SpeakMe

A toolkit for the identification and support
of learners exhibiting literacy difficulties

What is Dyslexia?

The advice and guidance for the identification, assessment and support of dyslexia within the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit is linked directly to the Scottish working definition of dyslexia. The definition has been developed by the Scottish Government, Dyslexia Scotland, the Cross Party Group on Dyslexia in the Scottish Parliament and a wide range of stakeholders. This is one of many definitions available and is recommended as helpful guidance by Education Scotland.

The aim of this particular working definition is to provide a description of the range of indicators and characteristics of dyslexia as helpful guidance for educational practitioners, children, parents/carers and others.

Scottish Definition of Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be described as a continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and/or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual's cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.

The impact of dyslexia as a barrier to learning varies in degree according to the learning and teaching environment, as there are often associated difficulties such as:

  • auditory and/or visual processing of language-based information
  • phonological awareness
  • oral language skills and reading fluency
  • short-term and working memory
  • sequencing and directionality
  • number skills
  • organisational ability

Motor skills and co-ordination may also be affected.

Dyslexia exists in all cultures and across the range of abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.

It is a hereditary, life-long, neurodevelopmental condition. Unidentified, dyslexia is likely to result in low self-esteem, high stress, atypical behavior, and low achievement.

Learners with dyslexia will benefit from early identification, appropriate intervention and targeted effective teaching, enabling them to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. 

Pictorial definition of dyslexia

At all stages, dyslexia is on a continuum varying from mild to severe, with a range of strengths and difficulties and, according to the nature of the activity undertaken, the learning environment and any coping strategies and support in place. As a result, every individual with dyslexia will differ in the range of factors that are affected and in the level of severity experienced. There is however a common set of signs that can be observed.

Receiving appropriate additional support when required is not dependent upon the formal identification of a specific label such as dyslexia. However, this should not be interpreted to indicate that schools and local authorities are not supportive of formally identifying additional support needs such as dyslexia. Indeed the information gathered during the identification process is valued and forms part of the ongoing monitoring of the child or young person’s progress and support.