Skip to main content

Parent Information

Parent Information

Characteristics of Dyslexia

The student who struggles with reading and spelling often puzzles teachers and parents.  The student displays adequate average ability to learn in the absence of print and receives the same classroom instruction that benefits most children. Still, the student struggles with some or all of the many facets of reading and spelling. This student may be a student with dyslexia.

The difficulties of a student with dyslexia occur in phonemic awareness and manipulation, and single-word decoding. They may have poor reading fluency and spelling. All of these difficulties can cause secondary consequences in reading comprehension and/or written composition.  Other consequences of having dyslexia are reduced reading experiences and poor growth of reading vocabulary. These difficulties are unexpected for the student’s age, educational level or background, or cognitive abilities. 

It often runs in families and may be caused by naturally occurring brain differences.  Many individuals learn to compensate for or practically overcome their weakness through proper teaching method and practice. Students with dyslexia can learn; they just learn in a different style. Often these students are said to have language learning differences. They tend to have talented productive minds.

The International Dyslexia Association (Opens in new window) defines dyslexia as:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological 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 (Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, November 12, 2002).

The characteristics of dyslexia vary from person to person and will depend on the age and/or grade of the student.  Some children experience problems in many areas while some may have a difficulty in only one area.  Students with dyslexia may exhibit one or more of these characteristics even after being provided interventions to correct the problem.

Everyone can probably check one or two of these characteristics.  That does not mean that everyone has dyslexia.  A person with dyslexia usually has several of these characteristics, which persist over time and are persistent after providing interventions to correct the difficulties. 

Identification of Dyslexia

Section 504 or IDEA (Special Education) procedures will be followed when conducting an evaluation for dyslexia. 

The dyslexia evaluation consists of various tests depending on the student’s age and stage of reading development.  The following areas may be assessed:  reading real words in isolation, decoding non-sense words, phonological awareness, letter/sound knowledge, fluency rate & accuracy, reading comprehension and/or written spelling. 

The results of the dyslexia evaluation will be entered into a report, which will be reviewed by the Section 504 or ARD Committee.  The committee will determine whether the student meets eligibility as a student with dyslexia.

Effective Strategies for Instructing Students with Dyslexia

Effective teaching strategies include:

  • Explicit, direct instruction-reading, spelling, and writing skills must be directly taught
  • Systematically & cumulative instruction-concepts must be introduced in a definite, logical sequence
  • Sequential & structured instruction—step by step procedures are used to introduce, review, and practice concepts
  • Meaning-based instruction
  • Multi-sensory instruction—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses are engaged in the learning process

Based upon the areas of need for the student with dyslexia, the teacher may provide instruction in these areas:

  • Phonemic awareness instruction that enables the student to detect, segment, blend, and manipulate sounds in spoken language
  • Phonics instruction that takes advantage of the letter-sound plan in which words that carry meaning are made of sounds and sounds are written with letters in the right order.  Students with this understanding can blend sounds associated with letters into words and can separate words into component sounds for spelling and writing
  • Language structure instruction that encompasses studying the meaningful units of language (such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots), semantics (ways language conveys meaning), syntax (sentence structure), and pragmatics (how to use language in a particular context),
  • Linguistic instruction directed toward proficiency and fluency with the patterns of language so that words and sentences are the carriers of meaning
  • Strategy-oriented instruction in the processes or strategies students use for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency, and comprehension that students need to become independent readers.


Teaching students with dyslexia across setting and subjects can be challenging.  When necessary, students with dyslexia may need accommodations. Accommodations should not interfere with the focus of the lesson. Accommodations are educationally appropriate and can be very effective in enabling students with dyslexia to access curriculum in all subjects.  Which accommodations used should be based on the need of the student with dyslexia.  However, many accommodations that are traditionally used are not allowable on state assessments.  If the student is in Section 504, accommodations will be decided by that committee.   If the student is in Special Education, the ARD committee will determine the accommodations.

Each school year, the Texas Education Agency determines what accommodations are allowable on the state assessments and who can use these accommodations.  By clicking on the link below, you can find the most up-to-dateinformation concerning the state assessment accommodations.

TEA Student Assessment Division (Opens in new window)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there one test that can be used to determine that a student has dyslexia or a related disorder?
There is no one test. Schools should use multiple data sources including formal and informal measures that are appropriate for determining dyslexia.Readingassessments, as appropriate for the reading development of the student, should include: reading real words in isolation, reading nonsense words in isolation,  phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge, rapid naming, reading fluency rate & accuracy, reading comprehension, and/or written spelling.

Do students with dyslexia see things backwards?
No, studies have proven the person with dyslexia is not seeing letters backwards. 

Do students with dyslexia make more reversal errors than other students?
According to research conducted with the NICHD, students with dyslexia make more reversal errors than students who are proficient readers.  However, the percentage of reversal errors was not significantly different for the 2 groups studied.

How is a student with dyslexia different from a skilled reader?
Students with dyslexia do not pick up patterns of a language.  Their difficulties lie in the phonological and orthographic levels.  Deficits in the phonological awareness reflect the core deficit in students with dyslexia.

Can dyslexia be inherited?
Yes, dyslexia can run in families.  Studies have shown a student with dyslexia is eight times as likely to have a parent with dyslexia. 

How long will it take before my child is cured of dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a life-long condition.  It is not a disease.  But with direct, explicit, multi-sensory instruction, your student’s reading will improve.  This may take time.  It is unrealistic to expect this to happen overnight. 

Do all students with dyslexia also have ADD?
No, not all students with dyslexia have ADD.  And not all students with ADD have dyslexia.  ADD and dyslexia may be present in the same child, but they are separate factors.  ADD does not effect acquisition of word-level decoding skills.


International Dyslexia Association (Opens in new window)

Center for Learning Disabilities WTAMU (opens in new window)