What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a term used to define a pattern of specific learning difficulties which are not predicted by age or intelligence. These difficulties are thought to be genetic in origin, and affect the acquisition of reading and spelling.

Dyslexia affects the individual throughout the life-span, but its manifestations change with age, and may be disguised by the use of effective coping strategies. The brain functioning of dyslexic people is physiologically different from that of a non-dyslexic person.

People with dyslexia are often highly intelligent, creative and successful. Famous people who have had symptoms of dyslexia include: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Christian Anderson, Winston Churchill and Richard Branson.

One of the difficulties of diagnosing dyslexia at College is that by this stage of study, individuals have usually compensated for basic spelling and reading difficulties. Often, performance will be inconsistent from day to day and no two people with dyslexia will have exactly the same profile. However, a number of the following signs may still be evident:


  • This may be slow and require great effort. There may be visual disturbance or physical discomfort, especially when reading black print from a white page, or when using a computer screen (scotopic sensitivity)
  • Reading may be inaccurate. Words or lines may be missed completely, or words may be misread
  • Reading aloud in front of other people is often extremely embarrassing for a person with dyslexia
  • A text may have to be re-read many times, before the meaning becomes clear.


  • Handwritten work may contain many errors, and a great deal of crossing out
  • Work corrected using spell check facilities or voice recognition software may contain inappropriate words or incorrect homophones. These mistakes may make meaning unclear, or give incorrect information: humorous fractures, fungus pours (pores)
  • Spelling may be phonetically accurate, but contain visual errors: practicle, ocuppy
  • In words, letters may be omitted: intial, or reversed: specailise.


  • Starting an assignment may take a long time
  • There may be a wide discrepancy between verbal and written communication. Students may not use a sophisticated vocabulary in written work because of spelling and/or reading difficulties
  • Sentences may be poorly constructed, ideas may be muddled within paragraphs, and the whole piece may lack structure
  • The student may lose focus, and digress from the question
  • Handwriting may be illegible. There may be irregularities of letter size or slant, letters may have been corrected by overwriting, and inappropriate case may have been used. Sometimes immature printing may be used as a coping strategy, if there has been difficulty writing cursively because of poor motor control
  • Small words, or the ends of longer words, may be missed out
  • Students may be unable to proofread their work.

Other symptoms of dyslexia

  • There may be difficulties with personal organisation
  • Appointments and deadlines may not be kept
  • Processing speed may be slow
  • There may be difficulties with short term memory: remembering people's names, telephone numbers and messages
  • Orientation may be a problem: reading maps, left/right confusion, getting lost easily, being unable to give or follow directions
  • Some students may panic at the thought of using a library, and locating information in books and journals.
  • Students may be easily distracted by background noise or visual clutter
  • It may be difficult to remember different pieces of information simultaneously. (This may lead to difficulties with multiple choice examinations questions).

What to do
If you have already been diagnosed as having dyslexia:

Notify us as soon as possible that you have dyslexia.
Provide us with a psychological assessment that has been completed using the adult scale (usually this means at the age of 16, or above).  If you wish to be granted special examination arrangements, including extra time, it is important that you do this so that your Disability Adviser can send your tutor a copy as soon as possible after you start your course.