What is Dyslexia?


What is Dyslexia?

Trying to find out what dyslexia is can leave you more confused than when you started. This is partly due to the inconsistency of the symptoms of dyslexia. They can also vary and overlap with other related conditions such as dyspraxia, dyscalculia or AD(H)D.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia? 

Dyslexia always manifests in distinct patterns of strength, alongside recognisable patterns of weakness.

At the heart of dyslexia lies a great gift, linked to the way dyslexics think and process information. They are strong visual-spatial learners who discover through experience and doing. Their talents are related to out-of-the-box thinking, they are often imaginative, creative, ‘physically’ intelligent and do well in careers such as architecture, engineering, sports, acting, film-making, advertising and caring professions.


The weaknesses are seen in language processing and in the ability to think sequentially. Language processing refers to the ability to take in written or spoken language and immediately absorb its meaning. It can also work the other way round: finding it difficult to express oneself coherently and sequentially in words, spoken and/or written. A dyslexic will struggle greatly trying to stay focused on linguistic tasks.

Summarising from the British Dyslexia Association website, dyslexia is characterised by difficulties with:

  • phonological processing – recognising sound units within words and ‘blending’ them into the sound of the whole word; 
  • rapid naming and processing speed of language;
  • short-term working memory;
  • the automatic development of skills such as word recognition, spelling (and times tables). 

There is often a big mismatch between the person’s natural intelligence and the skills listed above.

Manifestations of problems might be seen in:

  • word recognition due to visual perceptual confusions where letter shapes are confused (b/d/p/q)
  • spelling, often of relatively simple words where the order of the letters is not taken into account: saw/was, form/from.

For Parents of a Child with Dyslexia

Abigail Marshall’s book The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Dyslexia is an excellent starting point for your research if you're looking for more information as a parent. This comprehensive book is clear on the characteristics and related conditions. It looks at the different approaches available and is bursting with advice and strategies for everything from dealing with the dyslexia, the child and school, to choosing schools and colleges.

Another exceptionally insightful approach is offered by Linda Silverman who identifies strongly with learning styles. She offers a whole new way of thinking about dyslexia as connected to a visual-spatial-learning style and highlights the difficulties resulting from having to grow up in an school environment that is heavily based on audio-sequential teaching and learning.

Dyslexia Test

For a first online test, I suggest the Dyslexia Test on Ron Davis’ website; he is author of bestselling book The Gift of Dyslexia.

Symptoms of Dyslexia: Adult and Child

A fascinating comprehensive list of symptoms – highlighting the seemingly unrelated aspects of the condition – can be found on the same website: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/symptoms.htm

If you are an adult with dyslexia, here are some common symptoms: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/adult-symptoms.htm

If you or your child have dyslexia, then sign up for more information and guidance here

With the right support, those with dyslexia can learn to address the challenges, harness their gifts and realise their full potential. Please contact me if you are interested in knowing more by emailing rvdv@humangivens.eu or calling me on 01737 240 116.

By Renée van der Vloodt