtle problems in information processing, especially in the language regions of the brain.
Dyslexia often runs in families and can only be formally diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation by a reading specialist or psychologist. Pediatricians often know the signs of dyslexia and can guide families and teachers in recognizing the problem.
A child with dyslexia may have difficulty:
Students with dyslexia may need:
Students with dyslexia may avoid reading because it can be stressful and tiring. As a result, they can end up missing valuable reading practice and fall behind their classmates. This can hurt their self-esteem. Recognizing and appreciating their strengths — in math, sports, drama, art, creative problem solving, etc. — can provide critical emotional support.
Other helpful strategies for students with dyslexia are:
With the proper assistance, most students with dyslexia can learn to read and develop strategies that allow them to stay in regular classrooms.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
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