What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability in reading. Kids with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently. They may also have trouble with reading comprehension, spelling and writing.

The International Dyslexia Association provides this formal definition:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

[Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)]

A plain language definition from the Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity:

Dyslexia is defined as an unexpected difficulty in learning to read. Dyslexia takes away an individual’s ability to read quickly and automatically, and to retrieve spoken words easily, but it does not dampen their creativity and ingenuity.”

How Common is it?

According to the International Dyslexia Association 15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties. Dyslexia affects males and females nearly equally as well as people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds nearly equally.

How do you “get” dyslexia

Dyslexia is hereditary, it runs in the family.   Rest assured that dyslexia is not something that was caused by bad parenting, lack of access to reading materials or because a child is lazy or not trying. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn (International Dyslexia Association FAQ).

The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a person with dyslexia develops and functions.

This PDF from Headstrong Nation shows the difference in brain activity when reading of a dyslexic person vs. a non-dyslexic person


With proper identification, appropriate instruction, hard work, and support, individuals who have dyslexia can learn to read accurately and fluently and lead a successful life.