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About dyslexia : 1. A definition

1. A definition

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the ability to learn to read and spell. It often runs in families and stems from a difficulty in processing the sounds in words. Some 10% of the UK population are affected. 

A formal definition of dyslexia was recommended by Sir Jim Rose in an independent report: Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties which was agreed by the Department for Education in 2009.  

The definition’s main points are:

  • It affects the ability to learn to read and spell.
  • It involves difficulties in dealing with the sounds of words, which makes it especially hard to learn to use phonics to read words.
  • It can affect short-term memory and speed of recalling names.
  • Other kinds of difficulties, for example with maths or with co-ordination, sometimes go alongside dyslexia, but they do not always.
  • Dyslexia is not the same for everyone: 
    • it can be mild or severe; 
    • it varies depending on other strengths, or difficulties;
    • it varies depending on the kind of support and encouragement that is given at school, at home and at work.

What are the other important things we know about dyslexia?

  • People with dyslexia often have strengths in reasoning, in visual and creative fields; dyslexia is not related to general intelligence; and is not the result of visual difficulties.
  • Dyslexia usually runs in families, but there is still much that can be done, especially if intervention is given early.
  • Many people learn strategies to manage the effects of dyslexia, but it does not go away and its effects may be felt in new situations or in times of stress.
  • People with dyslexia often, but do not always, show characteristics of other specific learning difficulties such as dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder or dyscalculia.


 Pennington B F, (1990) The Genetics of Dyslexia, The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry [Online] Volume 31, Issue 2, pages 193–201. Accessed from:

Did you know?

Dyslexia can make some things harder to learn. But, almost always, those barriers to learning can be overcome, especially with the right kind of help and support.

We offer a variety of assessments and screenings, which can help you to understand the difficulties you face.