Boy does homework while two others watch

Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects language and reading. People with dyslexia have trouble translating the written word to language. They may transpose words and letters, have difficulty learning to read, struggle with writing, and make frequent spelling errors.

Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading issues. An estimated 5 to 10% of the population has this diagnosis. Though symptoms are often more noticeable in childhood as a young person learns to read, dyslexia can persist into adulthood.

What Causes Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is often diagnosed in childhood, and its origins are believed to be neurological. Dyslexia can also occur as a result of brain injuries or other learning disabilities that hinder language processing skills.

Dyslexia has previously been attributed to insufficient development in areas of the brain that aid in the processing of language. However, the current consensus, according to the International Dyslexia Association, is that dyslexic people process language-based information in a different area of the brain than non-dyslexics. Research has also shown that while differences in auditory perception and interpretation play a large role in dyslexia symptoms, the areas of the brain associated with memory may also influence language comprehension in these individuals.

What are the Symptoms of Dyslexia?

The symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Development of speech is slow and difficult
  • Organizing and comprehending written and spoken language is a challenge
  • Struggling to learn letters and their corresponding sounds
  • Reading words or parts of words backward
  • Difficulty with concepts such as rhyming
  • Poor spelling skills
  • Difficulty with rhythm-based activities like clapping along to music

Dyslexia Evaluations

A hallmark of dyslexia is that people with dyslexia have reading problems even when their vision, intelligence, and development are all typical for their age. When a child’s reading difficulties seem disproportionate to their ability, or when gentle coaching and support do not help with mastering reading and spelling, a dyslexia evaluation can offer significant insight.

In many cases, a school system or teacher recommends a dyslexia evaluation after a child has reading problems. Sometimes a school can do in-house evaluations. These evaluations cover much of the same ground that a private assessment might cover, though there may be important differences. When deciding what type of assessment to pursue, and from whom, ask the following questions:

  • Who will perform the assessment, and what training do they have in learning assessments?
  • How long will the test take?
  • What specific components will the test include?
  • Does the test assess for other learning disorders?
  • Should my child also seek an evaluation for mental health conditions?
  • What is the purpose of the test, and is the test empirically validated for this specific purpose?
  • What are the limitations of this test?
  • If the child has other learning issues or a disability, will the test be able to properly assess them for dyslexia?
  • Is there anything my child should do to prepare for the test?

If your child needs accommodations at school, the school may require a specific test, or testing through the school system.

Some examples of tests a child might take include:

  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP)
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF)
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT)
  • Gray Oral Reading Tests (GORT)
  • Test of Written Language (TOWL)

Dyslexia and Stigma

Reading is one of the first skills many students master. A child’s reading skills may also be on public display, such as when students read aloud in class or write spelling words on the board. Students who struggle with these skills may face bullying from peers. Over time, this can affect their self-esteem. They may believe they are “dumb,” even when they are of average or above-average intelligence.

Some research suggests people with dyslexia are more likely to drop out of school or be diagnosed with anxiety or depression. This may be because of a combination of stigma and academic pressure. Helping children understand that they have neurological differences and offering them the support they need may reduce the risk of academic or emotional concerns.

Education about dyslexia may help ease the stigma. Many students also benefit from school accommodations, such as participating in special classes or getting additional time to take tests.

How Parents Can Support Dyslexic Kids

Some strategies that parents can use to help dyslexic kids include:

  • Don’t keep the diagnosis a secret. This can intensify shame and stigma. Without an explanation for their difficulties, a child may think they are less intelligent.
  • Explain to the child that their reading difficulties are because their brain processes information slightly differently.
  • Make reading an enjoyable experience as much as possible. Don’t use reading as a punishment or penalize a child for struggling with reading. Urge teachers to make reading fun and to avoid embarrassing children when they struggle.
  • Seek accommodations for a child’s dyslexia. These accommodations can help a child feel safer and more accepted at school.
  • Help children plan scripts for talking to friends and family about dyslexia.
  • As a child gets older, help them practice advocating for themselves with teachers, administrators, and peers.
  • Avoid excessive use of labels. While it’s important to accurately name the diagnosis, a child is more than their diagnosis.

Getting Accommodations for Dyslexia

A number of laws protect the right of children with dyslexia to a fair education. These include the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Teachers and school systems cannot discriminate against children because they have dyslexia, mock a child for their dyslexia, require a child to disclose their disability, or treat a child less favorably because of their disability. Some states, cities, and school systems may offer additional protections.

In general, children with learning issues such as dyslexia may be entitled to disability accommodations and an individualized education program (IEP). The law specifically mentions dyslexia has an example of a learning disability for which an IEP is appropriate.

Every child is different. An IEP aims to identify the specific needs of a child and establish accommodations that may help. Some potentially helpful accommodations for children with dyslexia include:

  • Assistive technologies such as note-taking software, recording devices, or speech-to-text software can make it easier for children to memorize information and write papers.
  • Additional time to take tests or complete homework can help children read and write carefully so they can better understand test questions.
  • Not having to participate in some classroom activities, especially those that promote stigma or increase bullying, can help children with dyslexia feel better about themselves. For example, classroom spelling bees or public readathons that are fun for many children may be traumatic for children with reading or spelling difficulties.

A therapist with a background in learning differences can help families rally together to support a child with dyslexia. The right therapist can also offer specific strategies for talking about dyslexia and effectively advocating for a child at school.


  1. A.D.A.M. Medical Board. (2010, November 18). Developmental reading disorder. PubMed Health. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002379
  2. Al Lamki, L. (2012). Dyslexia: Its impact on the individual, parents and society. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal12(3), 269-272. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3529660
  3. Frequently asked questions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/answers/faq
  4. International Dyslexia Association. What is dyslexia? Retrieved from http://www.interdys.org/FAQWhatIs.htm
  5. Miller, G. (2014, February 5). What musicians can tell us about dyslexia and the brain. Wired.com. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/02/dyslexic-musicians/?cid=18114044
  6. Time & tools. Retrieved from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/accommodations/time-and-tools
  7. Understanding the law. Retrieved from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/accommodations/understanding-the-law
  8. What is dyslexia?. Retrieved from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia
  9. What to expect in a dyslexia evaluation. Retrieved from http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/parents/learn-about-dyslexia/dyslexia-testing/what-to-expect-in-dyslexia-evaluation

Last Updated: 12-30-2019

  • Leave a Comment
  • Akhil A.

    February 16th, 2019 at 12:25 AM

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on this blog . You have made my day! I think this is engaging and eye-opening material. Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers.

  • karthik

    June 14th, 2021 at 12:35 AM

    thanks for the article. am sure it will help other parents and students.

  • Jeff

    December 24th, 2022 at 2:13 PM

    Is electroconvulsive shock therapy used to treat children/adults with dyslexia?

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