Research into learning disabilities - "Dyslexia"

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See also Adult learning theory (andragogy) | Behaviourism | Constructivism | Cognitivism | John Dewey | Famous learning theorists in history | Teaching library users‎ | Lev Vygotsky

Dyslexia or developmental reading disorder is known as a reading disability and is characterized by difficulties in word recognition. The World Federation of Neurology defines dyslexia as "a disorder manifested by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and sociocultural opportunity". The National Institute of Neurological Disorders defines dyslexia as "...a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person's ability to read". The condition occurs when there is a problem in parts of the brain that aid in the interpretation of language. Dyslexics are often reluctant and slow readers, and spelling presents a special challenge for them. The "acid test" for dyslexia is a "non-words" reading test or a list of "made up" words that cannot be "guessed at." In the same way, a "non-word" spelling test (a measure of phonological awareness) is a useful tool to identify dyslexia. The idea behind "non-word" tests is that the person being tested must rely on his/her phonological processing skills in order to read or spell words. They cannot rely on prior knowledge of words as some dyslexics have excellent visual memory and often resort to memorizing word shapes to get through their reading and spelling tests. Those with dyslexia can have a range of IQs and as such, the reliance of an IQ achievement discrepancy in the diagnosis of dyslexia is not recommended.

What are the signs of dyslexia?

General problems associated with dyslexia

Early symptoms that correlate with a dyslexia diagnosis include a delay in speech, letter reversal or mirror writing and being distracted by background noise. A common misconception about dyslexia is that all dyslexics write backwards or move letters around when reading; in fact, this occurs in only a very small percentage of dyslexics. The problems displayed by individuals with dyslexia often involve difficulties in acquiring and using language; reading and writing letters may be in the wrong order but are just one manifestation and will not occur in all cases. Other problems experienced by dyslexics are:

  • Learning to speak
  • Organizing written and spoken language
  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Memorizing number facts
  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Correctly doing math operations

Not all students who have difficulties with these skills are dyslexic. Formal testing is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia. Several learning disabilities may occur with dyslexia, but it is not clear whether these disabilities are related to the underlying causes of dyslexia or completely separate.

Resources for medical professionals

Researchers have been trying to identify the biological basis of dyslexia since it was first described by Oswald Berkhan in 1881. The term dyslexia was coined in 1887 by Rudolf Berlin. Theories of etiology have evolved with each new generation of researchers and recent theories tend to enhance one or more of the older theories as understanding of the nature of dyslexia evolves.

Further readings for academics

Further readings for educators

Resources for parents

This list has books, articles, and audio-visual resources.


  1. Hurford DM. To read or not to read: Answers to all your questions about dyslexia. New York, NY: Scribner/Simon and Schuster. [1]
  2. What is Dyslexia?: A Book Explaining Dyslexia for Kids and Adults to Use Together [2]
  3. Overcoming dyslexia: a new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. [3]
  4. Learning and learning difficulties: a handbook for teachers [4]
  5. What's wrong with me?: learning disabilities at home and school [5]
  6. The many faces of dyslexia [6]
  7. Dyslexia in adults: taking charge of your life [7]
  8. Straight talk about reading: how parents can make a difference during the early years [8]
  9. Specific Reading Disability: A view of the Spectrum [9]
  10. Dyslexia: a hundred years on [10]


  1. An Introduction to Dyslexia for Parents and Professionals [11]


  1. Disclosing Your Disability: A Legal Guide for People with Disabilities in BC
  2. Learning Disabilities 101
  3. Learning Disabilities Across the Lifespan
  4. Learning disabilities in Children
  5. Collaborating with Teachers
  6. Creating Good Practices
  7. Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
  8. Parenting Children with Learning Disabilities

Tools for dyslexics

Definition of dyslexia from research

Dyslexia in other languages

Research-based treatment

  • Bakker DJ. Neuropsychological treatment of dyslexia: London, Oxford University Press. (1990).
  • Coltheart MJ. Successful treatment of sublexical reading deficits in a child with dyslexia of the mixed type. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation Psychology Press (T&F); 2000.
  • Fletcher JM. Current directions in dyslexia research. Bristol, PA: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers.
  • Siegel LS. Phonological processing deficits and reading disabilities. In: Word recognition in beginning literacy. Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publisher; 1998.

Key websites & video

Personal tools