What is dyslexia?



What is dyslexia?

In Australia dyslexia is recognised as a specific learning disability, affecting 1 in 10 adults and children. Dyslexia affects one’s reading ability leading to difficulties in recognising words accurately and fluently, understanding orthography, speech perception, and decoding speech from print. Dyslexia can also impact other language-related areas, including spelling and reading comprehension, vocabulary growth, and background knowledge.

The International Dyslexia Association states that dyslexia is:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002.

People with dyslexia may show a mixed profile in scores on verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, working memory, and processing speed tests. Vulnerabilities in working memory and processing speed can cause challenges in remembering instructions, maintaining concentration, and organization. It’s important to remember that individuals with dyslexia are unique and can exhibit variation across the spectrum of mild to severe, with external factors such as fatigue, poor mental health, and daily stressors impacting their day-to-day experiences. The individual’s diagnosis, strengths, and coping techniques will also play a role in determining the impact of dyslexia on their life. 

Dyslexia often co-occurs with other developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and other related conditions.

  • Approximately 3-7% of the population have dyscalculia and 30-70% of those with dyslexia also have dyscalculia.
  • Approximately 3-15% of the population have dysgraphia, and up to 30% of those with dyslexia also have dysgraphia.
  • Dyspraxia affects around 5% of the population and frequently overlaps with other developmental disorders including ADHD, ASD, and specific learning disabilities and is often associated with significant spelling difficulties.
  • Approximatley 1-2% of teh population have autism of which 14%  will also have dyslexia.
  • Approximately 5% of the population have ADHD with 25-40% of people with ADHD also have dyslexia.
  • Language impairment and speech sound disorder are also common among individuals with dyslexia.

Our research and international studies have shown a strong link between dyslexia and mental health and well-being, with dyslexia being associated with lower levels of well-being, higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, and a tendency towards self-harm. Children, adolescents and adults with dyslexia can experience feelings of stigma, discrimination, alienation, and isolation, which can affect their mental health. Early struggles in reading and writing can have damaging lifelong effects on a person’s mental health, according to research.

Learning more:

Dear Dyslexic Podcast Series

Our Blog

Factsheets: Dyslexia and more

Reference list – What is dyslexia