There is plenty of confusion as to what is dyslexia. But really it is very simple:
Dyslexia is a difficulty in the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading, writing and spelling skills.
That really is all there is to it. However, it would be wrong to just leave it there. So let us try to understand it a little better.
Firstly, the definition says it is about the acquisition, not if you are a good speller now. So if you had problems as a child compared to others in the class, but do not have them now, that probably means that you have learned to cope with the difficulties, possibly through specialist teaching, assistive technology, strategies to overcome difficulties or avoidance difficulties. Dyslexia is lifelong, but the difficulties may be hidden.
However, there is not a dyslexia gene (despite what you may read!), or even a “reading gene”. Literacy requires many different processes to work together in harmony to help the development of fluent and accurate literacy. There are genes that can impact upon those cognitive skills necessary for literacy skills. And these underlying cognitive skills are not exclusive to reading and writing and can have a significant impact upon other areas. Hence we can often find common traits in dyslexic individuals which whilst they are not literacy-related, they can still be an indicator of dyslexia.
By understanding what could be the underlying cause(s), we can start to build a support strategy, remembering that every dyslexic is different. Thus two individuals may appear to have the same spelling difficulties, but one may be caused by poor phonological (sound-based) skills and the other may be due to memory issues. Furthermore, we can improve those phonological skills with appropriate teaching, but we cannot improve memory (despite what you may read!). However, if you know that memory is an issue, then you can identify where memory causes problems in daily routines, and develop strategies to overcome those limitations. (FACT: Did you know that Sir Richard Branson is very dyslexic because of his memory issues. So he always carries a large (so he cannot lose it) notebook with him, which is uses in all business meetings and court cases!)
Finally, consider there are a lot of myths about dyslexia. To find out about the ten most common myths, try watching the webinar by Dr Ian Smythe – Click here for the webinar.