Definitions and Help: Understanding Dyslexia


As a parent, understanding dyslexia helps you understand your child’s needs at school and at home.


Dyslexia is often misunderstood. It is not an intellectual deficit, and those with dyslexia often have unique strengths in other areas such as creativity. At its core, dyslexia is a difficulty in processing language.  


Children with dyslexia see letters and words the same way as others. It is not just that they see letters and words reversed. Because they use different areas of the brain to support reading, they have trouble working with and manipulating words. The signals their brain sends and receives about letters and words get scrambled. This is not the same as an intellectual deficiency.


What Does “Manipulating Words” Mean?


It is difficult for those with dyslexia to break a word into its sounds or syllables. They struggle to match letters with their sounds, which makes reading entire words difficult.  And because they spend more time decoding words, they read at a slower rate, making reading comprehension difficult.

Understanding Dyslexia

Definitions and Help: Understanding Dyslexia

Since dyslexia is a difficulty in processing language, dyslexics often struggle in other areas as well, like spelling, writing, sequencing, and organization. Children with dyslexia commonly spell words phonetically – as they “hear” the word.


Dyslexia often runs in families. Because dyslexia is on a continuum, from mild to severe, it often looks different between family members. In fact, many parents realize adults in their family have dyslexia only after a child is diagnosed. Understanding dyslexia is a hereditary disorder well help you keep an eye out for symptoms in your child.


What Do We Do Next?


If you think your child may have dyslexia, it’s very important to communicate this to the school. It may be appropriate to consider an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Learn more about understanding dyslexia, what to say  to your child’s school, and how to say it by logging into ExceptionALLY – free advice, customized to you and your child, and organization for all parents.





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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Rose adamico says:

    My 12 yr old son has dyslexia. I would say more on the severe side. It has always been important to us to keep him mainstreamed. He is in the 6th grade now. AT his cse meeting, they are stressing that he may be better off at the B.O.C.E.S. center [initially for high school they were talking] , due to they do not offer 15:1 in the high school and did away with integrated co teaching. Ok, we obviously want what is best for hi, everyday, all day is a struggle for him, so we agreed we would take a tour with him to check it out [ he has 2 more years in middle school]. Then they go on to ”hint” that we could push for it for next year if we wanted… no. I don’t. I really feel this may create social and behavioral problems for my son, which he does not have. He is 12. in middle school. I know what is important to him right now is fitting in.. if anyone noticed his shoes, if he is working out later, who he is hanging out with.. and I understand it does not help his learning differences. But I do not feel he has given up as they do. I know he tries and it is hard for him. I am sure for them, he is ”harder to teach”. My heart aches for my son and I really feel quite stressed. He does get a lot of help on his IEP but … the district does not have many tools or maybe even guidelines they have to follow. But I do not want to remove him from his comfort zone. Any suggestions?

    • Dana Lee says:

      Hi Rose! Your son’s situation is so challenging. There are real pros and cons with either setting. Of course, you want to honor his wishes and involve him in the decision. That doesn’t make it any clearer what to do!

      Here are some questions I would ask the CSE team. When they are suggesting/stressing that he switch placements for high school, or for next year, do they have data to support their suggestion? Have the accommodations and supports on his IEP so far not worked? Or, if they are working to some degree, would things be better for him with extra/ different accommodations that haven’t been considered? It sounds like they are concerned with the 15:1 class size which isn’t available at the traditional high school. Small class sizes on their own aren’t the most important thing when it comes to dyslexia. It’s much more important to understand WHAT is going on inside the smaller class. Severe dyslexia usually needs more than small class sizes (or large print text, or sitting close to the teacher) to address gaps in reading.

      I’d also ask them to explain, with data, why they feel the change is needed next year when they initially seemed to suggest it was needed for high school. Do they have reading scores, student work or other evidence that he cannot thrive in his current setting?

      I understand your fear that they could be trying to pass him to another school because he is hard to teach. It’s hard to tell if that’s what’s happening. Any major change in his IEP/program should be justified with data and evidence and not just opinion or feelings on anyone’s part.

      Thank you for sharing your journey with us! (And don’t forget – you’ll allowed to request extra IEP/CSE meetings! You’re not limited to one per year.)