Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading. Also called specific reading disability, dyslexia is a common learning disability in children. Dyslexia occurs in children with normal vision and intelligence. Sometimes, dyslexia goes undiagnosed for
years and isn’t recognized until adulthood.

There’s no cure for dyslexia. It’s a lifelong condition caused by inherited traits that affect how your brain works. However, most children with dyslexia can succeed in school with tutoring or a specialized education program. Emotional support also plays an important role.


Dyslexia symptoms can be difficult to recognize before your child enters school, but some early clues may indicate a problem. Once your child reaches school age, your child’s teacher may be first to notice a problem. The condition often becomes apparent as a child begins learning to read.

Before school

Signs and symptoms that a young child may be at risk of dyslexia include:

  • Late talking
  • Learning new words slowly
  • Difficulty rhyming

School age

Once your child is in school, dyslexia signs and symptoms may become more apparent, including:

  • Reading at a level well below the expected level for the age of your child
  • Problems processing and understanding what he or she hears
  • Difficulty comprehending rapid instructions
  • Trouble following more than one command at a time
  • Problems remembering the sequence of things
  • Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
  • An inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
  • Seeing letters or words in reverse (“b” for “d” or “saw” for “was,” for example) — this is common in young children, but may be more pronounced in children with dyslexia
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Trouble learning a foreign language

Teens and adults

Dyslexia symptoms in teens and adults are similar to those in children. Though early intervention is beneficial for dyslexia treatment, it’s never too late to seek help for dyslexia. Some common dyslexia symptoms in teens and adults include:

  • Difficulty reading
  • Trouble understanding jokes or idioms
  • Reading aloud
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Difficulty summarizing a story
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty memorizing

Dyslexia is characterized by a delay in the age at which a child begins to read. Most children are ready to learn reading by kindergarten or first grade, but children with dyslexia often can’t grasp the basics of reading by that time. Talk with your doctor if your
child’s reading level is below what’s expected for his or her age or if you notice other signs or symptoms of dyslexia

When dyslexia goes undiagnosed and untreated, childhood reading difficulties continue into adulthood.


Dyslexia has been linked to certain genes that control how the brain develops. It appears to be an inherited condition — it tends to run in families.
These inherited traits appear to affect parts of the brain concerned with language.

Dyslexia risk factors include:

  • A family history of dyslexia
  • Individual differences in the parts of the brain that enable reading

Dyslexia can lead to a number of problems, including:

  • Trouble learning. Because reading is a skill basic to most other school subjects, a child who has dyslexia is at a disadvantage in most classes and may have trouble keeping up with peers.
  • Social problems. Left untreated, dyslexia may lead to low self-esteem, behavior problems, anxiety, aggression, and withdrawal from friends, parents and teachers.
  • Problems as adults. The inability to read and comprehend can prevent a child from reaching his or her potential as the child grows up. This can have long-term educational, social and economic consequences.

Children who have dyslexia are at increased risk of having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vice versa. ADHD can cause difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, which can make dyslexia harder to treat.

Treatments and drugs

There’s no known way to correct the underlying brain abnormality that causes dyslexia.

Dyslexia is not generally treated with drugs. However, if your child has another condition that occurs along with dyslexia, such attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he or she may be prescribed medications.

Dyslexia is treated through education, and the sooner intervention begins, the better. Psychological testing will help your child’s teachers develop a suitable teaching program.

Teachers may use techniques involving hearing, vision and touch to improve reading skills. Helping a child use several senses to learn — for example, by listening to a taped lesson and tracing with a finger the shape of the letters used and the words spoken —
can help him or her process the information.

A reading specialist will focus on helping your child:

  • Learn to recognize the smallest sounds that make up words (phonemes)
  • Understand that letters and strings of letters represent these sounds
  • Comprehend what he or she is reading
  • Read aloud
  • Build a vocabulary

If your child has a severe reading disability, tutoring may need to occur more frequently, and progress may be slower. A child with severe dyslexia may never be able to read well. However, academic problems don’t necessarily mean a person with dyslexia will be
unable to succeed. Students with dyslexia can be highly capable, given the right resources. Many people with dyslexia are creative and bright, and may be gifted in mathematics, science or the arts. Some even have successful writing careers.

You play a key role in helping your child succeed. Take these steps:

  • Address the problem early. If you suspect your child has dyslexia, talk to your child’s doctor. Children with dyslexia who get extra help in kindergarten or first grade often improve their reading skills enough to succeed in elementary school and high school. Children who don’t get help until later grades may have more difficulty learning the skills needed to read well. They’re likely to lag behind academically and may never be able to catch up.
  • Read aloud to your child. It’s best if you start when your child is 6 months old or even younger. Try listening to recorded books with your child. When your child is old enough, read the stories in written form together after your child hears them.
  • Work with your child’s school. Create a written, individualized education plan. In the United States, schools have a legal obligation to take steps to help children diagnosed with dyslexia learn. Talk to your child’s teacher about setting up a meeting to create a plan that outlines your child’s particular needs and how the school will help him or her succeed. If available, tutoring sessions with a reading specialist can be very helpful for many children with dyslexia. Your child may not get needed help without a structured,
    written plan
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