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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty affecting the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading and spelling skills. This occurs despite access to appropriate learning opportunities. Dyslexia is characterised by cognitive difficulties in (1) phonological processing, (2) working memory, and (3) speed of retrieval of information from long term memory.


Dyslexia difficulties occur on a spectrum from mild to severe and affect approximately 10% of the population. People with dyslexia experience greater stress and frustration as they endeavour to learn, resulting in heightened anxiety, particularly in relation to literacy acquisition. People with Dyslexia may also have compensating learning strengths.

  • It is a specific learning difficulty.

  • It is a difficulty with accurate and fluent reading.

  • It represents an underlying difficulty at word level related to difficulties with phonological processing (linking sounds to letters).

  • It occurs in about  5% to 10% of the population

  • It is persistent, lifelong and it occurs in people of all ages, in all countries and all languages. 

  • It is not related to intelligence but it can be untangled more easily where other strengths are obvious 

  • Principal areas affected are receptive and expressive written language. Receptive includes reading/decoding while expressive includes writing/spelling.

 Based on information received from the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.


  • Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

  • Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

  • Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.

  • It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.

  • Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

  • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.

      [ref: Rose 2009]

Indicators of Learning Difficulties Including those related to Dyslexia

The characteristics listed below are often associated with dyslexia, as well as a variety of other learning difficulties. Those not observable at one age may, of course, appear at a later stage. Such characteristics identified at any age should be addressed. The presence of a number of them suggests that the child should be considered at risk of developing learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature. It should be noted that these difficulties may exist alongside abilities in the areas of creativity or in high verbal skills.


Indicators of a Possible Learning Difference (Age 3-5 Years).

Many of these indicators may also be noted in children with learning difficulties not arising from dyslexia.

  • Is later than most children in learning to speak

  • Has difficulty pronouncing some, especially multisyllabic, words

  • Has difficulty separating spoken words into sounds and blending spoken sounds to make words (i.e., has difficulty with phonological awareness.

  • Experiences auditory discrimination problems

  • Is prone to spoonerisms (e.g. fips and chish for fish and chips)

  • Has difficulty with rhyming

  • Has difficulty maintaining rhythm

  • Is unable to recall the right word

  • Is slow to add new vocabulary

  • Exhibits delays in acquiring emergent literacy skills (e.g. understanding that written language progresses from left to right, discriminating between letters, words and sentences)

  • Experiences problems learning the alphabet

  • Has trouble learning numbers, days of the week, colours and shapes

  • Has trouble learning to write and spell his/her own name

  • Is unable to follow multi-step directions or routines

  • Is developing fine motor skills more slowly than other children

  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in the correct sequence

Indicators of a Possible Learning Difficulty Arising from Dyslexia (Ages 5-7 Years+).


Many of these indicators may also be noted in students with other learning difficulties.

  • Is slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds (alphabetic principle)

  • Has difficulty separating words into sounds, and blending sounds to form words (phonemic awareness)

  • Has difficulty repeating multi-syllabic words (e.g. emeny for enemy; pasghetti for s spaghetti)

  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)

  • Has poor word-attack skills, especially for new words

  • Confuses small or ‘easy’ words: at/to; said/and; does/goes)

  • May make constant reading and spelling errors including:

    • Letter reversals (e.g. d for b as in dog for bog)

    • Letter inversions (e.g. m for w)

    • Letter transpositions (e.g. felt and left)

    • Word reversals (e.g. tip for pit)

    • Word substitutions – house for home

  • Reads slowly with little expression or fluency (oral reading is slow and laborious)

  • Has more difficulty with function words (e.g. is, to, of) than with content words (e.g. cloud, run, yellow)

  • May be slow to learn new skills, relying heavily on memorising without understanding

  • Reading comprehension is below expectation due to poor accuracy, fluency and speed

  • Reading comprehension is better than single-word reading

  • Listening comprehension is better than reading comprehension

  • Has trouble learning facts

  • Has difficulty planning or organising

  • Uses awkward pencil grip

  • Has slow and poor quality handwriting

  • Has trouble learning to tell the time on an analogue clock or watch

  • Has poor fine motor co-ordination


Indicators of a Possible Learning Difficulty Arising from Dyslexia (Ages 7-12 Years+).

Many of these indicators may also be noted instudents with other learning difficulties.

  • Has continued difficulty reading text aloud or silently

  • Reading achievement is below expectation

  • Still confuses letter sequences (e.g. soiled for solid; left for felt)

  • Is slow at discerning and learning prefixes, suffixes, root words and other morphemes as part of reading and spelling strategies

  • Poor reading accuracy, fluency, or speed interferes with reading comprehension

  • Spelling is inappropriate for age and general ability (e.g. spelling the same word differently on the same page, use of bizarre spelling patterns, frequent letter omissions, additions and transposition)

  • Poor spelling contributes to poor written expression (e.g. may avoid use of unfamiliar words)

  • Uses avoidance tactics when asked to read orally or write

  • Experiences language-related problems in maths (e.g. when reading word problems and directions, confuses numbers and symbols)

  • Is unable to learn multiplication tables by rote

  • Still confuses some directional words (e.g. left and right)

  • Has slow or poor recall of facts

  • Lacks understanding of other people’s body language and facial expressions

  • Has trouble with non-literal or figurative language (e.g. idioms, proverbs)

  • Forgets to bring in or hand in homework

  • Has difficulty remembering what day or month it is

  • Has difficulty remembering his/her own telephone number or birthday

  • Has poor planning and organisational skills

  • Has poor time management

  • Lacks self-confidence and has a poor self-image

Indicators of a Possible Learning Difficulty Arising from Dyslexia (Age 12 years+).

Many of these indicators may also be noted in students with other learning difficulties.

  • Is still reading slowly and without fluency, with many inaccuracies

  • Misreads words (e.g. hysterical for historical) or information

  • Has difficulty modifying reading rate

  • Has an inadequate store of knowledge due to lack of reading experience

  • Continues to experience serious spelling difficulties

  • Has slow, dysfluent and/or illegible handwriting

  • Has better oral skills than written skills

  • Has difficulty planning, sequencing and organising written text

  • Has difficulty with written syntax or punctuation

  • Has difficulty skimming, scanning and/or proof-reading written text

  • Has trouble summarising or outlining

  • Has problems in taking notes and copying from the board

  • Procrastinates and/or avoids reading and writing tasks

  • Does not complete assignments or class work or does not hand them in

  • Is slow in answering questions, especially open-ended ones

  • Has poor memorisation skills

  • Still mispronounces or misuses some words

  • Has problems recalling the names of some words or objects

  • Has poor planning and organisational skills

  • Has poor time management skills

  • Has more difficulty in language-based subjects (e.g. English, Irish, History) than in non-language based subjects (e.g. mathematics, technical graphics)

  • Lacks self-confidence and has a poor self-image

Other Associated Difficulties

  • Short Term/Working Memory 

  • Attention difficulties 

  • Sequencing 

  • Directional Skills 

  • Perception/Sight difficulties 

  • Judging/Telling time 

  • Motor Skills/coordination/handwriting (e.g. Taking notes) 

  • Difficulty planning, sequencing and organising text 

  • Time management and organisational skills 

  • Self-Confidence

The presence of a number of the above indicators suggests that the child should be considered at risk of developing learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature. If you would like us to carry out a full assessment, please see our Tutor/Assessor Index here:


The Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (UK)

Dyslexia Association of Ireland

Dyslexia Indicators

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