A lack of phonological awareness and a difficulty with phonological processing are seen by many in this field as being the primary causal factor of dyslexia. This is often referred to as a single core deficit. However, others have spoken of other possible deficits such as naming speed problems or a deficit in the ability to process visual information, ie. orthographic factors. These deficits might exist singly as proposed in a single deficit hypothesis or together as in multiple deficit hypotheses.

While research continues, most would agree that dyslexia is a developmental syndrome, has a neurological basis, has a strong genetic contribution and responds to structured intervention.

Is help or support necessary for someone who is dyslexic?

Despite intelligence and motivation, without appropriate support, children who are dyslexic do not learn as their peers do. However, when diagnosed early, they can be helped to learn with specialist teaching that is success orientated, structured and systematic. They will always require a great deal of support and encouragement.

‘Dyslexia’ tends to be the term preferred by parents and individuals experiencing the condition. There are many reasons for this including the fact that they do not accept that they are disabled in the true sense of the word, but rather that they learn in a different way that is often not catered for in traditional schooling.

The origins of the word ‘dyslexia’ suggest a difficulty in the use of the words rather than just the reading of them. The term ‘dyslexia’ indicates a more complex syndrome than just a problem with reading.

Dyslexia is not synonymous with the terms like ‘specific reading difficulty’ or ‘specific reading disability’ or ‘specific reading retardation’. It is, however, sometimes referred to as a ‘specific learning difficulty’ (or ‘Spld’). Dyslexia does not affect inherent intelligence but its symptoms can often hide a greater intelligence than that exhibited when learning to read, write or spell. There is often exhibited a disparity between verbal and written ability.

In some countries ‘Dyslexia’ is used as a generic term to describe problems with reading, writing, spelling and number; in others, problems with number are often referred to as ‘dyscalculia’. In some countries the different aspects exhibited in learning difficulties are given individual titles.

Incidence and emotional effects

Dyslexia occurs worldwide regardless of culture or language and affects about 8% of the population who experience a syndrome that can inhibit learning; 2 – 4% of the population can be seriously affected by it.

No one can experience years of failure in school without it having a detrimental effect on them. A lack of confidence and low self-esteem are often consequences of dyslexia.

There are serious emotional consequences for the learner who has been unable to develop effective skills and strategies in certain key areas of the curriculum due to the presence of dyslexia. Emotional damage is done when poor school attainment is attributed to inattention, distractibility, laziness, immaturity or defiance. Similarly, when parents and teachers are at odds to explain the learning difficulty. Many dyslexic people report experiencing verbal and physical abuse from their peer group causing them to become defensive and secretive to avoid opportunities for ridicule.

Dyslexic people are often so used to being wrong that they are afraid to take risks and lose all belief in themselves and their abilities. They often under-estimate their skills and knowledge and seem to assume, because they have difficulty in reading, spelling and writing, that they cannot do anything well.