Characteristics of Dyslexia

Definitions and Characteristics of Dyslexia
The student who struggles with reading and spelling often puzzles teachers and parents. The student displays average ability to learn in the absence of print and receives the same classroom instruction that benefits most children; however, the student continues to struggle with some or all of the many facets of reading and spelling. This student may be a student with dyslexia.

The Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003 defines dyslexia in the following way:

  1. Dyslexia means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.
  2. Related disorders includes disorders similar to or related to dyslexia such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.

The current definition from the International Dyslexia Association states the following:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological 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 International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002)

The primary difficulties of a student identified as having dyslexia occur in phonemic awareness and manipulation, single-word decoding, reading fluency, and spelling. Secondary consequences of dyslexia may include difficulties in reading comprehension and/or written expression. These difficulties are unexpected for the student’s age, educational level, or cognitive abilities. Additionally, there is often a family history of similar difficulties.

The following are the primary reading/spelling characteristics of dyslexia:

  • Difficulty reading real words in isolation
  • Difficulty accurately decoding nonsense words
  • Slow, inaccurate, or labored oral reading (lack of reading fluency)
  • Difficulty with learning to spell

The reading/spelling characteristics are the result of difficulty with the following:

  • The development of phonological awareness, including segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds in words
  • Learning the names of letters and their associated sounds
  • Phonological memory (holding information about sounds and words in memory)
  • Rapid naming of familiar objects, colors, or letters of the alphabet

Secondary consequences of dyslexia may include the following:

  • Variable difficulty with aspects of reading comprehension
  • Variable difficulty with aspects of written composition
  • A limited amount of time spent in reading activities

Common Evidence of Dyslexia The following may be associated with dyslexia if they are unexpected for the individual’s age, educational level, or cognitive abilities.

Pre-School

  • May talk later than most children
  • May have difficulty with rhyming
  • May have difficulty pronouncing words
    (i.e., busgetti for spaghetti, mawn lower for lawn mower)
  • May have poor auditory memory for nursery rhymes and chants
  • May be slow to add new vocabulary words
  • May be unable to recall the right word
  • May have trouble learning numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, and how to spell and write his or her name

Kindergarten through Third Grade

  • Fails to understand that words come apart; for example, that snowman can be pulled apart into snow and man and, later on, that the word man can be broken down still further and sounded out as /m/ /â/ /n/
  • Has difficulty learning the letter names and their corresponding sounds
  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)—lacks a strategy
  • Has difficulty spelling phonetically
  • Reads dysfluently (choppy and labored)
  • Relies on context to recognize a word

Fourth Grade through High School

  • Has a history of reading and spelling difficulties
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Reads most materials slowly; oral reading is labored, not fluent
  • Avoids reading for pleasure
  • May have an inadequate vocabulary
  • Has difficulty spelling; may resort to using less complicated words in writing that are easier to spell

Sources for Common Evidence of Dyslexia:
Common Signs, (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2006, from The International Dyslexia Association
Web site.
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Alfred A Knopf.