What is Dyslexia?

Have a SMART student

who is struggling with reading, writing, math and/or spelling?

It may be DYSLEXIA.

Letter reversals are not the only, or even the most common, sign.

1 in 5 People Suffer from Dyslexia.

You are not alone.

What is Dyslexia?  According to the International Dyslexia Association, “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

  • Dyslexia occurs at ALL levels of intelligence. Most students with dyslexia have average or above average IQs. Students can even be gifted with dyslexia, which is known as twice exceptional or “2E.” (See our Twice Exceptional Page – coming soon.)
  • Many children reverse letters. It is not a sure sign of dyslexia. A child can be highly dyslexic and NOT reverse letters.
  • Each person experiences dyslexia differently. Some may have profound problems reading, while others may read “ok” but have severe problems spelling. Many students have a mild case but may never be diagnosed because they are smart and doing “well enough.”
  • Students with dyslexia can and do learn to read and write well but require the use of an intensive method called “Structured-Literacy” or “Orton Gillingham.”

Dyslexia in Tennessee:

  • In the State of Tennessee, dyslexia falls under the umbrella of “Specific Learning Disability” (SLD). Schools in Tennessee diagnose students with SLD not dyslexia.
  • Even though Tennessee does not diagnose students with dyslexia, Tennessee DOES recognize dyslexia. 1) The new Say Dyslexia Law went into effect July 1, 2106. 2) Schools will screen your child for Characteristics of Dyslexia 3) If your child has Characteristics of Dyslexia, school must provide him or her with proper intervention.
  • The Tennessee Department of Education has just released a comprehensive Dyslexia guide – so check it out! https://tn.gov/assets/entities/education/attachments/dyslexia_resource_guide.pdf

Know the Signs and Strengths of Dyslexia: (List taken from Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity: dyslexia.yale.edu.)

Kindergarten & First Grade:


•Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” in an illustrated page with a dog shown.

•Does not understand that words come apart.

•Complains about how hard reading is, or “disappearing” when it is time to read.

•A history of reading problems in parents or siblings.

•Cannot sound out even simple words like cat, map, nap.

•Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound.



•A great imagination

•The ability to figure things out

•Eager embrace of new ideas

•Getting the gist of things

•A good understanding of new concepts

•Surprising maturity

•A larger vocabulary for the age

•Enjoyment in solving puzzles

•Talent at building models

•Excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him or her

 Second Grade and Up:


•Very slow in acquiring reading skills.  Reading is slow and awkward.

•Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out the word.

•Doesn’t seem to have a strategy for reading new words

•Avoids reading out loud.

•Searches for a specific word and ends up using vague language such as “stuff” or “thing” a lot, without name the object.

•Pauses, hesitates, and/or uses lots of “umm’s” when speaking.

•Confuses words that sound alike, such as saying “tornado” for “volcano,” substituting “lotion” for “ocean.”

•Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words

•Seems to need extra time to respond to questions.

•Trouble with remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists.

•Has trouble finishing tests on time.

•Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language.

•Messy handwriting

•Low self-esteem that may not be immediately visible


•Excellent thinking skills: conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction.

•Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization.

•Ability to get the “big picture.”

•A high level of understanding of what is read to him.

•The ability to read and to understand at a high level over-learned (that is, highly practiced) words in a special area of interest; for example, if his hobby is restoring cars, he may be able to read auto mechanic magazines

•Improvement as an area of interest becomes more specialized and focused, when he develops a miniature vocabulary that he can read.

•A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary.

•Excellence in areas not dependent on reading, such as math, computers, and visual arts, or excellence in more conceptual subjects such as philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience, and creative writing.

This is a fantastic short 5 minute video by the Dyslexia Training Institute outlining the basics of dyslexia.


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