Characteristics of Dyslexia

The word dyslexia comes from Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’. Around 10% of the population have some form of dyslexia related issues.

Dyslexia could be thought of as a different learning ability rather than a disability. Dyslexic people, of all ages, can learn efficiently and effectively, but often need a different approach.

Dyslexia is a puzzling mix of distinctive strengths and talents as well as clusters of difficulties. Dyslexics can be exceptionally creative and produce excellent ideas. Difficulties vary in degree from person to person. Lack of understanding and appropriate support can lead to low self esteem and depression.

Generally, dyslexia can be said to be a processing problem. This means that a dyslexic brain processes information differently from a non-dyslexic brain. The ability to read and write can be significantly affected by this processing difference. However, this processing difference can effect far more than just reading and writing.

Dyslexic problems can be grouped into five broad areas:

  1. Mixing up similar linked items, eg: letters such as "b" and "d"; words such as "was" and "saw"; directions such as "left" and "right"; or anything that can be roughly paired together.
  2. Problems with linear sequences. Anything which runs in a linear sequence can cause problems, eg: the alphabet; times tables; sentences; lists of instructions; etc.
  3. Problems with short term memory. Dyslexics often have severe short term memory problems and struggle to retain information without significant reinforcement.
  4. Coordination problems. Dyslexics can sometimes suffer from physical issues such as clumsiness, problems with word pronunication etc. On its own this is known as dyspraxia.
  5. Reading and writing problems. The above four areas all combine to cause problems with literacy. However, because we live in such a literate society this can cause such a major impact that it can be considered a fifth area of difficulty.
Some common characteristics that can indicate dyslexia include:

  • Skill levels lower than individual's intellect.
  • Inconsistent IQ tests.
  • Language processing difficulties
  • Poor oral reading skills.
  • Poor reading comprehension.
  • Inconsistent listening comprehension.
  • Literal interpretation of language.
  • Auditory perceptual differences
  • Difficulty remembering directions.
  • Poor spelling skills
  • Visual perception differences
  • Poor copying, handwriting.
  • Poor eye-hand co-ordination.
  • Attention/concentration deficits
  • Organisational problems
  • Time management problems

No single dyslexic will have all of these difficulties but will often have a number of them. One of the problems of characterising dyslexia is that the experience of each dyslexic is different and two people can have completely different indicators of dyslexia. Thus, assistance that helps one dyslexic, may not help another.