I am frequently asked about dyslexia, and almost as frequently, I discover some misconceptions about dyslexia.  The most reliable source of information about dyslexia is the International Dyslexia Association,  www.interdys.org .

Let me summarize:

Dyslexia is NOT a visual problem.  Visual problems may be present in the dyslexic, but dyslexia is not a problem seeing the letters on the page.  It’s a problem processing the sounds contained in a spoken word.  That means that the person sees the right letters in the right order and reads the word incorrectly because he/she can’t tell if he/she matches the letters to the right sounds in the right order.

There has been extensive research about why it is that one in every 10 perfectly bright children who have had ample opportunity to learn fail to figure out the reading thing in kindergarten/first grade.  It’s almost always because of a problem with phonological processing, or phonemic awareness.

Symptoms and Signs?

Because of all the research attention, some common signs of dyslexia have been established:

In preschoolers:

  • being slower than most children in learning to talk
  • being slower than most children in learning to speak clearly
  • having trouble thinking of the word he/she wants
  • doesn’t rhyme words when plays word games
  • doesn’t learn the alphabet, the names of the numbers, the names of the shapes, the days of the week as quickly as others

In elementary school-aged children:

  • may make all the right sounds for a word but be unable to blend the sounds–“c–a–p”  comes out “clap”,  “ex–pect”  comes out “except”
  • often struggles to separate the sounds in a spoken word in order to spell the word
  • tends to “guess” at words
  • may mix up the “small” words like at/to, goes/does, the/a/an
  • may persist in mispronouncing words
  • avoids reading and writing
  • may be impulsive
  • may be “accident prone”

And the middle-schooler??  Some children are able to “mask” the problem because they are bright and memorize well, but by middle school, they may suddenly start failing because the reading level and the expectations are just too great now.  Sometimes it doesn’t show up until high school or even college, and we’ve had some instances of folks in medical school who never thought of themselves as poor readers until they hit that level of literacy.

Is there any hope for it?


Dyslexia is very treatable at any age.  The younger the better–the young child doesn’t have so much “catching up” to do.  But treatment for the core phonologcial processing deficits is effective at any age.  Dyslexia can be overcome!