What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based specific learning difficulty.  Four leading British researchers recently defined it as “difficulty with reading and writing in people who do OK in other aspects of life (their difficulty is mostly with reading and writing) have had the chance to learn to read,  but have not been able to learn like others.”  Spelling is a significant difficulty for people with dyslexia.

What is the difference between Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties? (E.G. Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia)

Dyslexia is one of a number of Specific Learning Difficulties.  Others would be specific difficulty with arithmetic (dyscalculia), difficulty with handwriting (dysgraphia), non-verbal learning difficulties (difficulty with symbols, spatial perception, coordination).

What is the difference between a person with SLD and a slow learner?

A person with a Specific Learning Difficulty usually has difficulty learning in only a couple of areas.  In other areas of the curriculum they may be average, above average or even brilliant.  A slow leaner – a person with an intellectual disability – may have difficulty learning in most areas of the curriculum.

Do learning disabilities get worse as a person gets older?

Many people with Specific Learning Difficulties find ways of compensating for their difficulties or overcome them to a greater or lesser extent as they mature.  However, new situations (getting married, becoming a parent, starting a new job etc) may present challenges that have not previously been encountered.  Additional help or advice may be needed in negotiating such new circumstances.

How common are language-based learning disabilities?

The majority 70-80% of Specific learning Difficulties are in some way related to written language (reading, writing and spelling).  A smaller number relate to numbers (“dyscalculia” – difficulty with calculating), or the act of handwriting (“dysgraphia” – difficulty with written symbols).

Does SLD mean you have a lower IQ?

SLDs occur across the range of IQ.  The majority of people assessed as having a SLD have average or above average IQ.  However, there is no reason why a person of lower IQ should not also have a SLD.

How can I help my child with SLD whose behaviour has been getting worse?

If a child’s behaviour has been a difficulty prior to pre-school, you should investigate the possibility that the child has an attentional deficit or other behavioural disorder.

If however the behaviour has started to deteriorate after school entry, and it is known that the child has a SLD, then priority should be given to addressing the SLD in a systematic manner.  It will be important that the child understands what is causing their difficulty.

The method of addressing the difficulties will ensure that the child understands why they are being taught by the chosen method, that they achieve success in every lesson, and that they are made aware of their progress…Note however, that some people with dyslexia are spectacular social successes.  We are all different in many ways.  It is rarely possible to generalise to every case.

What should I do to give my two year old the best foundation for reading?

Read simple stories to your child.  Before you read the first page, however, talk about the picture/s, and ask questions about what the child can observe in the picture.  Then read the text.  Turn the page and discuss the picture, then read the text.  Indicate the words as you read so that the child comes to understand that the story is not in the pictures but in the words.

Read street signs, advertising signs out loud as you point to them when walking or travelling  in the car.  In other words, make the child aware that we use written words to convey meanings. In that way they will begin to ask about the meaning of words that they encounter.

Do not however try to force the child to learn to read before school.  Just develop and foster interest in reading.  Some children just learn on their own.  Develop an interest in the sounds of words, too.  Play games like “I Spy” but use the first sound of the item to be guessed, not the name of the initial letter.

My child sometimes writes letters backwards. Should I be concerned?

Not at this stage.  Young children have no idea of the “beginning” of a written word.  They only know that an object has a name, and it doesn’t matter which way around the object is, it is still the same object.  That is not true of words, but they do not know that.  (“stop” is not the same as “pots”.)

Some children will pass through a stage of writing everything backwards (“mirror writing”).  Point out where they should start their writing and the direction it should go.  Only if they persist in writing backwards over a significant period of time should you seek professional help.

My child is having trouble identifying sight words. What can I do to help?

The first thing is to have his/her eyesight checked.  Then make sure that the child is not experiencing significant eyestrain when trying to read words (does the print go blurry or fuzzy or get lighter after a short time of looking?  Can the child see the whole word at one look or does she have to look twice, seeing the first bit of the word and then looking again to see the last bit?)

If visual factors seem to be OK, then write the word in large print and talk about how it is structured.  Identify the “silly” bits (they are the reason it is a sight word, not a “sound-out” word).  Think up a funny or silly association to help with remembering the difficult bit. (e.g. Light.  The difficult bit is “igh”.  If you have to change the globe to fix the light, you have to climb up, so, “I Go High (IGH) to fix the light.”)

There seem to be several different methods claiming to solve the problem of dyslexia. How do I know what will work for my child?

There are some basic questions to ask the people offering such help.  They are listed on our website under “Choosing the right intervention for your child” in the Members Section and Fact Sheets Section.

How can I choose an appropriate school for my child?

Unfortunately, schools change over time, depending on their leadership.  Even with constant leadership, priorities may change.  So a school that used to offer excellent services for pupils with SLD may decide that they are going to emphasise special opportunities for pupils who are gifted or talented instead of helping those with difficulties.

It becomes necessary to interview the Principal and the person leading the Learning Support Team in the school to find out what their priorities are and whether they will assist your child with their individual needs.

How do I find a tutor for my dyslexic child?

Talk to the telephone Referral Officers at SPELD.  Visit you local area Health Centre where tutors may advertise or leave their details.  Try to make sure that the tutor understands the particular needs of your child and is able to explain why they will be adopting a particular method of teaching.  Ask about the likely duration of the tutoring and when progress reviews are planned.

Will tutoring use a phonic approach?

The majority of Dyslexics find phonic approaches difficult.  Difficulty understanding the sound structure of spoken language is the basis of many or most of their problems.  However, written English is based on analysing spoken words into sounds and then representing those sounds in written symbols (letters).  So to be successful, you have to understand the relationship between the sounds of the language and the letters on the page.

For normal readers this is pretty easy to understand or even intuitive.  So dyslexics must be taught to understand these language facts.  The approach needs to be systematic and sequential. An “incidental” approach (just explaining things as they happen to come up in reading) will not work for dyslexics.

What assessments should be done if a child is having significant difficulties in reading and spelling?

The SPELD website has a chart of assessments. “Summary of assessment chart” in the Members and Fact Sheets Section. Not all assessments are necessary for every child.

What about coloured lenses?

The use of tinted lenses/overlays is often recommended by the Irlen Clinic and is credited with improving perceptual processing problems and/or distortions making it easier to see text and read. However, the Irlen Institute cautions that only tinted overlays/lenses provided by them will be effective. Also, a number of Professional Academic bodies in America indicated in a joint statement that there is no scientific evidence supporting their use.

You may like to read the Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC) Briefing for further details, MUSEC Briefings #22 Irlen Tinted Lenses and Overlays. If you would still like to try this option, it is suggested that you try tinted overlays or coloured paper instead of lenses as it is much more cost effective.

Is there a link between Specific Learning Difficulties and social skills?

Some people with SLD may also have difficulties relating to others.  For example, some studies have shown that people with Irlen Syndrome (which can cause SLD) are not as good as others when it comes to recognising faces, and facial expression.  This may result in them misinterpreting other people’s body language.  This can cause misunderstandings and embarrassment.  Many dyslexics have difficulty organizing their lives.  This can cause difficulties in relating to others.

Dyslexics with auditory-based problems may process spoken language slower than other people, and may easily misinterpret what they hear.  This, similarly, may cause misunderstanding and embarrassment.  A person with Irlen Syndrome may have difficulty judging distance and so may stand too close and be considered to be invading personal space.



Thanks for reading our F.A.Q, we hope it helped. If you have any further questions please email us or call during our opening hours.



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