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Reviewed/Revised Sep 2023
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What is dyslexia?

People with dyslexia have difficulty connecting letters and words with the sounds they represent.

  • Children with dyslexia may start talking later than other children

  • They may have trouble speaking, blending sounds, or recognizing the sounds in words

  • They may make mistakes or take more time when they spell, write, and read out loud

  • To tell if your child has dyslexia, school professionals will give your child tests, such as academic and intelligence (IQ) tests

  • Dyslexia can’t be cured, but teachers will help your child learn to recognize written words

Dyslexia is different from low intelligence (intellectual disability Intellectual Disability Intellectual disability is significantly below average intellectual functioning present from birth or early infancy, causing limitations in the ability to conduct normal activities of daily... read more ). Children with intellectual disability have problems with many different things that require thought. Children with dyslexia typically have trouble only with reading words and letters.

What causes dyslexia?

Doctors don’t know what causes dyslexia, but they know it often runs in families.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

Preschool-age children with dyslexia may:

  • Start talking later than other children their age

  • Have trouble pronouncing, choosing, and replacing words

  • Have trouble remembering the names of letters, numbers, colors, and pictures

School-age children with dyslexia may have trouble:

  • Blending sounds

  • Rhyming words

  • Recognizing the number of sounds in words and putting them in the right order

  • Dividing words into sounds

Many children with dyslexia confuse letters that look similar, such as b and d, or w and m, or n and h. They may also reverse letters of a word they’re writing, such as writing on instead of no. This isn’t always a sign of dyslexia, as many young children without dyslexia also make these mistakes in early elementary school.

How can I tell if my child has dyslexia?

If your child isn’t getting better at learning words by the middle or end of 1st grade, school professionals should test your child. They’ll look for other problems that might be keeping your child from reading, such as poor vision or hearing, or emotional problems. They usually do:

  • Speech, language, and hearing tests

  • Intelligence tests

  • Tests of academic skills

How is dyslexia treated?

Dyslexia is treated with special teaching methods. These methods help your child learn to recognize words.

Teachers use multisensory instruction (teaching that includes sight, hearing, movement, and touch activities) to help children:

  • Connect the letters of the alphabet with the sounds they represent (phonics)

  • Pronounce words

  • Understand what they’re reading

  • Process sounds, such as blending sounds to form words, separating words into parts, and locating the sounds in words

Older children with dyslexia may be helped by technology, such as:

  • Listening to audio books

  • Using a computer screen reader that reads on-screen text out loud

  • Taking notes with digital recorders

In the United States the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to children with dyslexia. Education must be provided in the least restrictive, most inclusive setting possible—that is, settings in which the child has every opportunity to interact with non-disabled peers and have equal access to community resources.

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