Young women's version of this guide
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What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it difficult to read, spell, write, or pronounce words. It can be hard for people with dyslexia to connect the way words look and sound to what the words actually mean. Dyslexia can be genetic, meaning that people who have it are born with it and might have parents or grandparents who have it, too.

What are the signs of dyslexia?

  • Accidentally reversing numbers or letters
  • Difficulty learning words and how they sound
  • Trouble memorizing number facts like multiplication tables and phone numbers
  • Reading slowly, especially when out loud
  • Difficulty finishing tests and assignments within time limits
  • Trouble spelling or writing
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Trouble remembering the right names for things
  • Difficulty copying notes from the chalkboard or a book
  • Trouble playing sports
  • Confusing left and right
  • Depression and feeling unmotivated in school or other activities

If you have some of these signs, it does NOT mean you have dyslexia. Talk to your parent(s)/guardian(s), health care provider (HCP), a teacher, or someone else you trust to help you decide if you should be evaluated.

How do I know if I have dyslexia? How is it diagnosed?

The first step is to visit your HCP and get a physical. Your HCP will make sure your difficulties are not caused by a medical illness.

Your HCP may send you to a school psychologist or someone who specializes in dyslexia testing. You may be tested by this person in school. If you or your parent(s)/guardian(s) thinks you may have a learning disability, you should request, in writing, to be tested. The school will then decide about the kind of testing you should receive. You will probably be tested for general intelligence, reading, language, and writing problems.

If there is a possibility that you may also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), you may be referred to a psychologist (neuropsychologist) who specializes in testing for ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning problems. This person will also ask your parent(s)/guardian(s) and teachers about the problems you are having. He/She will talk to you and give you some tests that evaluate your ability to pay attention, remember things, and stay focused.

How is dyslexia treated?

Dyslexia is NOT treated with medicine. However, many people with dyslexia also have problems paying attention, which can be treated with medication. Many people who have dyslexia see an academic tutor who helps teach things in a way that they will understand. This person should talk to your school and teachers to decide what is best for you. For example, some people with dyslexia learn better when they use all their senses at once. This kind of learning is called the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory method.

If you are dyslexic, your school can help you in many ways. Schools may offer help by taking notes, giving longer time to take tests, giving special assignments, or providing other ways to make your learning experience better. You may spend some time out of your regular classes to get extra support. Some people with dyslexia may decide to go to a school that specializes in working with learning disabilities.

How will dyslexia affect my life?

People with dyslexia can go to college and have interesting and successful careers. By law, no one can prevent you from getting an education or job because you are dyslexic. In fact, many famous and successful people you know are dyslexic.

Famous Dyslexics:

  • Muhammed Ali
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Tom Cruise
  • Leonardo DaVinci
  • Walt Disney
  • Thomas Edison
  • Albert Einstein
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Magic Johnson
  • Jay Leno
  • Kiera Knightly
  • Keanu Reeves

Sometimes, people who are having difficulty in school may become emotional or sad, or have low self-esteem. If you feel you have any of these problems, talk with someone you trust. It may be helpful to see a counselor or therapist who is familiar with dyslexia. It’s important for you to get the support and encouragement you need to stay positive and succeed.

If you’re concerned about dyslexia, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: “I can see fine, but I’m having trouble reading. What’s wrong?”