What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia might best be described as an unexpected difficulty learning to read. Children with dyslexia struggle with phonology, or the recognition and manipulation of sounds in language. Dyslexia affects a child’s ability to decode words — to break them down into constituent sounds, or phonemes, and then to sound out novel words. That makes it hard to recognize words, to retrieve words, to read, to write and to spell. Some children with dyslexia just have problems quickly retrieving words.

The result is a discrepancy between ability and achievement: a child who is struggling with reading despite having the intelligence to be a much better reader. A dyslexic child isn’t lacking in intelligence, and isn’t necessarily failing in school, since some kids with dyslexia, by putting in a great deal more effort than their peers, are able to keep up with their work, at least in the first few grades. However, it often becomes impossible for them to keep up by about third grade, when they are expected to be able to read fluently — quickly, easily and automatically.

While they may learn to read and compensate for reading weakness in other ways, children do not outgrow dyslexia.