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Having trouble with your reading, writing or spelling? You may be dyslexic. Dyslexia affects up to one in five people and is one of the most common learning difficulties, but what exactly is it, and is dyslexia a disability which could entitle you to extra help at school or at work? The Mix explains all you need to know about dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which affects your ability to read, write and spell. It can also cause problems with numbers, directions and short-term memory. It is considered a learning difficulty rather than a learning disability as it doesn’t generally affect your ability to carry out normal day to day activities beyond reading, writing and spelling.

The Mix has more resources on learning disabilities and syndromes here if you’d like to learn more.

Is dyslexia a disability?

Yes, dyslexia is now recognised as a disability by teachers and psychologists and is considered a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act. The British Dyslexia Association quotes research suggesting that the condition seriously affects 4% of the population and up to 10% show some signs of difficulties. Recent evidence indicates these problems are caused by the different ways that dyslexic people process language, especially in the left *hemisphere* of the brain. However, this doesn’t mean that dyslexia affects your intelligence. Dyslexic people can be successful in any area of life and often show a lot of creative or intellectual ability.

If you think you might have been discriminated against due to dyslexia (or any other characteristic or condition), check out our article on discrimination at work here.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

  • Reading very slowly
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Mixing up sounds in long words
  • Confusing numbers, dates and times
  • Needing to have instructions repeated
  • Problems with note taking
  • Finding it difficult to plan work
  • Disappointing exam results

How do I find out if I’m dyslexic?

If you recognise some of the symptoms above, you might be dyslexic. To get a proper diagnosis you need to see an educational psychologist or specialist teacher. If you’re a student, contact your disability or learning support advisor and ask them to help arrange this. At university the cost of the assessment can be paid for out of the Hardship Fund. You can find an educational psychologist yourself though the British Psychological Society, or contact the British Dyslexia Association or Dyslexia Action for information about assessments from specialist teachers.

Having an assessment can be a way to identify your strengths and weaknesses and get the support you need, as well as reassuring you that your difficulties are not your fault.

What support can I get for dyslexia?

Specialist teaching can help overcome many writing and spelling difficulties. You can learn techniques to improve your reading speed. Pictures and diagrams can help with remembering things and organising your work. For more information about specialist teaching, contact Dyslexia Action.

There are also loads of dyslexia friendly materials and apps online, such as the dyslexie font, which has been designed specifically to be easier for dyslexic people to read.

At college or university you should be offered support from the disability office. Recommendations about equipment are usually made after an assessment of your needs and in higher education you can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances towards the extra costs. Common adjustments for dyslexia include:

  • Extra tuition and help with language skills and structuring work
  • Use of a computer or laptop
  • Specialist software, for example, word prediction, speech recognition, mind mapping
  • Handouts and book lists in advance of classes
  • Notetaker, known as a ‘scribe’
  • Digital recorder for lectures
  • Extra time for coursework or exams
  • Materials on different coloured paper

Dyslexia in the workplace

Similar types of support are available in the workplace, where you’re protected by the disability act. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, employers have to make reasonable adjustments for people with dyslexia. If you’re struggling at work you can talk to your line manager or, if you prefer, the Human Resources department. They should keep confidential any sensitive personal information about disability at work and not tell anyone else without your permission. A dyslexic employee should not be treated any differently to an employee without dyslexia.

Have you got dyslexia or do you have someone in your family who does? Share you experiences on our discussion boards.

Next Steps

By Ally Thomas

Updated on 09-Nov-2022

Picture of boy studying by Shutterstock.