About Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland defines dyslexia as a specific learning difficulty affecting the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading and spelling skills. This occurs despite access to appropriate learning opportunities. Dyslexia is characterised by cognitive difficulties in (1) phonological processing, (2) working memory, and (3) speed of retrieval of information from long-term memory. Dyslexic difficulties occur on a continuum from mild to severe and affect approximately 10% of the population. People with dyslexia may experience greater stress and frustration as they endeavour to learn, resulting in heightened anxiety, particularly in relation to literacy acquisition. People with dyslexia may also have accompanying learning strengths.

The Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia (2001) suggests the following definition: “Dyslexia is manifested in a continuum of specific learning difficulties related to the acquisition of basic skills in reading, spelling and/or writing, such difficulties being unexplained in relation to an individual’s other abilities and educational experiences. Dyslexia can be described at the neurological, cognitive and behavioural levels. It is typically characterised by inefficient information processing, including difficulties in phonological processing, working memory, rapid naming and automaticity of basic skills. Difficulties in organisation, sequencing and motor skills may also be present.” (p.31)


How common is dyslexia?

Estimates of prevalence vary significantly and depend on the particular definition of dyslexia used in each research study, as well as other factors including language complexity. Depending on the definition used, between 4% to 17% of the population may be considered to have dyslexia; The internationally agreed consensus is that 10% is the average worldwide estimate.

Indicators of Dyslexia

The indicators of dyslexia vary from person to person, and at different age levels. The following indicators are from the Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia (2001).

Many of these indicators may also be noted in children with learning differences not arising from dyslexia.

Indicators at Ages 3-5 Years

  • Is later than most children in learning to speak
  • Has difficulty pronouncing some, especially multi-syllabic, words
  • Has difficulty separating spoken words into sounds and blending spoken sounds to make words (i.e., has difficulty with phonological awareness)
  • Experiences auditory discrimination problems
  • Is prone to spoonerisms (eg., fips and chish for fish and chips)
  • Has difficulty with rhyming
  • Has difficulty maintaining rhythm
  • Is unable to recall the right word
  • Is slow to add new vocabulary
  • Exhibits delays in acquiring emergent literacy skills (e.g., understanding that written language progresses from left to right, discriminating between letters, words and sentences)
  • Experiences problems learning the alphabet
  • Has trouble learning numbers, days of the week, colours and shapes
  • Has trouble learning to write and spell his/her own name
  • Is unable to follow multi-step directions or routines
  • Is developing fine motor skills more slowly than other children
  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in correct sequence.

Co-occurring Conditions

Dyslexia and many other learning difficulties do not always occur in isolation. It is quite common for an individual to have co-occurring conditions. This can create challenges for accurate diagnosis. However, appropriate identification of all the educational needs of an individual is vital as this enables the implementation of a range of suitable interventions.

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Spectrum Alliance Network

DAI is a member of the Spectrum Alliance a network of disability groups which was established to raise awareness of related developmental disorders (hidden disabilities) such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD and Asperger Syndrome. It is quite common for an individual to have more than one of these life-long conditions. Through the Spectrum Alliance we work towards increasing awareness of the co-morbidity of these conditions.

Spectrum Alliance Network

Dyscalculia and Maths Difficulties


Dyscalculia is the term used for a specific learning disability affecting numbers and maths. Students with dyscalculia have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Dyslexia and dyscalculia can co-exist or they can exist independently of one another.

People with dyslexia can have difficulty with maths as a consequence of their dyslexia, e.g. difficulty reading maths questions, remembering times tables. However, dyscalculia is a separate condition from dyslexia characterised by a difficulty with understanding maths concepts and mathematical reasoning.

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