United Kingdom

There appear to be many differing definitions of dyslexia within Britain, and it seems that there are as many characterisations of dyslexia as there are bodies characterising it. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS):

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. But unlike a “learning disability”, intelligence isn’t affected.

According to The Rose Report, which has been generally adopted by the British education system, dyslexia can be characterised as:

Difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

The British Psychological Society uses the following definition:

Accurate and fluent word reading and / or spelling develops incompletely or with very great difficulty.

According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA):

Dyslexia is a “neurological difference and can have a significant impact during education, in the workplace and in everyday life”. Everybody’s experience of dyslexia is different, because everybody is different. And dyslexia can range “from mild to severe”, and can “co-occur with other learning differences”.

It usually runs in families, and is described as a “life-long condition”.

The BDA then says that dyslexia is not a learning disability or even a learning difficulty; it is a learning “difference” which “primarily affects reading and writing skills”. However, dyslexia is “actually about information processing. Dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, which can affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia can also impact on other areas such as organisational skills”.

It is important to remember that there are positives to thinking differently, the BDA says. Many dyslexic people show strengths “in areas such as reasoning and in visual and creative fields”.

The BDA also records that:

>>In 2009, Sir Jim Rose’s report on ‘Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties’ gave the following definition of dyslexia:

  • ➼ Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
  • ➼ Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
  • ➼ 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 BDA acknowledges the visual and auditory processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that may affect their learning and interaction with the workplace.

The NHS says that up to 10% of the UK has some degree of dyslexia. Similarly, according to the British Dyslexia Association, the number of individuals with dyslexia in the UK has traditionally been placed around 10%, with 4% of the population at the severe end of the dyslexia continuum. More recently however the BDA has stated that it believes 15% of the population may be dyslexic.

Of course, the United Kingdom also consists in four separate nations, each with their own definitions. For instance, Dyslexia Scotland recognises that finding one single definition of dyslexia can be “challenging”, and gives its own definition as:

A continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and / or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual’s cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.

Dyslexia Scotland lists the following as central to their definition of dyslexia:

👉 Auditory processing of language-based information
👉 Visual processing of language-based information
👉 Phonological awareness
👉 Oral language skills and reading fluency
👉 Short-term and working memory
👉 Sequencing and directionality
👉 Number skills
👉 Organisational ability

See for instance: