Understanding Dyslexia


What is it like to have dyslexia? We may have come across the word ‘dyslexia’ from time to time, but do we really understand what it means? Dyslexia is the most common type of learning difficulty. People with dyslexia are characterized by their inability to read and write properly. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.” (Rose, 2009). People with dyslexia face difficulty in recognizing and connecting the particular phonetic sound of an alphabet to its respective alphabet. This causes them to have poor reading skills as they tend to mix up letters and numbers. Words and phrases may also appear merged or in reverse, and spaces are even lost.  It is also harder for them to spell and memorize words even if they have seen it for several times.

As dyslexia cannot be easily diagnosed, it is often misdiagnosed as other forms of learning difficulties. Because of their frustration of not being able to read properly no matter how hard they try, people with dyslexia often act up and portray rebellious behaviours that are commonly mistaken as laziness or lack of intelligence.






For a typical reader, 3 parts of the brain are activated when they are reading:

  1. Broca’s area
    • Broca’s area, located at the front of the brain, is responsible for whole word processing (understanding a whole word)
  2. Parieto-temporal area
    • Left parieto-temporal area, located above the back ear, is responsible in decoding or breaking down a word (e.g. C+AT= CAT)
  3. Occipital-temporal area
    • Occipito-temporal area, located behind the ears towards the back part of the head, functions as the visual word-form area (in the right side of the brain – it helps in word-form memory whereas the left side of the brain of this area is responsible for mapping phonetic sounds to the corresponding letters)

Whereas for a person with dyslexia, only one part of the brain is activated which is the broca’s area. This is because they are using their memory to read and say out words without having a proper understanding of how the sound is produced and the meaning of the word. This explains why some children with dyslexia are able to express themselves fluently but yet, are unable to read and write at an age-appropriate level.

However, with appropriate intervention given, the part of the brain that was inactive would be activated. With phonics training, the child would be able to relate better to sound productions and structure of words.



What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

Symptoms of dyslexia varies from person to person. But most apparent symptoms are the following:

  • Difficulty in reading and mixing up letters in words and phrases
  • Difficulty in recognizing and giving out directions (confusion of left and right)
  • Poor memory
  • Poor handwriting
  • Difficulty in spelling out words
  • Struggles in pronouncing long words

Symptoms of dyslexia are more easily observed in children as it is the age where most of the learning takes place and it is easier to observe any discrepancies in their learning habits. However, that does not mean that you cannot be diagnosed with dyslexia when you are already an adult. You can be diagnosed with dyslexia at any age.

If you observe any of these symptoms that is suspiciously a sign of dyslexia in your child, it is best to consult professionals and have your child undergo a psychological assessment.

How to help people with dyslexia?

  1. Let them be aware of their condition. It allows them to realize how they are different from other children and also helps them to handle it better.
  2. As parents and teachers, it is important to be their source of strength. They may have emotional breakdowns from time to time because of their struggles and frustrations in reading and writing.
  3. Dyslexia is not curable, but it is treatable with therapy. Have them undergo therapy which focuses on reading and writing. This way, professionals can help them develop strategies on how to manage their difficulty better.
  4. Provide assistive technology that is suitable for their condition, e.g. having a computer read out the words on the website as they read in order to help them cope better in reading.
  5. Show them examples of role models for them to look up to, i.e. people who have the same condition as them but are successful in life. This will enable them to realize that their condition is not a hindrance to their future, and that with hard work, they are able to excel in life.


Rose, S. J. (2009). Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties. United Kingdom. Retrieved 2018, from http://www.thedyslexia-spldtrust.org.uk/media/downloads/inline/the-rose-report.1294933674.pdf

Zettler, C. M. (2018, September). Understanding Dyslexia. Retrieved November 2018, from https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/dyslexia.html

NHS UK. (2018, July). Dyslexia. Retrieved November 2018, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dyslexia/

Langston, R. (2010, February). 7 Ways to help dyslexic children succeed. Retrieved November 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/power-dyslexic-thinking/201002/7-ways-help-dyslexic-children-succeed