What is Dyslexia?


Dyslexia is a learning difference, a combination of strengths and weaknesses which affects the learning process in reading, spelling, writing and sometimes numeracy. Dyslexic learners may also have accompanying weaknesses in short term memory, sequencing and the speed at which they process information. These are skills that everyone needs if they are to learn effectively in a busy classroom. They are also key skills for life.

Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to extremely severe. Dyslexia is not related to intelligence – dyslexics may be extremely intelligent or have a low IQ.

A dyslexic person might struggle to develop fully the ability to read and write accurately and fluently. Multitasking might be a challenge (for example, deciding on content while also delivering neat and accurate presentation).

Dyslexic people may benefit from being encouraged to see this as a difference, not a difficulty or disability. They may often have strengths in other areas, showing ability and intelligence. Alongside their challenges, dyslexics may have abilities such as:

  • Perception
  • Vivid imagination
  • Creativity
  • Intuition
  • Thinking in pictures instead of words
  • Spacial awareness and design skills
  • Capable of seeing things differently from others
  • Excellent auditory memory
  • Superior reasoning

Famous and successful dyslexics

There are many examples of people who have successfully overcome the dyslexic challenges they face, including:

  • David Bailey – Photographer
  • Orlando Bloom – Actor
  • Richard Branson – Founder, Virgin
  • Darcey Bussell – Ballet dancer
  • Agatha Christie – Writer
  • Tom Cruise – Actor
  • Roald Dahl – Author
  • Leonardo da Vinci – Artist
  • Walt Disney – Film producer
  • Albert Einstein – Scientist
  • Ben Elton – Comedian and author
  • Noel Gallagher – Singer
  • Bill Gates – Founder, Microsoft
  • Steve Jobs – Founder, Apple
  • Nigel Kennedy – Violinist
  • Keira Knightley – Actor
  • John Lennon – Musician
  • Jamie Oliver – Chef
  • Marco Pierre-White – Chef
  • Pablo Picasso – Artist
  • Lord Richard Rogers – Architect
  • Steven Spielberg – Director
  • Joss Stone – Singer
  • Henry Winkler – Actor

For a much longer list, see here.

Common experiences

Reading may be hesitant and involve a lot of guess work, and punctuation is sometimes ignored. Lack of fluency and errors may contribute to a failure to understand the text being read.

Spelling might show reversals of letter forms and letter order (for example, was / saw, u / n, dat / bat) and can sometimes result in bizarre, incomprehensible words. Errors might indicate inaccurate phonic awareness (for example, bikoz/ because).  Reversals and ordering errors can also occur with numbers (for example, 2 / 5, 16 / 61, 6 / 9, 110 / 101).

Writing can present great difficulties. Pupils may lack the organisational skills required for effective planning of essays and assignments. Despite possibly having a good range and depth of vocabulary, writing may be much more restricted, and sentences and paragraphs may lack fluency and structure,

Symptoms might include:

  • poor handwriting
  • left/right confusion
  • sequencing problems
  • poor visual memory / discrimination
  • visual stress / eye muscle-control difficulties
  • poor auditory memory / weak phonological awareness schools
  • poor vocabulary
  • poor word attack skills
  • inaccurate and monotonous reading
  • bizarre spelling
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of self confidence
  • inability to copy accurately from the board
  • difficulty with sentence construction and punctuation
  • misunderstanding of written and / spoken language – instructions etc
  • behaviour / emotional difficulties

These issues may cause other difficulties including:

  • telling the time
  • learning tables
  • remembering the order of days, months and seasons
  • general forgetfulness
  • struggling to follow a list of instructions from memory
If a person has great ideas and can speak at length and with enthusiasm about a topic,
but this bears little resemblance to what they can produce in writing, then strongly suspect dyslexia