Main Content


Condition Basics

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder in reading. It means a person has difficulty reading, recognizing, and understanding words.

Having dyslexia doesn't mean that your or your child's ability to learn is the problem. It means that you learn in a different way. Not being able to read easily can make many areas of learning harder.

What causes it?

Experts don't know for sure what causes dyslexia. But it often runs in families. Learning issues can also develop after a brain injury.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of dyslexia in children too young for school include talking later than expected or being slow to learn new words. After a child starts school, symptoms include trouble reading single words, confusing small words, and trouble understanding what they read.

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor or school professional will ask you and your child's teachers what signs of dyslexia you've noticed. An educational evaluation can be done through your school. Another option is to have a psychologist do an assessment to look at how your child thinks and learns. This can happen through your school, at a health clinic, or in the community.

How is dyslexia treated?

There is no cure for a specific learning disorder, but there are many ways to support your child to improve their skills.

The first step is to talk with your school to find the areas that are difficult for your child. An assessment by a psychologist can look at how your child learns, which can help in creating a learning plan for your child’s needs.

Other ways to support your child’s interest and enjoyment in reading include using audiobooks and graphic novels and reading with your child. Text-to-speech applications on tablets or computers can also support learning.


Symptoms of dyslexia may include:

  • Difficulty reading or sounding out words.
  • Having a hard time with spelling or writing.
  • Reading slower than what is expected at your child's age.
  • Difficulty remembering number facts.

After a child starts school, the symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Problems reading single words, such as a word on a flash card.
  • Trouble sounding out words.
  • Understanding better if someone reads to them, rather than reading the material themself.
  • Having to read something many times to understand it.
  • Losing their place when they read or skipping words.
  • Problems linking letters with sounds.
  • Confusing small words, such as "at" and "to."

Symptoms usually start while the child is school-aged. And the symptoms are not caused by other things like vision problems or other conditions.

If your child has one of these symptoms, it doesn't mean that your child has dyslexia. But if your child has several symptoms and reading problems, or if you have a family history of dyslexia, you may want to have your child checked.

Learn more

When to Call a Doctor

If your child struggles with language, reading, and sounding out words, you may want to have your child checked for dyslexia. You can also speak with your child's pediatrician, teacher, school psychologist, or school counsellor if you believe your child's reading or other language skills are not advancing compared to other children their age.

If you have dyslexia and are concerned that your child may have some of the signs of dyslexia, you may want to talk to your doctor or to school staff. Your child is at increased risk for having the condition.

Treatment Overview

Treatment involves a number of teaching methods to help your child read better. These include:

  • Teaching how letters are linked to sounds to make words.
  • Having the child read aloud to a teacher or classroom aide.
  • Teaching the child to listen to and repeat instructions.

Provincial laws may require schools to set up a learning plan to meet the needs of a child with dyslexia. An example of this is an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP may also be called an Individualized Program Plan (IPP). You, your child's teachers, and other school personnel will have a say in designing the plan. The plan is updated each year based on how well your child is doing and what your child's needs are.

Medicines and counselling usually aren't a part of treatment for dyslexia.

Dyslexia will never fully go away, but early treatment during childhood can help. Support from family, teachers, and friends is also important.

Helping Your Child

Children who have dyslexia may need emotional support for the many challenges they face. Here is a list of ways parents can offer encouragement.

  • Learn about dyslexia.

    Learning more can help you better understand and help your child.

  • Recognize and teach to your child's areas of strength.

    For example, if your child understands more when listening, let your child learn new information by listening to an audiobook. If you can, follow up with the same story in written form.

  • Teach your child to keep trying.

    There may be things your child will struggle with. Help your child understand that struggles can lead to success.

  • Help your child learn how to cope with school.

    Your child may need to learn how to manage their schedule, organize work, and complete multiple assignments and long-term projects.

  • Consider counselling if your child needs more support.

    If you think your child has self-esteem problems related to dyslexia, counselling may help.

Helping your child develop reading skills

You can be a positive force in your child's education. Following is a list of ways parents can help their young children who have dyslexia develop reading skills.

  • Read to your child.

    Find time to read to your child every day. Point to the words as you read. Draw attention to words that you run across in daily life, such as traffic signs, billboards, notices, and labels.

  • Be a good reading role model.

    Show your child how important reading is to daily life. Make books, magazines, and other reading materials available for your child to explore and enjoy independently.

  • Focus on the sounds (phonemes) within words.

    Play rhyming games, sing songs that emphasize rhyme and alliteration, play word games, sound out letters, and point out similarities in words.

  • Work on spelling.

    Point out new words, play spelling games, and encourage your child to write.

  • Help with time and planning.

    Hang up simple charts, clocks, and calendars, so your child can visualize time and plan for the future.

  • Share in the joy of reading.

    Find books that your child can read but that you will also enjoy. Sit together, take turns reading, and encourage discussion. Revisiting words that cause trouble for your child and rereading stories are powerful tools to reinforce learning.

Learn more


Adaptation Date: 7/17/2023

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.