What is Dyslexia?

When I talk to people about what I do, I often get asked to define dyslexia. Even after 10 years of working in this field, I sometimes struggle to articulate effectively a concise defintion that is accessible to people outside of the education world. It's much easier to talk about how it manifests in individuals at different ages and stages of development, strategies for intervention and self-advocacy tools. Defining it in one sentence, however, has always been a challenge.

Recently, I ran across a definition that I love. It's easy for anyone to understand and doesn't box any individual in with specific symptoms they may or may not feel.

According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dyslexia is "an unexpected difficulty in reading quickly and automatically and in retrieving spoken words for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader."

The individuals with dyslexia that I either work with or have as family members and friends connect with this definition. They consistently wrestle with the question, "Why is this so hard for me?" They know they are bright and capable, but often feel left behind in academic settings when reading or writing something that "everyone else" breezes through takes them double the time and energy. They face unexpected difficulty throughout their day, every day. Imagine how frustrating and exhausting this must be without the right tools, supports and understanding from those around them.

With recent statistics showing that dyslexia affects 20% of the population and 80-90% of all diagnosed learning disabilities, it's becoming more and more vital that we seek to understand what dyslexia is and how it makes an individual feel and function in our fast-paced academic environment.