Why Dyslexia is a Learning Difference

Learning Difficulty/Learning Difference.

We might choose to call dyslexia a learning difference – rather than a learning difficulty.  This can be a positive and useful term because it highlights key aspects of the causes of dyslexic difficulties, which particularly affect acquisition of literacy skills.

Individuals with dyslexia often have different ways of processing and retaining information; even different ways of approaching problem-solving and new concepts: different ways of thinking. Logically, therefore, they learn in different ways, too.

Differences in Brain Structure

Research suggests that dyslexia originates in differences in brain structure.  Scans taken of dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains – whilst looking at text – show that different parts of the brain are in use.  This would seem to suggest that the dyslexic brain is processing differently during reading tasks.

The structural brain differences affect cognitive processes.  These include:

  • memory
  • visual processing
  • auditory processing

We had a quick look at how these 3 areas of difficulty affect reading and spelling skills in the previous blog – so I will just recap and say that it’s very hard to remember words for reading and spelling when you can’t remember what you’ve seen and heard, for many moments…

We also discussed why multi-sensory, structured learning programmes are effective in addressing these weak areas.

Teach in the Way They Can Learn

What’s important to say is that, if we teach in the way they can learn, people with dyslexic difficulties CAN learn and achieve to their potential.

In other words, they need to learn in a different way.  If we remove the barriers to achievement by using a multi-sensory, structured approach, they can learn to read and spell – thereby accessing the rest of the curriculum and opening the door to academic success.

Dyslexia-Friendly = Learner-Friendly

We also know that multi-sensory, structured programmes work very well for other learners too.   This is important, because dyslexia is often under-diagnosed – teachers and parents may be aware that the child in question has dyslexic-type difficulties with literacy, but isn’t sure whether they have dyslexia. Full diagnostic assessments are not always readily available, especially given the high incidence of dyslexia.  It is thought that as many as 1 in 5 children may be affected to some degree.

An effective specialist programme, designed for dyslexia, will be effective even where the child has not yet undergone full diagnostic testing. If a program works for dyslexia, it is highly likely to work for most literacy difficulties, due to the structured, approach and accessible methods used.

Ros Hynes

B.A.(Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS







  1. Nicole M. Robinson

    Have you heard of Orton Gillingham? Many of their methods are designed for children who have Dyslexia. I have been using this program in my class for 2 years and I have seen an improvement in my students reading and spelling abilities.

    • Hi again Nicole, yes indeed, many multi-sensory remediation programs are based on the Orton Gillingham methods, of course. Great to hear you’ve seen improvements with your class – I’ve certainly enjoyed working with similar programs one-on-one with students. However, though these methods are indeed very effective, to work in this way can be teacher-intensive and therefore expensive – and many schools therefore simply cannot provide this support.

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