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(Specific Reading Disability)


Dyslexia is an impairment in a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. It is a common learning disability in children and lasts throughout life. The severity of dyslexia can vary from mild to severe.


The causes of dyslexia are neurobiological (having to do with the way the brain is formed and how it functions) and genetic (passed down through families). Dyslexia may also occur in people later in life due to other conditions, such as stroke.

Brain Functions and their Locations
Intelligence location in brain

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Risk Factors

The only known risk factor is having a family member with dyslexia.


Symptoms may include difficulty in the following areas:

  • Learning to speak
  • Reading and writing at grade level
  • Organizing written and spoken language
  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Learning number facts
  • Spelling
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Correctly doing math problems


You will be asked about you or your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include a hearing and vision test. You may then be referred to an expert in learning disabilities, such as a school psychologist, learning specialist, or neurologist (doctor who specializes in the nervous system) for additional testing.

Additional tests may be done. These may include:

  • Cognitive processing tests—measure of thinking ability
  • IQ test—measure of intellectual functioning
  • Tests to measure speaking, reading, spelling, and writing skills


Early identification and treatment of dyslexia can reduce its effects. The sooner children with dyslexia get special education services, the fewer problems they will have learning to read and write at grade level. Under US federal law, free testing and special education services are available for children in the public school system.

Most people with dyslexia need help from a teacher, tutor, or other trained professional. Talk with the doctor and learning specialist about the best treatment plan for you or your child. Treatment options include:


Remediation is a way of teaching that helps people with dyslexia to learn language skills. It uses the following concepts:

  • Teach small amounts of information at a time
  • Teach the same concepts many times—a concept known as over-teaching
  • Use all the senses—hearing, vision, voice, and touch—to enhance learning (multisensory reinforcement)

Compensatory Strategies

Compensatory strategies are ways to work-around the effects of dyslexia. They include:

  • Audio taping classroom lessons, homework assignments, and texts
  • Using flashcards
  • Sitting in the front of the classroom
  • Using a computer with spelling and grammar checks
  • Receiving more time to complete homework or tests


Dyslexia cannot be prevented, especially if it runs in your family.


International Dyslexia Association

National Center for Learning Disabilities


Canadian Dyslexia Association

Health Canada


Dyslexia. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated June 2015. Accessed February 16, 2018.

Dyslexia basics. International Dyslexia Association website. Available at: Accessed February 16, 2018.

Frequently asked questions about dyslexia. International Dyslexia Association website. Available at: Accessed February 16, 2018.

Understanding dyslexia. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website website. Available at: Updated June 2015. Accessed February 16, 2018.

Understanding dyslexia. Understood for Learning and Attention Issues website. Available at: Accessed February 16, 2018.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 2/12/2016