Online learning

Section 1 - Dyslexia

  1. What is dyslexia?
  2. What does it feel like to have dyslexia?
  3. What causes dyslexia?
  4. The development of reading
  5. Why is it so difficult for children with dyslexia to read fast and accurately?
  6. Other learning difficulties
  7. Summary of Section 1
  8. Test yourself
  9. Sources

1.  What is dyslexia?

Dys–lexia comes from the Greek and means ‘difficulty (dys) with words (lexia)’.

There are two main types:

A plain language descriptive definition of developmental dyslexia has been drafted by Dyslexia International’s panel of experts and consultants, The Dyslexia Consultancy e-Team, headed by its Scientific Advisory Committee (see ‘About’ and ‘Academia’):

Developmental dyslexia is a lifelong, neurologically-based condition that is often inherited.

It results in persistent problems with:

  • reading
  • spelling
  • writing

and usually goes with difficulties in:

  • concentration
  • short-term memory
  • organization
  • sequencing (alphabet, days of the week, months, etc)

Dyslexia is not the result of low intellectual abilities.

Nor is dyslexia the result of:

  • poor schooling
  • poor home background
  • not wanting to learn

Dyslexia is not caused by poor vision or hearing, or lack of motor co-ordination, although, in some cases, problems with visual and auditory processing and motor co-ordination may occur together with dyslexia.

As we will see in Section 2, it is very important to rule out the possible implication of these physiological factors in explaining the difficulties with reading, spelling and writing. Teachers can suggest that the parents check for physical difficulties such as poor vision or ‘glue ear’ (a history of ear infections and Otitis media), or other physical impairments to learning.

It is generally accepted that people with dyslexia have fundamental problems in relating the written language to the spoken language, and that they experience difficulties with written language - reading, spelling and writing - to different and varied degrees.

‘The written words are not processed correctly or rapidly enough.’

Professor José Morais, Free University of Brussels, Belgium

But there is a positive side to the picture. Whatever the severity of difficulties with reading and writing, children with dyslexia will often display ‘Learning skills developed to an average or above average standard’.

Dr Harry Chasty, International consultant.

These skills may include:

It is a fact that ‘Dyslexic learners have many talents that just don’t happen to include reading and writing.’

Professor John Stein, Oxford University, UK


click on the icon (left) to see formal definitions and comparative comments on them (translated from Goetry et al., 2006)