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There are many definitions of dyslexia. A very simple one would be that dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which makes it hard for some people to learn to read, write and spell correctly.

The Dyslexia Association of Ireland defines dyslexia as a specific learning difficulty affecting the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading and spelling skills. This occurs despite access to appropriate learning opportunities. Dyslexia is characterised by cognitive difficulties in (1) phonological processing, (2) working memory, and (3) speed of retrieval of information from long term memory. Dyslexic difficulties occur on a continuum from mild to severe and affect approximately 10% of the population. People with dyslexia may experience greater stress and frustration as they endeavour to learn, resulting in heightened anxiety, particularly in relation to literacy acquisition. People with dyslexia may also have accompanying learning strengths.

The Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia (2001) suggests the following definition:

Dyslexia is manifested in a continuum of specific learning difficulties related to the acquisition of basic skills in reading, spelling and/or writing, such difficulties being unexplained in relation to an individual’s other abilities and educational experiences. Dyslexia can be described at the neurological, cognitive and behavioural levels. It is typically characterised by inefficient information processing, including difficulties in phonological processing, working memory, rapid naming and automaticity of basic skills. Difficulties in organisation, sequencing and motor skills may also be present. (p.31)

The report goes on to say that the learning difficulties arising from dyslexia:

  • occur across the lifespan, and may manifest themselves in different ways at different ages;
  • may co-exist with difficulties in the area of numbers;
  • may be associated with early spoken language difficulties;
  • may be alleviated by appropriate intervention;
  • increase or reduce in severity depending on environmental factors;
  • occur in all socio-economic groups;
  • can co-exist with other learning difficulties such as Attention Deficit Disorder, and may or may not represent a primary difficulty.

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