What Is Dyslexia?

The origin of the word Dyslexia dates back to the 1880’s in Greek:

dys: “bad/abnormal/difficult”  and lexis “word”.

Identifying signs of dyslexia can be a difficult task, but they are usually tell-tale causes of the child’s overall learning pattern. As dyslexia is mainly associated with difficulty to read, it cannot be reliably tested until the child begins with reading, usually between ages 4 and 8. (Abigail Marshall 2004: Parent’s guide to children with Dyslexia).

The main role-players in identifying dyslexia in children are Parents, Teachers,  and … the learners themselves!

Let’s start sharing knowledge:

  • Academically falling behind his grade level, despite appearing bright, highly intelligent and articulate?
  • Does not like reading?
  • Experiencing problems with spelling?
  • Knows his/her subject facts very well, but fails written tests?
  • Labelled as lazy, slow, careless, not motivated, isn’t “applying” him/herself and has low self-esteem?
  • Frequently getting demerits for homework not done?
  • Experiencing difficulty to sit or stand still, seems not ever to give full attention, except in tasks of personal interest (like TV games or cartoons)?
  • Is taking mood stabilizing medications (Ritalin and others) or in a worst-case scenario, already taking anti-depressants?

Below are identified visible traits and behaviours of the dyslexics.

2-DSC_6782Most dyslexics will exhibit about halve or more of the following traits and behaviours. These characteristics can vary from day to day or minute-to-minute.


  • Appears bright, and highly intelligent but unable to read, write, spell
  • Labelled lazy
  • Isn’t “behind enough” to get attention
  • High IQ, tests well orally, not written
  • Feels Dumb; poor self-esteem
  • Talented in arts, sports, engineering, business
  • Zone out/daydream often
  • Learns best via hands-on, visual aids

Vision, reading, spelling:

  • Dizziness, headaches while reading
  •  Confused by letters, numbers, words.
  • Reading/writing shows repetitions, omissions
  • Difficulty with vision, yet eyes are good
  •  Reads/re-reads with little comprehension
  •  Spells phonetically and inconsistently
  •  Difficulty putting thoughts into words, speaks halted, incomplete sentences.
  • Writing and Motor Skills:
  • Trouble with writing or copying, pencil grip, bad handwriting
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball sports
  • Can be ambidextrous, confused L-R
  • Math and Time Management:
  • Difficulty telling/managing time, sequential info/orders
  • Math- dependence on finger counting
  • Difficulty counting objects, dealing with money
  • Ok with arithmetic, but fails words problems/algebra or higher Math
  • Memory and cognition
  • Excellent long term memory
  • Poor memory for sequences
  • Thinks mainly with images and feeling

Behaviours, Health Development and Personality:

  • Extremely disorderly, or compulsive orderly
  •  Class clown,  or trouble maker or too quiet
  • Extra light of a deep sleeper
  •  Strong sense of justice, emotionally sensitive
  • Mistakes and symptoms increase with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress or poor health.




DSC_6715Let’s first say what Dyslexia is NOT:

  • It is not a disease; or sickness, and therefore can’t be “cured”, only corrected.
  • It is not the result of a brain injury or brain defect.
  • It is not in itself a disability” but is the reason for developing a reading and spelling difficulty.

It has no link to different intelligence levels. Dyslexics aren’t all the same, but they do share certain traits:

  • They are mostly highly intelligent;
  • usually, their  thoughts are  visually multi-dimensional, thinking in terms of pictures instead of words and doing it very fast;
  • They have vivid imaginations and are great creators and innovators, hands-on learners; destined to become architects, engineers, authors, actors, comedians, movie directors, sculptors, painters;
  • They can utilize the brain’s ability to alter and create perceptions to suit them and to solve problems;
  • They are highly aware of their environment and curious about how things work;
  • They have a natural talent for strategizing and solving real-world problems;

So, if dyslexics are so gifted, what then is causing the learning disabilities?

Why do they so frequently get confused when reading, why do the letters not stay still?

What is the link with so-called ADD/ADHD, and why do most find it difficult to grasp basic Math principles?


Please read on.

Verbal learners mainly think with the sounds of words, their thoughts are linear in time and follows the structure of language, with a sort of internal dialogue.

Most dyslexics are nonverbal thinkers – they mainly think in 3-dimensional multi-sensory pictures. When a sentence is read, a picture of what the sentence is “saying” is formed – not of the words, but of its meaning.

Sight words: However this talent can cause problems and confusions when reading words which are not attached to an image of the meaning of the word. Table, horse, mountain, most nouns, have images, but words like but, when, almost, for, from, is, if, the,  and about 230 such sight or abstract words in English and about 187 in Afrikaans, with no meaningful picture attached are at the root of reading difficulties for a picture-thinker. The text quickly loses meaning – causing confusion, frustration, and fatigue and eventually total debilitating disorientation.

When confused, the dyslexic’s automatic response is to find a solution to grasp the meaning of a sentence.  He/she may try and use previous solutions that may or may not have helped to lessen the confusion (not only by reading), and may make use of his/her extraordinary talent to examine the source of the confusion and problem-solve, create, invent, engineer, and escape the reading project.

But this talent does not work well with 2-dimensional words (words on paper). The result of disorientation while reading is a distorted perception of the words – their appearance and meaning causing frustration, mistakes, loss of comprehension, and fatigue.

When reading, the dyslexic’s brain might blank out all words with no picture/image attached, and a sentence might look like this:

injured hunter looked wounded lion jump —- .

This is what is available to try and make sense of:

injured hunter looked — — — — — wounded lion — — — jump —- — —.

This is the original text:

The injured hunter looked over his shoulder and saw that the wounded lion was about to jump right unto him.

The table is set for confusions and ready to cause major disabling disorientations, leading to severe learning difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, memory, and Math.

So then, let’s apply this theory to Sarah’s predicament of knowing the facts almost 100% when doing an oral test, but only 27% when she has to write the same test:

Sarah is dyslexic!   What does it mean?

  1. Sarah is most probably a picture-creative-thinker, (right brain preference) with high intelligence and a good memory.  She has no problem listening, comprehending and retrieval of learned knowledge.
  2. But when writing tests, she has to read the questions, and that is where her dilemma starts.  Sarah encounters many words in the questions that do not have pictures associated with them.  So, she sees blanks, stripes and dots, or whatever, and skips to the next word, where the same happens, the next word might be a noun for which she can call up a picture, but now she is already in a state of confusion.
  3. The many confusions trigger disorientation, causing her to make false perceptions of reality, and inaccuracies without her knowing it.
  4.  She makes mistakes, and at some stage, the teacher, fellow learners, or Mom, will point out the mistakes, which calls up a nasty emotional reaction. No one likes to be making mistakes.
  5. But being in class, in a test environment, Sarah has no choice but to continue, and she reverts to compulsive solutions of which some has worked in the past. There are many, but the easiest solution would be to guess.
  6.  She is now very near to a total learning disability,  which will be called as uncontrolled dyslexia!

Sarah can be shown how to prevent confusion caused by picture-less words.  Sarah will be able to find pictures and accurate meanings for the non-picture words. Compulsive solutions will not be necessary anymore.

If you have not done the Free Dyslexia Screening Test, now is the time to do so.  Click the link below (it’s free!)

Free Dyslexia On-Line Assessment