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What is dyslexia?


It has been estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia worldwide, but only around 5% of people have been assessed and diagnosed with it (Austen Learning Solutions, 2015). Our resident Educational Psychology Practitioner, Madeline Duca, gives us some information about dyslexia, including signs and symptoms, causes and how to distinguish dyslexia from other reading problems.  

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, a type of Specific Learning Difficulty, is a neurological condition caused by a different wiring of the brain, leading to difficulties with accurate and fluent reading, reading comprehension, spelling and writing. Approximately one in five students has dyslexia. There is no cure for dyslexia and individuals with this condition must learn coping strategies. Research indicates that dyslexia has no relationship to intelligence; therefore, individuals with dyslexia are neither more nor less intelligent than the general population. As any other child, children with dyslexia present with a variety of strengths, with many showing talent in science, art, journalism, and other creative fields.

What are the signs and symptoms of Dyslexia?

Dyslexia can be difficult to identify before your child enters school, but some early signs may begin to emerge earlier. Once your child reaches school age, your child’s teacher may be the first to notice a problem. The severity of Dyslexia varies, but often becomes apparent when the child starts learning to read. Though most children are ready to learn reading by kindergarten or year one, children with dyslexia often can’t grasp the basics of reading by that time and fall behind their peers.

What causes dyslexia?

Dyslexia tends to run in families. It appears to be linked to certain genes that affect how the brain processes reading and language, as well as certain risk factors in the environment.

The brains of children with dyslexia simply have a harder time learning and remembering the code to how sounds and letters go together. With specialised intervention, children with dyslexia learn to read, but most continue to be somewhat slow readers and many struggle with spelling into adulthood. Luckily, there are many strategies that people with dyslexia can learn to help them compensate for these difficulties. As a result, people with dyslexia who have had specialised intervention as children, and who have developed compensatory strategies, or ways of using their strengths to help them compensate for their weaknesses, are still successful in life.

Are all reading problems dyslexia? 

No. Some reading difficulties are caused by a lack of exposure to reading books and good language models in the home, or to lack of quality reading instruction at school. Other children with reading difficulties can read text accurately, but have difficulty with reading comprehension.

If your child exhibits one or more of the listed symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that s/he has dyslexia. A thorough assessment is needed to determine if a child has dyslexia or not. If your child exhibits many of these symptoms and has a reading level which you think is below what is expected for his/her age, it may be good to consult with a professional. When dyslexia goes undiagnosed and untreated, childhood reading difficulties continue into adulthood, and can also lead to emotional distress, frustration and poor self-esteem.


Austen Learning Solutions (2015). Dyslexia Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from Austen Learning Solutions: Steps to lifelong success.

Madeline Sultana Duca

About Madeline Sultana Duca

Madeline graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Hons.) from the University of Malta in 2012. She then continued her studies abroad at UCL Institute of Education in London, where she specialised in a Doctorate in Professional Educational, Child and Adolescent Psychology. She studied and worked in various schools in different parts of London, and had the opportunity to live and work amongst diverse cultures.

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