William and Mary


Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in children, and results from a difficulty in the brain's “ability to translate written images received from your eyes into meaningful language.” Someone with dyslexia can easily understand information presented orally, but the brain cannot easily extract meaning from written information, almost as if it were a non-native language. The disorder varies greatly on an individual basis, but there are many common characteristics in presentation including difficulty with spelling, phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.

The cause of dyslexia appears to be involved with the function of parts of the brain concerned with language, and is frequently considered an inherited condition. Researchers have identified several genes that may predispose an individual to dyslexia, which could lead to more effective understanding in the cause and treatment of the disorder. Dyslexia affects a wide variety of individuals and causes such a wide range of different symptoms and varying degrees of severity that predicting the outcome of treatments is challenging.

For the best prognosis, dyslexia needs to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible, family needs to be supportive, an appropriate treatment plan must be devised, and a strong self-image needs to be encouraged. If dyslexia is ignored or left untreated, it can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, aggression, behavioral problems, delinquency, and alienation/withdrawal from interpersonal relationships. The degree to which these issues arise is affected by the severity of the diagnosis.

There is no known way to remedy the underlying brain malfunction that causes dyslexia, and the treatment is through remedial education and extra assistance. The most common treatment is a multisensory approach where techniques involving hearing, vision and touch are used to improve reading skills. This teaches the student to use all of his or her senses to learn. For example, asking the student listen to a recording of a class and trace the shape of the letters used and the words spoken with his or her fingers helps him or her to better process the information. Over time, some individuals with dyslexia will become better readers, however, for others they may simply need to focus on a path that minimizes reading.

Many people with reading disabilities, such as Albert Einstein, can succeed in academia, but accommodations are often times very crucial. The most obvious accommodation is more time for reading or screen reading software that converts text to speech. Also, allowing students access to record lectures or providing access to copies of peer notes can replace the need to take their own notes. Tests can be given orally. Providing these accommodations can give individuals with dyslexia the chance to have a normalized and successful academic career.

NIH: NINDS: Dyslexia Information Page
37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia