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Reading Disorder (dyslexia)

When children don’t acquire adequate reading skills, despite having received appropriate reading instruction, they are identified as having a specific reading disorder known as dyslexia. The primary problem for children with dyslexia is that they have difficulty associating the sounds of the letters and blending the sounds of the letters to make words. Children with dyslexia also have difficulties with accurately and fluently recognising words, spelling words and comprehending what they read.

Dyslexia is very common; approximately 5 to 15% of children have dyslexia. Dyslexia is as common in boys as it is in girls. However, girls do not tend to be identified as often as boys because girls with dyslexia typically don’t exhibit the challenging behaviours boys with dyslexia express. Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin; this means that their brains are 'wired' differently. Research strongly suggests that dyslexia is caused by genetics. A number of genes have been identified as increasing a person’s possibility of having dyslexia. If a parent has dyslexia, his/her children are eight times more likely than controls to have dyslexia. Further, if a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, more than half of his/her siblings will also have dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a lifelong and persistent learning disorder. However, with appropriate intervention, children can gain skills that allow them to manage their dyslexia and live healthy, successful and rewarding lives.

Characteristics of children with dyslexia

Your preschool aged child might have dyslexia, if s/he:

  • Has slightly delayed speech
  • Doesn’t recognise rhyming words
  • Mispronounces familiar words
  • Has trouble learning common nursery rhymes
  • Has difficulty learning and remembering the letters in the alphabet

Your school aged child might have dyslexia, if s/he:

  • Has a family history of reading problems
  • Finds it difficult to acquire reading skills
  • Reads slowly, awkwardly and with a lot of effort
  • Finds it difficult to sound out unfamiliar words (often makes guesses)
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Finds spelling difficult
  • Has messy hand-writing
  • Finds it difficult to remember people, dates and names
  • Struggles to retrieve words
  • Takes more time to answer questions; struggles when put on the spot
  • Confuses words that sound alike
  • Mispronounces complicated and complex words

While children with dyslexia find it difficult to read, they usually have strengths in:

  • Being innately curious
  • Being creative
  • Having empathy
  • Their thinking skills, including: problem solving, reasoning, analysis and seeing the big picture
  • Having deep knowledge and understanding
  • Having a large listening vocabulary
  • Areas outside of reading (maths, computers, science, visual arts, etc.)

Concerns for children with dyslexia

Children with dyslexia have different learning needs from those of their peers. In order to meet their needs, they must be identified as dyslexic and provided with appropriate reading intervention. Schools should use individualised learning plans to ensure that the specific learning needs of children with dyslexia are met and provide provisions to help children with dyslexia to succeed in the classroom (e.g., allowing extra time on exams).

Children with dyslexia whose needs are not being met can experience a range of school-based concerns, including: low self-esteem (from feeling discouraged and frustrated, different than their peers, that they are ‘stupid’, that they are unable to meet expectations and embarrassed because they can’t read, spell or write like their peers), social isolation (feeling isolated from their peers because they feel different from their peers and finding it difficult to communicate with their peers because they struggle to find the correct words or pause before answering peers’ questions), disengaging with school (displaying challenging behaviours, such as being frustrated and angry, avoiding reading tasks at school or avoiding attending school) and underachieving in school (exhibiting a gap between their potential and produced school work and being unwilling to engage in tasks associated with reading).

Children may experience the following emotional concerns in relation to their dyslexia that require help from a psychologist: low self-esteem, anger (often as a result of experiencing chronic frustration about their environment that they turn on others), stress/anxiety (experience excessive worry and anticipate failure) and depression (have negative thoughts about themselves and the world and find it difficult to imagine anything possible in the future).


Early identification and intervention have been shown to provide the best outcomes for children with dyslexia. Research has indicated that early intervention results in a more positive change at a faster pace than intervention provided to an older child. If you believe that your child may have dyslexia, please visit our assessment page to learn more about the assessments we offer or contact us to schedule an appointment for an assessment.


We offer personalised, evidence-based treatments that can help your child if s/he is experiencing low self-esteem, anger, stress/anxiety or depression as a result of their experiences with dyslexia. Please visit our treatment page for further information or contact us to schedule an appointment.

We can help your child if s/he has dyslexia and is experiencing negative outcomes at school by providing your school with practical recommendations or by visiting your child’s school and meeting their school professionals.

Please contact us if you would like to schedule an appointment for an assessment of behavioural, educational, emotional, and/or social concerns for your child.

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