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  • Lena Bernatek

Dyslexia: What Is It and How Does It Work?


Dyslexia is a learning disability which makes processing written language, spelling or other language related skills more challenging. Its name originates from the Greek words “dys” meaning difficult and “lexis” meaning words or language. It was first described by the German physician Adolph Kussmaul in 1877. This affliction can affect anyone, no matter their gender or age, and is usually diagnosed in children, from pre-school kids to 13-year olds, but can go undiagnosed for many years, or even never be detected. Globally, about 20% of all people suffer from dyslexia, making it the most prevalent learning disability in the world.

“Dyslexia is 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.” - Lyon, G. R., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (2003). A definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia


Dyslexia can appear at every stage of one’s life, and so can its symptoms. Beginning with pre-school children having a lot of trouble with memorising the alphabet and extending to adults with a slower reading pace. Even though symptoms may vary depending on age, they are mainly difficulties with retrieving words and confusing similar words or letters. Apart from difficulties with certain skills, people with dyslexia also frequently show signs of very well developed imagination and abstract thinking. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Not associating letters with sounds

  • Avoiding reading out loud

  • Reading slowly or multiple times to understand

  • Using “um” sounds while speaking

  • Trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists

Sometimes problems with reading a clock or even tying shoelaces could be a sign of dyslexia in kids.

Probable causes

Even though dyslexia is quite common, researchers are still uncertain about its exact causes. One possible theory is that individuals with dyslexia have a more symmetrical planum temporale (a part of the brain responsible for language comprehension) than is typically observed. Other scientists say that dyslexia could be an effect of structuring words in our brain differently. Another crucial factor is heredity. Many dyslexic people have parents with the same disability which may indicate that this affliction runs in families.

What can individuals with dyslexia rely on?

In many countries worldwide, individuals with dyslexia may rely on different methods of assistance, especially during their educational journey. In some places they can apply for a certificate that will confirm their disability and grant them accommodations such as more relaxed criteria during exams. In other regions, they can have more time during tests.

It’s important to remember that dyslexia does not mean that someone is dumb or lazy and that people can’t grow out of it! No one would want to be discriminated against because of their disability, and just as we’re trying to help people with ADHD and other neurodiversities, we should help dyslexic people. We should strive for an inclusive and supportive world for everyone.



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