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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is the capacity to process information differently, enabling innovative thought and perception. It is characterised by a visual and experiential learning style and cognitive diversity. Teaching methods that utilise this learning style allow people with dyslexia to realise their potential.

What is Reading?

Reading is an active and interactive process of constructing meaning. The process is both complex and dynamic and includes:

  • the integration of the three language cueing systems (graphophonic, semantic and syntactic)
  • knowledge of the linguistic system
  • the application of skills and strategies
  • understanding the situational context and constraints of the reading event.

Current research indicates:

  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Survey of Literacy:

Just over half (54%) of Australians aged 15 to 74 years were assessed as having the prose literacy skills needed to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work. Results were similar for document literacy with 53% and numeracy with 47% achieving this level.

Approximately 17% (2.5 million) of people were assessed at the lowest prose literacy while 18% (2.7 million) were assessed at the lowest document literacy level.

Australian Bureau of Statistics: Media Release Australia's literacy and life skills:  ABS

It is unknown how many of these people are dyslexic.

30% of the population strongly uses visual (picture) thinking, 25% think verbally (words) and 45% uses both visual and verbal.

Dyslexics tend to be visual thinkers, however a few will be visual/verbal which means their visual learning style is resistant to phonics based reading strategies.

The Dyslexia Association states: A dyslexic individual can be successful BECAUSE of their abilities not "in spite" of. A dyslexic may struggle to succeed BECAUSE of their negative experiences in the learning environment not because of dyslexia.
Dyslexic individuals have different talents or strengths – no one is the same.

Alternate Labels

There are many other labels that are used in place of Dyslexia. Because the symptoms can overlap a particular symptom may be labeled (indentified) instead of the actual cause - Dyslexia.

Some of these are:

  • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Language Based Disorders
  • Non-specific Learning disability
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Poor Short Term Memory
  • Poor Working Memory
  • Reading Disability
  • Visual Motor Deficient
  • Visual/Perceptual Processing Disorder
  • Irlen or Scotopic Syndrome
  • Dysphonetia (Dysphonetic)
  • Dyseidesia (Dyseidesic)

Identifying or Testing for Dyslexia

Identifying Dyslexia can be tricky.  The Dyslexia Association believes that an accurate measuring tool has not been created to identify Dyslexia.  This leaves many people mislabeled which may misdirects the individual to inappropriate help.  Dyslexia symptoms can be mild to severe and no individual will experience the same symptoms. The most consistent thing about dyslexia is the inconsistency – one day the symptom(s) is present the next it is not. 

There is no cure for dyslexia since it is a thinking or learning style not a disease; however Dyslexics can correct their reading problem when given the correct reading method.

Options Available for Dyslexia Testing or Assessment

On-line or pre-screening/profiling

These types of assessments are not intended to be a conclusive diagnosis of dyslexia but may guide a parent to resources, specialist help or a full educational assessment.

The Dyslexia Association provides this services for free - there is no need to pay membership fees to access this service. Click here for free on-line assessment

Sometimes an on-line assessment is the only way a parent can start to find answers.

Dyslexia Screening Test or Assessment

This is not a diagnostic tool but rather a profile that indicates if dyslexia could be present or an "at risk" assessment.

A professional, such as an Educational Consultant, must have a background in education (teacher) with experience in the field of special education and have their qualifications approved by an independent authority (not an Association) before they can have access to the Dyslexia Screening Test.

Contact the Dyslexia Association for a referral to an Educational Consultant that has been qualified by an independent authority with specific knowledge in their area of expertise - Dyslexia. Click here to book.

School Counsellor

If you ask your school to test your child for dyslexia, they may tell you that dyslexia is a medical issue, and that only a doctor can test for it. The school counsellor can do an IQ test and a reading test, but they cannot diagnose dyslexia. Testing done by the school system is free, but as you know, most schools do not test children for dyslexia. That means a parent will have to hire a professional to do the testing.


Doctors do not test children for reading, writing, and spelling issues because those are not considered medical issues. They are educational issues. So a doctor will probably refer you back to the school or to an educational psychologist.

By the way, since dyslexia is not considered a medical issue, testing for it is not covered by medical insurance. Nor will the school pay for it because schools are not required by law to test children for dyslexia.

A parent should be prepared to pay for the testing themselves.

Educational Psychologist

An Educational Psychologist can provide a full education assessment on request. This sort of assessment generally will give an indication of a person's weaknesses and strengths.

Depending on the psychologist, the state you live in and the type of assessment, you may find that there is a preference to use other labels to describe the symptoms of dyslexia. Some specialists break down and label the symptoms, rather than gather the symptoms under one label - dyslexia.

We recommend an Educational Psychologist should your child require special accommodations for year 11 and 12, or if you are concerned about possible workplace discrimination.

Please note: The above is offered as a guide. It is not intended to be definitive. An Association can not "certify" or determine an individual to be qualified in assessing or testing for dyslexia. An Association can set criteria to meet for their acceptance into their Association. The Dyslexia Association criteria requires an Educational Consultant or psychologist to meet the standards set by the independent authority in their area of expertise.

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