In dyslexia, the brain has difficulty storing and accessing information while reading, but the condition doesn’t affect intelligence.

Millions of children and adults have dyslexia, making it the most common learning disorder.

In dyslexia, the brain is wired differently, leading to difficulties with storing and accessing information while reading. However, the condition doesn’t affect intelligence.

People with dyslexia tend to rely on other strengths, such as strong problem-solving skills and pattern recognition. In fact, many artists and scientists have dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental condition that impairs a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. Dyslexia is the most common learning disorder, comprising 80% of all learning disabilities.

Dyslexia varies from person to person, but in general, people with this disorder have difficulty connecting sounds to letters and blending these sounds into words.

They may have difficulty recognizing words and might read at levels significantly lower than expected, even if they have average to high intelligence.

About 4%-8% of children have dyslexia, and the condition often persists into adulthood. Dyslexia is highly genetic and tends to run in families. Twin studies suggest it has a heritability of at least 60%.

Symptoms of dyslexia become more obvious when children start learning how to read and write.

Symptoms of dyslexia in children (ages 5 to 12) may include:

  • difficulty learning and remembering the names and sounds of letters
  • struggling to learn sequential lists, such as the alphabet or days of the week
  • difficulty attaching sounds to letters
  • difficulty sounding out words phonetically
  • confusion over letters that look similar and writing letters backwards (e.g., writing “b” instead of “d”)
  • reading slowly or making numerous mistakes while reading aloud
  • easily answering questions orally, but having difficulty writing the answer down
  • difficulty working through a sequence of directions
  • problems copying written language and taking longer than “normal” to complete written work
  • spelling that’s unpredictable and inconsistent
  • confusing the order of letters in words
  • slow writing speed
  • poor handwriting

Dyslexia may affect speech in preschoolers

Signs of dyslexia can sometimes appear in very young children (ages 3 to 4) and often involve difficulties with speech and expressing oneself. However, these signs are less specific to dyslexia and can have several different causes.

  • delayed speech development
  • little understanding or interest in rhyming words, such as “the bee is free and lives in a tree”, or nursery rhymes
  • difficulty with, or little interest in, learning letters of the alphabet
  • spoken language difficulties, such as not remembering the right word to use or putting sentences together incorrectly

Dyslexia symptoms in adults

Dyslexia tends to persist into adulthood. In some cases, adults who didn’t get diagnosed as children may continue to live with untreated symptoms.

Below are some signs of dyslexia in adults:

  • difficulty recalling past conversations
  • often accused of “not listening”
  • misspells words while writing (without realizing it)
  • mispronounces words while talking
  • difficulty pronouncing unknown words while reading out loud
  • difficulty remembering names
  • confuses visually similar words like “took” and “look”
  • low interest in or avoidance of reading, possibly preferring short snippets of text over articles or books
  • gets lost easily, particularly with written directions
  • self-conscious during public speaking; may use filler words or starts and stops sentences repeatedly
  • depends on family members to help with written correspondence

Many researchers argue that dyslexia shouldn’t be framed as a disorder but as a difference in how the brain processes information.

Researchers assert that people with dyslexia have enhanced skills in other areas, such as creativity, discovery, and big-picture thinking. They believe these skills play an important role in human survival by encouraging us to adapt to our changing environments.

Dyslexic people are often good at the following:

  • seeing patterns
  • solving problems
  • storytelling
  • rotating objects in their heads
  • inventing
  • taking things apart, seeing how they work, and putting them back together
  • drawing/painting
  • designing things
  • seeing the bigger picture

Evidence shows that higher education students in engineering and the arts are more likely to be dyslexic than those in non-creative subjects.

In a 2014 study covering several U.K. universities across 4 degree disciplines (law, engineering, medicine, and dentistry), researchers found that self-identified dyslexia in engineering was 28% compared with 5% in law.

Due to many accomplished scientists having dyslexia, researchers have suggested that dyslexia may offer neurological or visual advantages useful in disciplines such as astronomy.

Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tested scientists’ abilities (those both with and without dyslexia) to detect black holes.

Their research found that astrophysicists with dyslexia were better at spotting black holes amidst the noise compared to astrophysicists without dyslexia.

Dyslexia is commonly treated with educational interventions. In school, children with dyslexia often work with a trained specialist to learn new strategies to read, spell, and write.

Educational techniques may include the following:

  • phonics awareness/phonics instruction
  • reading fluency training
  • auditory training
  • colored overlays (colored lenses that reduce perceptual distortions of text so dyslexic children can read the text more fluently and comfortably with fewer headaches)

In the United States, federal law states that children with dyslexia or other language-based learning differences are entitled to special help. They may also be given extra time for tests or homework or help with taking notes.

Dyslexia often occurs with other conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dysgraphia (writing difficulties), and dyscalculia (number/math difficulties), so these may need to be addressed as well.

Treatment may also involve psychotherapy. Research suggests that 40%-60% of dyslexic children have psychological manifestations such as anxiety and depression.

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental condition that can impair your ability to read, write, and spell. People with this disorder tend to have difficulty connecting sounds to letters and blending these sounds into words.

It’s important to remember that intelligence is not affected by dyslexia. But because the brain is wired differently, you may have trouble storing and accessing information while reading.

If you or your child has dyslexia, you’re in good company. Many accomplished scientists and artists, such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci were believed to have dyslexia.

You likely have other compensatory strengths, such as pattern recognition, seeing the bigger picture, and strong problem-solving skills.