Dyslexia Fact Sheet
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects reading and spelling. Dyslexia
causes difficulties in learning to read, write and spell. Short-term memory, mathematics,
concentration, personal organisation and sequencing may also be affected. Dyslexia usually
arises from a weakness in the processing of language-based information. Biological in origin, it
tends to run in families, but environmental factors also contribute. Dyslexia can occur at any
level of intellectual ability. It is not the result of poor motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory
impairment or lack of opportunities, but it may occur alongside any of these. The effects of
dyslexia can be largely overcome by skilled specialist teaching and the use of compensatory
What are the “at risk” signs of dyslexia?
Lack of phonological awareness - having difficulties sounding out words and
mispronunciation of letter combinations
Making unexpected errors when reading aloud, missing words out or reading the wrong
Taking ages to read something and understand it
Having difficulties with spelling
Having difficulties copying from the blackboard and/or taking notes
Having difficulties with sequencing resulting in problems with, for example, learning times
tables, days of the week or months of the year
Poor short-term memory resulting in difficulties, for example, with remembering a series of
numbers, such as a telephone number, or a list of instructions
Confusing left and right
Confusing names or objects or using Spoonerisms e.g. par cark
Finding it difficult to learn songs/nursery rhymes
Appearing to have misheard what has been asked
Suffering with additional stress and low-self esteem
Orally communicating very well but written work does not reflect apparent understanding
If anyone else in the family, who is a blood relation, has similar difficulties
Some key statistics
Dyslexia is the most common of the learning difficulties affecting one in ten children to some
degree, an estimated 1.2 million children across the UK and an average of 2 to 3 children in
The Select Committee on Education and Skills report, April 2005, showed that almost 20%
of 11 year olds were not reaching the standards expected of their age group.
According to the January 2006 Annual Schools Census 34,600 primary school pupils were
classified as SEN under the SpLD category, which is only 11.6% of all children with SEN.
While this increased to 42,100 of secondary school pupils it is still only 18.5% of all children
The Government has estimated that adults with poor literacy and numeracy skills could
earn up to £50,000 less over their lifetime and are more likely to have health problems. In
the Skills for Life Annual Review 2003/04 it is estimated that poor skills cost the country’s
economy £10 billion every year.
The latest figures from the DoE show that 9,290 school children are permanently excluded.
64% of these are identified as children with special needs but at least 80% of these children
will have dyslexia/SpLD. The cost of supporting children with dyslexia/SpLD who are
excluded is over £50 million per annum (£9,900 per child per annum).
Dyslexia Action estimates that it would cost £27 million to train one teacher in every primary
school, which would improve identification of those children with a hidden disability such as
dyslexia, as well as proving appropriate specialist support. This is a fraction of the long term
economic costs to the nation of unrecognised dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a brain based developmental disorder with consequences that persist from the
pre-school years through to adulthood; it is a life-long condition.
Brain imaging has shown differences between dyslexic and non-dyslexic individuals in
specific areas of the language processing regions of the brain.
It does not affect intelligence - it can occur at any level of intellectual ability.
Dyslexia is characterised by an inability to recognise the sounds that letter combinations
make, phonological awareness, which is the skill that underlies literacy development.
Dyslexia is a dimensional disorder, which means that it can affect an individual mildly,
moderately or severely. The number and type of difficulties also vary from one dyslexic
person to another. Therefore, it is not possible to generalise and difficulties should be
addressed at an individual level.
Dyslexia occurs regardless of race, age and socio-economic status. However those who
are more disadvantaged are likely to be most affected over their lives.
Dyslexia is inherited - several genes have been identified as possible causative factors. If
one parent is dyslexic there is a 50% chance that any of their children will inherit dyslexia.
If dyslexia is left unrecognised it can frequently result in the loss of self-esteem and the
individual may continue to under perform resulting in unrealised potential.
Early intervention is critical. Children with the highest risk of dyslexia can be identified as
early as 5 or 6 years of age.
A full formal assessment with an educational or occupational psychologist or specially
trained teacher will establish whether or not an individual has a specific learning difficulty.
The effects of dyslexia can be alleviated but dyslexia cannot be cured.
Specialist, structured, multi-sensory teaching, that is designed to meet the needs of the
individual, not only helps to improve the difficulties that dyslexia presents but also those
with general literacy difficulties.
Dyslexia often co-occurs with other disabilities such as dyspraxia and attention deficit
What is Dyslexia Action?
Dyslexia Action is a national charity and the UK’s leading provider of services and support for
people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. It specialise in assessment, teaching and training.
We also develop and distribute teaching materials and undertake research.
Dyslexia Action is committed to improving public policy and practice. It partners with schools,
LEAs, colleges, universities, employers, voluntary sector organisations and Government to
improve the quality and quantity of help for people with dyslexia and specific learning
Dyslexia Action’s services are available through its 25 centres and 97 teaching locations
around the UK. Over half a million people benefit from its work each year.
For more information contact Dyslexia Action
Park House, Wick Road, Egham, Surrey TW20 0HH
T 01784 222300 F 01784 222333