Unlike learning to talk, reading must be explicitly taught and there is large variability in the ease with which people learn to read.

For some students, reading difficulties are due to lack of exposure to books and reading aloud or to poor instruction.

But for others, reading problems are due to ‘reading disability‘ or ‘dyslexia’.  These terms are used interchangeably in the literature1.

Dyslexia has been defined by the International Dyslexia Association as

” a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized 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.”

The British Dyslexia Association has adopted this definition:

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent work reading and spelling.

  • Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
  • Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
  • It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
  • Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.

Read more about dyslexia, the signs of dyslexia and effective intervention.

1American Academy of Pediatrics, 2009. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/2/837

‘Specific learning disorder – DSM-V’

In psycho-educational assessments, psychologists often use the term ‘specific learning disorder‘ or ‘specific learning disorder with impairment in reading’  which is characterized as “one where people have difficulties with word reading accuracy, reading rate or fluency and reading comprehension” (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), 5th Edition , 2013,  The American Psychiatric Association).

The DSM-V also notes that  “dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding and poor spelling abilities. Dyslexia is an equivalent term for the same condition of difficulty with word reading and spelling.  Click HERE to read more.

Specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression’ is characterized in the DSM-V as “possible deficits in spelling accuracy, grammar and punctuation accuracy and clarity or organization of written expression”.