About dyslexia

It’s estimated that about one in 10 people in the UK has dyslexia to some degree. Dyslexia is a long-lasting condition. If you have a child with dyslexia, he or she won’t grow out of it, but it can be improved with specialist teaching. Dyslexia isn't related to intelligence.

Dyslexia can affect abilities such as short-term memory, organisational skills and concentration. It's sometimes associated with other conditions such as dyspraxia (difficulty co-ordinating and organising movements) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Symptoms of dyslexia

Dyslexia affects different people in different ways. The condition can range from being mild to severe and the symptoms can vary between individuals. For example, if your child has dyslexia, he or she may be good at reading but struggle with spelling or writing.

You can often spot signs of dyslexia in children at a young age. However, because children develop at different rates, it's important to remember that even if your child has one or more of the characteristics associated with dyslexia, it doesn't necessarily mean that he or she has the condition. Symptoms of dyslexia don’t always show early on – they may only start to show at a later stage in your child's life, such as when he or she learns to read.

Compared with other children of the same age, your child may:

  • be slow to develop clear speech (usually not speaking until after the age of two)
  • have difficulty pronouncing certain words, and get them muddled up, for example 'mawn lower' instead of lawn mower (although it’s important to remember that most children mix up pronunciation as they learn to talk)
  • have difficulty working out which words rhyme with each other
  • have difficulty learning the alphabet
  • not be able to tell the difference between letters and other symbols
  • read letters or words in the wrong order or reversed (eg reading 'was' as 'saw', writing 'd' as 'b' and 'p' as 'q')
  • have difficulty recognising words that he or she has previously seen
  • miss out words or add extra words where they aren't needed
  • forget names even if they are familiar
  • have poor handwriting

Your child may have disturbances with their vision or discomfort when reading text, such as blurred words and letters that appear to move around on the page. Some children are sensitive to the glare of a white background on a page or computer screen. They may be unable to read certain colours of text on a white background, for example if a teacher uses red pen to write on a whiteboard. Your child may not tell you about these difficulties so you may want to ask what he or she sees when looking at a printed page.

There are also some symptoms that aren’t related to reading or writing. You may find that your child has:

  • trouble following instructions or struggle to do things in the right order (sequencing)
  • difficulty remembering instructions and concentrating
  • poor co-ordination

Older children may lack confidence and have low self-esteem.

If your child has a number of these problems, see your GP or talk to a teacher or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at your child's school.

Causes of dyslexia

The exact reasons why your child may have dyslexia aren't fully understood at present. People with dyslexia are usually born with the condition but it’s often not recognised until your child enters school. It's thought to be caused by differences in the way their brain processes information, particularly language. Dyslexia can be inherited – many people with dyslexia have a family member who also has the same characteristics.

Dyslexia appears to affect boys more than girls.

Diagnosis of dyslexia

If you think your child may have dyslexia, it's important that you speak to his or her school as early as possible. Your child’s teacher, the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at the school, or head teacher should be able to advise you. If your child is not yet at school you can talk to your child’s GP or health visitor about your concerns.

The assessment may include tests, interviews and observation of your child. An educational psychologist (a professional who specialises in assisting children who have problems in education for emotional, psychological, learning or behavioural reasons) will usually do the assessment, and will advise you and your child's school about how best to manage his or her difficulties.

You will receive a report after your child's assessment with recommendations for educational support for your child.

Treatment of dyslexia

With the right support, your child can learn to read and write well. Usually, the earlier you find out that your child has dyslexia the better. It means that your child's school can offer additional help and you can also help at home.

Help at home

It's important to be as supportive as you can and build up your child's confidence. The following tips may be helpful.

  • Speak to your child's teacher about their abilities, progress and any problem areas.
  • Keep in touch with your child's teacher regularly and find ways you can support and help.
  • Try to meet other parents whose children have dyslexia. Sharing tips and mutual support can help during setbacks.
  • Read aloud with your child every day – this will help build his or her vocabulary and develop his or her ability to understand the meaning of words and phrases.
  • Help your child to organise their homework – for example, break up large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks as this can make large tasks seem less daunting. Read through all instructions with your child to make sure he or she has a clear understanding of what needs to be done.
  • Encourage your child to take part in lots of activities outside school. This can help to build his or her confidence.

The more you believe in your child's abilities, the more he or she will develop confidence.

  • Encourage your child to update you regularly on their progress and give praise for any improvement.
  • Talk openly with your child about their dyslexia and encourage your child to discuss their feelings with you.
  • Point out successful role models who have dyslexia, for example Sir Richard Branson, Sir Steve Redgrave and Keira Knightley.
  • As your child gets older, help him or her to explain dyslexia to other people.

Help at school or college

Education authorities and schools must cater for children with special educational needs, including those who have dyslexia.

Talk to your child’s teachers at school. Arrange to see the school's Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator so that any specialist teaching arrangements can be made and an individual education plan can be put in place.

There are many things that can be done to help your child at school. Children with dyslexia respond best to teaching that is highly structured, thorough, builds up gradually (cumulative) and is multisensory (looking, listening, saying and doing). Lessons should be varied, interesting and active, and involve different types of learning, including books, computers, interactive DVDs and other materials. Your child may be given extra time to complete tasks and your child's teacher may use alternative ways of assessing him or her.

If your child is sensitive to glare from the white background of a page, their school can provide cream or pastel-coloured paper to reduce glare. Coloured overlays can be used to make reading and writing easier, or your child may benefit from tinted glasses. The school may be able to refer your child to an optometrist (a registered health professional who examines eyes, tests sight and dispenses glasses and contact lenses) who has specialist knowledge of this condition.

If your child is struggling, their school may be able to provide specialist support, or support from a learning assistant who can spend time with your child on a one-to-one basis.

Your child will also be entitled to special arrangements when he or she takes tests or exams, depending on their individual needs. For example, he or she may be allowed more time or have the questions read aloud or get help with writing. Ask your child's school for more information.

How will my child's school help my child with his or her dyslexia?


Your child's school is required to provide support and help in many ways including specialised teaching, use of computers and extra time for work and tests.


If your child has dyslexia, talk to his or her teacher and arrange to meet the school's Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator. Your child's school is required to draw up an individual education plan for your child. This is intended to be specifically tailored to meet your child's needs and abilities and will be used to monitor his or her progress.

Extra help that your child can be offered in the classroom may include:

  • use of specialist equipment, such as a computer
  • extra help from teaching staff
  • printing on coloured paper if your child requires it, or the use of coloured overlays
  • teaching in a different way or use of a wider range of teaching materials
  • extra time for certain tasks
  • special arrangements in exams, such as extra time, a reader or somebody to write for him or her (a scribe)

If your child's teacher thinks he or she isn't making progress, or is becoming frustrated, the school may be able to arrange specialist support for your child. If your school cannot provide all the help that your child needs then you can ask your local education authority for a statutory assessment. This may result in a statement of special educational needs being prepared.

I've heard about coloured paper and filters. Can these help with reading for people with dyslexia?


Yes, some people with dyslexia find it easier to read from coloured paper or if they look at text through coloured lenses or filters.


Some people with dyslexia find reading text on a white background difficult because they are particularly sensitive to light reflecting off the white background (glare). They may also have trouble with reading print, because it becomes unstable on the page – for example it appears blurry, the letters move around on the page, words double or flicker. This is known as Meares-Irlen syndrome and is more common in people with dyslexia.

Reading text on a coloured background instead of white, wearing tinted glasses or putting a coloured filter over the white background often makes reading much easier. Teachers may need to change the colour of pen they use to write on the whiteboard, as people with Meares-Irlen syndrome often have trouble reading certain colours, such as red. Computer screens can be adapted with special background colours.

If you think your child needs this type of help with reading, you can ask your child's school to refer your child to an optometrist (a registered health professional who examines eyes, tests sight and dispenses glasses and contact lenses) with expertise in this area.

How might dyslexia affect my child's behaviour?


Dyslexia is unlikely to be a direct cause of behavioural problems, but it can lead to frustration, which in turn can cause problems with your child's behaviour.


Behavioural problems aren't usually a symptom of dyslexia. However, without the right support, dyslexia can stop children learning and because they aren't learning, their behaviour and confidence can be affected. Your child may become frustrated because he or she can't do the same things as other children, or get bored because he or she is unable to take part in lessons, and this might show in the form of bad behaviour. Difficulty concentrating for long periods or organising themselves may also give the wrong idea of their behaviour.

It's important to talk to your child about their dyslexia and encourage and support any progress. Remember to praise even the small things and try to focus on the positive aspects of your child's condition, such as creativity.

Children with special educational needs, such as dyslexia, may be more likely to be bullied as they can be singled out as being different from their classmates. If you're worried that your child may be being bullied, talk to their teachers. Your child's school should have a bullying policy in place and will be able to deal with the problem. You can also help by listening to your child, reassuring him or her and discussing ways of solving the problem.

If you're worried about your child's behaviour or the behaviour of other children towards him or her, talk to your child and your child's teacher.