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How we deal with dyslexia depends on how we define it 

You can deal with Dyslexia by looking at three different levels: biological, cognitive, and behavioural and how they react  with their enviironment environment

Causal Modelling of a Developmental Disorder

What is dyslexia? 

Two boys happily reading

International Dyslexia Association (IDA Definition

The IDA defines dyslexia as: 


a specific learning disability (because it may affect only one area - reading, writing or math)

that is neurobiological in origin (to do with the neuroplasticity of the brain)

It is characterized by difficulties with

  • accurate and/or

  • fluent (fast) word recognition

and by

  • poor spelling and

  • decoding abilities.

These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological  component (sounds) of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities (other cognitive abilities may be good)

and the provision of effective classroom instruction (teaching has been good enough).

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Because they dont read much, vocabulary and general information may be poor.

Take home...

The IDA definition is the most common used in Australia and by Dyslexia Associations.


While this definition acknowledges the biological basis of dyslexia,  and refers to "other cognitive abilities" it focuses exclusively on the remediation of observed behaviour. While teaching using systematic, multisensory and phonological approach (essential and effective for beginning readers) helps many individuals improve in reading, many do not improve.

And here is the problem. 

Dyslexia is defined as being an ongoing reading problem despite effective instruction/ teaching, so unless wave 2 and 3 interventions in schools provide more than explicit instruction, they are not dealing with Dyslexia.

My understanding:


  • those who improve significantly using phonological training alone as above probably had poor reading instruction, an environmental issue,  rather than a specific cognitive level problem.

  • schools have (at least in the past) not considered remediation in "other cognitive abilities"  because the definition tends to assume that they are good.


Hopefully with younger children entering school in South Australia, more emphasis will be given to fun development of the "other cognitive areas" with them.

Another perspective

British Dyslexia Association  Definition

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling (observable behaviour).


Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in

  • phonological awareness,

  • verbal memory and 

  • verbal processing speed.

(more specific cognitive skills)

Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.


Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of

  • language,

  • motor co-ordination,

  • mental calculation,

  • concentration and

  • personal organisation,

but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.


A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well-founded intervention.

In addition to these characteristics, the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) acknowledges the

  • visual and

  • auditory processing

(more general cognitive skills)

difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process.


Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.

BDA (2010)

Take Home...

This definition emphasises that

  • dyslexia is more than reading and writing skills

  • dyslexia is actually about information processing

  • there is a varying combination of abilities and difficulties


This definition includes more aspects of cognitive levels and includes strengths of those with Dyslexia.

It provides a wider basis for support and intervention!!!

And that's what we've been about for at least the past 30 years and more specifically the last 17 years.


Group of cheering people

Dyslexia can best be dealt with by examining what is happening  at three different levels: biological, cognitive, and behavioural, and their interaction with their environment

You can benefit...

We have been on target providing brain training, cognitive and specific support for processing issues to help learners.


We've worked with individuals

  • hesitant to aim for promotion or further study for fear
    of not being able to cope with the reading and paperwork.

  • worried about final years exams

  • just starting school already "behind" their peers,


Whether you are concerned about dyslexia, ADD, ASD, there is  much common neurobiology, so you are wondering whether this is right for you or your child, talk with us. 

On Target
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