Challenges and Subjects – this link takes you to challenges and subjects associated with dyslexia.

Brief description of Dyslexia

Dyslexia affects the area of the brain that deals with language, leading to differences in the way information is processed and affecting the underlying skills needed for learning to read, write and spell.

Detailed description of Dyslexia

Dyslexic students can often perform a range of complex tasks, such as solving complicated problems in electronics or design, yet cannot do the seemingly simple: learning to read and spell, organising writing, taking notes, remembering instructions, telling the time or finding their way around. A way of regarding this pattern of strengths and weaknesses is as a cognitive or learning style, in fact many dyslexic students themselves experience their dyslexia as a difference in the way they think or learn.

Students with dyslexia can possess the following strengths:

  • Creative and original thinking.
  • Good strategic thinking and problem-solving.
  • Determined and hard-working.
  • Highly motivated.
  • Many have developed their own strategies to overcome some of their difficulties.

Because of their language processing and short-term memory difficulties, dyslexic students rely heavily on meaning and understanding, which requires:

  • A highly personalised approach to learning,
  • A need to have the learning process and conventions made explicit,
  • A need to understand how and why in order to learn.

Many, but not necessarily all, of the following learning styles could apply to dyslexic students:

  • Thinking holistically (all at once) rather than step by step.
  • Needing to see the whole ‘picture’ first before learning the steps or details.
  • Difficulty remembering sequences but not patterns.
  • Good at seeing how lots of things are connected, how things work.
  • Difficulty memorising things except when something is really understood or there is a personal connection.
  • Learning by experience, not from being told.
  • Concrete tactile learning and learning better with the help of colour, humour, stories, images, etc.
  • Difficulty learning or applying rules or generalisations – learning from the particular to the general.
  • Finding it easier to read and write if there is a personal interest in the subject matter.
  • In mathematics, often understand concepts but not calculation processes or mathematical language.

Characteristics Impacting on Teaching and Learning


Reading forms a major part of most curricular activities and if a student has, for instance, half the reading speed of other students, this may put an immense strain on their studies, affecting their ability to remember what has been read. Vocabulary levels may also be poor and so comprehension suffers. Students with dyslexia may experience any or all of the following:

  • Visual stress.
  • Reading overload.
  • Lack of speed with reading.
  • Difficulty summarising.
  • Difficulty sorting and selecting materials for study.
  • A lack of understanding and retention of what has been read.
  • Difficulty extracting the main points from what has been read.
  • Misreading (assignment or examination questions).

Dyslexic students can experience problems with written expression and vocabulary to the point where it affects a tutor’s understanding of their work.


The difficulties experienced by some students with dyslexia might include some or all of the following:

  • Difficulty writing and listening simultaneously.
  • Difficulty making detailed notes and understanding what has been written when reading it back.
  • Difficulty extracting the main points during lectures.

Problems copying quickly and correctly.


Students with dyslexia may experience problems with their written work including some or all of the following:

  • Poorly constructed and slow handwriting interfering with their ability to get ideas down.
  • Difficulty planning and structuring written work.
  • Problems with the transition of ideas.
  • Difficulty relating theory to practice.
  • Poor written expression and/or sentence structure.
  • Difficulty understanding conventions in writing.
  • Difficulty relating abstract to particular.

Problems editing and proof-reading.

Oral Language

Certain difficulties, experienced by students with dyslexia, can be associated with language as well as written work and reading.

Students may experience problems taking in information given orally quickly or accurately enough, misunderstanding instructions or information, assimilating what has been said in a group situation, word-finding problems or with pronunciation of polysyllabic words.

Organisational Skills/Time Management

Some dyslexic students experience short-term memory problems which can affect note-taking, reading, writing and organisation but can also make it difficult to organise their time and meet deadlines.

These difficulties tend to be the ones that are most often ignored and, because of this, dyslexic students can sometimes be judged as being lazy, unmotivated, sloppy or careless.


Many students with dyslexia are mathematically very able; however, some may have difficulties resulting from visual perceptual or short-term/working memory problems. Dyslexic students may also experience some or all of the following mathematical difficulties:

  • Visual problems such as reversals and substitutions.
  • Transcription errors between media.
  • Losing place in multi-step calculations or failing to hold all aspects in mind.
  • Difficulty remembering sign and symbols.
  • Problems remembering formulae and theorems.
  • Difficulty retrieving specialised vocabulary.
  • Difficulty with arithmetic and basic numeracy.
  • Difficulty moving from concrete to abstract.


Potential challenges to the achievement of learning


External resources