According to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization:

“A good way to understand dyslexia is to establish what it is not. It is not a sign of low intelligence or laziness. It is also not due to poor vision. Dyslexia is a common condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language.

“Dyslexia is primarily associated with trouble in reading. Some doctors, specialists and educators may refer to it as a ‘reading disorder’ or a ‘reading disability’. However, it can also affect writing, spelling and speaking”.

Interestingly, UNESCO then says that dyslexia is “a neurological condition that does not allow a child to develop a ‘reading brain’”.

It is not usually an isolated disorder, however, according to the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development. Co-occuring conditions could include:

  • ADHD and Dyslexia: According to United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), children with Dyslexia, more often than not, suffer from ADHD. Roughly one third of the children with ADHD have learning differences to a certain degree. In fact, some kids may get misdiagnosed with only ADHD that masks their mild/moderate dyslexic condition. This can also be because children act up and get frustrated to cover up for their difficulties in learning. This may lead a teacher or guardian to assume the child has ADHD. ADHD can make it difficult to stay focused during reading and other activities.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder: It affects the child’s ability to sort through the sounds they hear. They may struggle to understand what they are hearing. Reading can also be tough for them. Children with auditory processing disorder often have trouble recognizing the difference between letters like b and d and sounding out new words.
  • Visual Processing issues can make it hard to see the difference between letters or shapes. Kids with visual processing issues may complain of blurry vision or of letters “hopping around on the page.” They may try to compensate by squinting or closing one eye. They often reverse letters when writing and struggle to stay within the lines.
  • Dysgraphia can affect childrens ability ‘to write and spell. It can also make it hard to organize their thoughts on paper. Many kids with dysgraphia also have dyslexia.
  • Dyscalculia makes it hard to do math. Many kids have serious difficulties in both reading and math and may have dyscalculia in addition to dyslexia.  Trouble learning to count is associated with both conditions. However, there are essential differences in dyscalculia and dyslexia in math. They are further explained in the Dyscalculia section.
  • Executive functioning issues can affect children’s ability to organize and stay focused on a particular task. Kids with weak executive functioning skills may struggle with reading comprehension.

It is often difficult to measure national levels of dyslexia where literacy rates vary for educational and cultural, rather than cognitive, reasons. UNESCO has produced many figures on world literacy rates, some of which can be seen below.


Between the 3rd and 5th February, 2010, “Dyslexia International” (comprising bodies from Australia, Macao, China, and the United Kingdom was part of the organisation of the World Dyslexia Forum at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (France).

See for instance: