Contrary to popular misconception Dyslexia is not only about literacy, although weaknesses in literacy are often the most visible sign. Dyslexia affects the way information is processed, stored and retrieved, with problems of memory, speed of processing, time perception, organisation and sequencing ( ).


The British Dyslexia Association (2007) denotes that, Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities. It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods but its effect can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counseling.

The Rose Report by Sir Jim Rose (June 2009) identified the following working definition of dyslexia:

  • Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
  • Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
  • Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual abilities.
  • It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
  • Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A commonly accepted definition of dyslexia in further/higher education (SpLD Working Group – 2005 – DfES Guidelines, page 5) describes “A combination of abilities and difficulties where the difficulties affect the learning process in aspects of literacy and sometimes numeracy. Also that Marked and persistent weaknesses may be identified in working memory, speed of processing, sequencing skills, auditory and/or visual perception, spoken language and motor skills”.

Dyslexia can be described as being present in adults when:

a) There is difficulty in reading, spelling and writing. This includes individuals who can now read and write fairly well, but are slow in decoding and writing down ideas.

b) In addition, many people with dyslexia have difficulties in working, or short-term memory, and sound coding difficulties.  These are shown to contrast markedly with general intellectual skills such as reasoning or visual processing. There is often a discrepancy between general intelligence and written language attainments.