Young women's version of this guide

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language processing disorder, which means it’s 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, even though they are smart and want to learn. Dyslexia is a disability, not a disease, and it can be genetic, meaning that people who have it are born with it and might have parents or grandparents who have it, too. Most often children are diagnosed with dyslexia during elementary school when children learn to read and write; however, some children may be diagnosed in preschool. Some signs may include: difficulty learning nursery rhymes and/or playing rhyming games and learning or remembering words or letters.

What are the signs of dyslexia?

  • Accidentally reversing numbers or letters
  • Difficulty learning words and how they sound
  • Trouble memorizing number facts such as 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 board 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 a trusted adult 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.

If you think you may have dyslexia and want to get tested, ask your parent(s) or legal guardian to speak with someone at your school such as a teacher or administrator. If your teachers and HCP think you should get tested, you will likely be scheduled to have testing that will assess 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. They will talk to you and give you some tests that assess 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. Everyone learns differently and there are many learning methods to help children with dyslexia. 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. Another method is called the Wilson program.

If you have dyslexia, 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 have dyslexia. In fact, many famous and successful people you know are dyslexic.

You have the right to educational accommodations. Talk with your parents and teachers about developing an individualized education plan (IEP) or a federally recognized 504 plan. Plans such as these are very important to ensure that you receive special accommodations such as additional time for homework, reading, tests, etc. 504 plans are for students with a wide variety of learning disabilities; however, it is the only plan that is recognized at the college level. Dyslexia is individualized, meaning that each person with dyslexia has different educational needs. People with dyslexia can have mild to severe trouble with one or more subjects including: reading, spelling, writing, math, testing and/or homework. Special accommodations might include oral tests instead of written ones, special computer software for help with spelling, writing, and the use of calculators for math tests. These are just a few examples of interventions that may be offered but there are many more depending on what your specific needs are.

Famous People with Dyslexia:

  • 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
  • Steven Spielberg

Sometimes, people who are having challenges 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!

Additional Resources