What is Dyslexia?

Definition of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability of neurological origin. It primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. It is frequently associated with difficulties in phonological processing. It occurs across the range of intellectual abilities with no distinct cut-off points. It is viewed as a lifelong disability that often does not respond as expected to best-practice evidence-based classroom methods for teaching reading.

There should be adoption at a national level of a working definition of dyslexia to allow shared language for productive discourse on the issue in Australia. Our proposed working definition is consistent with the definitions published by the British Dyslexia Association, the International Dyslexia Association / National Institute of Child Health and Development, the International Reading Association, and the Rose Report on Dyslexia.

Dyslexia Info

About Dyslexia

Dyslexia Fact Sheets and Information

How is Dyslexia evaluated?  (ADA factsheet)

Dyslexia Basics (IDA basic factsheet)

What Dyslexia IS NOT and What to do about what it is! (SPELD VIC )

Common Characteristics of Dyslexia (DSF Literacy & Clinical Services)

Dyslexia: what you’re seeing in your child at different ages by Understood

Dyslexia and the Law FactSheet

Dyslexia Diagnosis and Support

Vision Australia Library Webinar: Vision Australia Library staff are joined by assistive technology experts and dyslexia specialists for a special webinar on the support available to children with dyslexia and how the condition can be diagnosed

Did you know you can join Vision Australia and borrow audio books for free? “We would love you to join our Library! Membership is free and available to people who have a print disability.” https://www.visionaustralia.org/services/library/join 

Understanding Learning Difficulties: A guide for parents (AUSPELD)

Dyslexia Handbook

What Every Family Should Know (IDA Dyslexia Handbook)

Dyslexia and Anxiety

The Dyslexia-Stress-Anxiety Connection: For a downloadable PDF, click here.

Dyslexia and Ear Reading

Can we read with our ears? Technology can provide support for students with dyslexia, through readily available audiobook platforms, decodable texts and reading apps, Sarah Asome writes: https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-106/dyslexia-can-we-read-with-our-ears/ 

Dyslexia and Parenting

Experience of Parenting a Child With Dyslexia: An Australian perspective Kerrie Delany, University of Wollongong, 2017.

“Dyslexia represents significant challenges not just for the student but can also be traumatic for their parents (Elliott & Nicolson, 2016). Given that learning to read is a fundamental core skill of schooling and becoming literate opens doors to education, employment and adult wellbeing (Snowling & Hulme, 2012), parents of students with dyslexia show higher levels of anxiety than parents of non-dyslexic students (Snowling & Melby-Lervag, 2016). Parents experience stress in coping with their child’s apparent poor academic progress (Karande & Kuril, 2011), particularly if they lack understanding of the dyslexic implications (Karande et al., 2009). Mothers, in particular, show higher levels of stress and depression and report significant impacts on family (Snowling, Muter & Carroll, 2007) and increased difficulties in everyday life (Bonifacci et al., 2014).”

Results and discussion: The overarching core of the phenomenon of parenting a child with dyslexia in Australia was: ‘A long difficult journey toward personal empowerment’. Five themes emerged from the data that evidenced and conceptualised key components of this journey. These were: grieving the loss of normal; fierce but reluctant warriors; navigating system failures; the changing sense of self; and hope for the future.”

Dyslexia and Vision

RANZCO (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists)

“Primary dyslexia and learning disabilities are complex neurocognitive conditions and are not caused by vision problems. There is no evidence to suggest that eye exercises, behavioural vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses improve the long-term educational performance of people affected by dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

With this in mind, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) supports and concurs with the comprehensive policy document Joint Statement: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision which was reaffirmed in 2014 by the AAO, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS).

This Joint Statement states that “It is important that any therapy for learning disabilities be scientifically established to be valid before it can be recommended for treatment.” and goes on to say that “ the evidence does not support the concept that vision therapy or tinted lenses or filters are effective, directly or indirectly, in the treatment of learning disabilities.”

Source: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Vision

Eye To Eye is published by The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists as information for its members

Role of the ophthalmologist in the management of dyslexia 

Page 55: “There have been a number of controversial treatments proposed for dyslexia. These include vision training, combined with neurodevelopmental training, Irlen tinted lenses and fringe therapies such as the Lawson anti-suppression device.

RANZCO Position Statement: Irlen Syndrome – 24 April 2018

  1. The use of Irlen lenses in the treatment of reading difficulties is controversial
  2. There is no scientific evidence that Irlen syndrome exists or that treatment of reading difficulties with Irlen lenses work
  3. Irlen syndrome is not recognised by the medical community or the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  4. There is no documented evidence that Irlen lenses are harmful, but may divert time and resources away from proven strategies which help with reading e.g. explicit phonic instruction
  5. RANZCO does not support the use of Irlen lenses.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and the American Association of Certified Orthoptists issued a joint statement.

They said vision problems are not the cause of reading difficulties and there is no evidence to support treating reading difficulties with vision therapy or tinted filters. Here are 2 sources:

The concern of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others repudiating vision therapy, is the inadvertent harm which may arise when resources are diverted or well-documented successful programs are delayed due to these approaches.

Dyslexia and Vision Fact Sheets 

Dyslexia Support Australia (Belinda Dekker): Vision Fact Sheet 

SPELD VIC Factsheet on Coloured Lenses

DVS Factsheet on Vision Eye Therapy

Strengths of Dyslexia

Dyslexia Strengths by SPELD VIC: speld_factsheet_dyslexiastrengths

Sea of Strengths Model for Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

Neurofeedback and Dyslexia

Neurofeedback and Dyslexia Monash University


Dyslexia FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dyslexia?

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterised 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.”

Source: International Dyslexia Association (IDA)

What are the Early Signs of Dyslexia?

The Preschool Years

  • Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
  • Difficulty learning (and remembering) the names of letters in the alphabet
  • Seems unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
  • Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
  • Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like cat, bat, rat
  • A family history of reading and/or spelling difficulties (dyslexia often runs in families)

© Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, p. 122

Kindergarten & First Grade


  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog
  • Does not understand that words come apart
  • Complains about how hard reading is; “disappears” when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Cannot sound out even simple words like cat, map, nap
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound


  • Curiosity
  • Great imagination
  • Ability to figure things out; gets the gist of things
  • Eager embrace of new ideas
  • A good understanding of new concepts
  • Surprising maturity
  • A larger vocabulary than typical for age group
  • Enjoys solving puzzles
  • Talent for building models
  • Excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him

© Sally Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, pp. 122 – 123

Source: The Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity

Dyslexia: what you’re seeing in your child at different ages

Great post by Understood.org

A free online screening check is offered by UK website, Nessy.

Nessy has been making fun, educational software for children since 1999. They offer a highly structured, incremental system based on Orton-Gillingham principles of learning.

“Whilst educational psychologists and assessments are the only way to achieve a formal diagnosis of dyslexia, a screening tool can give you a research based and accurate indication can help the process along.” Source: www.nessy.com

Who should diagnose my child?

Assessment and diagnosis should only be carried out by a qualified educational psychologist.

Australian Psychology Society (APS)

The APS states that educational and developmental psychologists have knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Identifying and clarifying problems
  • Diagnosing disabilities and disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Assessing developmental, learning and behavioural difficulties
  • Designing effective treatment programs
  • Counselling
  • Consulting with individuals or groups
  • Designing training programs
  • Evaluating programs and interventions
  • Designing professional development programs.

The APS has a search tool (click on 1) Educational  and 2) Learning Difficulties)

Dyslexia and the DSM-5

The DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition and is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).  It is primarily used for diagnosis codes for insurance and billing purposes.

This post comes courtesy of Steve P. Dykstra, Ph.D., Psychology.  He is a founding member of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition and a member of the Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force.

Is Dyslexia a useful word or concept?

Dyslexia and Reading Impairment

ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD) – Reading Program, Macquarie University Department of Cognitive Science issued a statement about dyslexia.

“Research has found that genetics sometimes plays a role in reading difficulties. Sometimes the phrase “genetic cause” is mistaken for “there’s nothing anyone can do.” This isn’t true for reading difficulties. No matter the cause of the dyslexia, there are treatments that can help.

Some children who are struggling to learn to read are struggling because of classroom teaching methods. Effective teaching methods for reading should always include systematic teaching of phonics, particularly in the early years.

Coloured lenses, coloured paper, or doing gymnastics are not effective treatments for any form of dyslexia. There are many more “snake oil” treatments out there, and many of them have been adopted by school boards and education administrators with no reliable evidence to support them. Currently, the evidence favours treatments that are based on developing reading skills that target the specific reading problem.”

Source: http://www.ccd.edu.au

How do I explain Dyslexia to my dyslexic child?

This free e-book from Nessy helps parents understand dyslexia: the positives, difficulties and what helps. Parents can use it to help explain dyslexia to their child.

Here are 8 tips for talking about Dyslexia with your child.

Here is a range of books that include dyslexic characters.

Videos by and/or with Young Dyslexics

Isley Hermansen created a video about being dyslexic. Her video caught the attention of one of the world’s most famous dyslexics, Sir Richard Branson.

Watch Isley’s video ‘Like a Dyslexic’ here.

Read Richard Branson’s blog about Isley’s video here.

Isley Hermansen also appeared on the ‘Today’ Show in October 2017 to raise awareness about dyslexia during the launch of Code Read Dyslexia Network, a brand new not for profit organisation.

Watch Isley on the ‘Today’ Show here.

Dyslexia is My Superpower

Margaret Rooke is an author and writer with 25 years’ experience in books, newspapers and magazines. Her new book ‘Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time)’ features moving and entertaining interviews with more than 100 children and young adults with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the time)

Miles, aged 13

More FAQs on Evidence-Based Education

Which reading and spelling programs are evidence-based?

Evidence-Based Programs for Reading and Spelling – This factsheet was written by Heidi Gregory. Co-Founder, Dyslexia Victoria Support Group. June 2016

What is MSL?

MSL stands for Multisensory Structured Language (approach).

What is meant by Multisensory teaching?

“Multisensory teaching is one important aspect of instruction for dyslexic students that is used by clinically trained teachers. Effective instruction for students with dyslexia is what all student require that is instruction that is direct & explicit, structured & systematic, cumulative, cognitive,intensive, emotionally sound and focused on meaningfully taking speech to print. The multisensory component involves the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language. A skilled MSL educator provides direct instruction to ensure links are consistently made between the visual (language we see), auditory (language we hear/perceive), and kinesthetic-tactile (language symbols we feel) pathways in learning to read and spell.

Margaret Byrd Rawson, a former President of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), explains how the multisensory component is required for students with dyslexia (although this approach assists all learners):

Students with dyslexia need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language—the sounds and the letters which represent them—and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for conscious organization and retention of their learning. 

MSL instruction is suitable for all students regardless of the cause who are struggling to master written print.”

What is Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) Teaching – Fact Sheet

Multisensory teaching is one important aspect of instruction for dyslexic students, used by clinically trained teachers. A fact sheet from the International Dyslexia Association. November 2008.

Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) Reading Instruction – Fact Sheet

A Fact Sheet explaining Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) therapy, which is based on the principles of the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction, written by Belinda Dekker.

Is Repeating a Grade advisable?

Repeating a grade SPELD SA factsheet. Commentary from SPELD SA regarding the pros and cons of repeating/consolidating a grade. Adapted from Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies by Tracey Wood.

SPELD SA (South Australia) FAQs page 

Click here for more info


Disclaimer: Please note that Dyslexia Victoria Support (DVS) does not officially endorse, represent, sponsor, or have any legal connection to any of the resources listed. Many parents have found these resources to be very useful in their journey to learn more about dyslexia and how to better advocate for their children.