“Why me?” is the big question for most dyslexics. But people also want to know if it is something genetic, and if it is something that happens in other writing systems too. We’ll talk about:

● All cultures have people who are dyslexic
● Dyslexia runs in families
● Both boys and girls can be dyslexic
● Clinical or educational psychologists can diagnose dyslexia.


Cultures all over the world have dyslexics. People who read Japanese characters are just as likely to be dyslexic as people who read English, Polish or Arabic.

But the English language has lots of words that don’t follow the spelling or pronunciation rules. That means English-reading dyslexics have a much harder time than people reading Spanish or German, for example.


Because reading is such a new skill for humans, there is no single “reading gene”. That means that there are several genes that can cause dyslexia.

But the different genes that cause dyslexia do run in families. If one of your parents or a brother or sister has trouble reading, you are more likely to be dyslexic, too. If a father is dyslexic, his son has a forty percent chance of being dyslexic — if you had nine brothers, you and three brothers might be dyslexic.

Dyslexia affects adults as well as children. But we don’t hear about adults being dyslexic as much. For a long time, many dyslexics slipped through the cracks. If your parents or grandparents were dyslexic, they learned how to cope with their learning difference on their own. In fact, many adult dyslexics only find out that they have a learning difference as they listen to a teacher explain their child’s diagnosis and realize “That’s how I read!”


Both boys and girls can be dyslexic. But dyslexia is noticed sooner in boys because they tend to act out more when they’re frustrated. Girls tend to withdraw from activities to cope with their learning problems.


Medical doctors can’t diagnose dyslexia, because it isn’t a medical condition. It’s a learning difference.

To get a diagnosis of dyslexia, you need to be tested by a clinical or educational psychologist. Your public school might be able to test you, or they can give you the names of people in your area who can. Or you can go to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Provider Directory web page. https://dyslexiaida.org/provider-directories/ For adult testing, you might find some good information at the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) Adult Testing web page. https://ldaamerica.org/category/adult-testing/?audience=Parents


Cell Press. 2009. “Dyslexia Varies Across Languages.” ScienceDaily. October 13, 2009. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091012121333.htm.

Eide, Brock, and Fernette Eide. 2011. The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.

Helmuth, L. 2001. “NEUROSCIENCE: Dyslexia: Same Brains, Different Languages.”
Science 291 (5511):2064–65. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.291.5511.2064.

The International Dyslexia Association. “Promoting Literacy through Research, Education and Advocacy.” The International Dyslexia Association, November 12, 2001. http://www.interdys.org/FAQWhatIs.htm.

LD Online. “LD OnLine: The World’s Leading Website on Learning Disabilities and ADHD.” Accessed January 21, 2019. http://www.ldonline.org/.

“Learning Disabilities Association of America – Support. Educate. Advocate.” Accessed January 28, 2021. https://ldaamerica.org/.

Reid, Gavin. 2011. Dyslexia: A Complete Guide for Parents and Those Who Help Them. 2nd edition. Chicester: Wiley.

One-Minute World News. 2005. “Scientists Discover Dyslexia Gene.” One-Minute World News. BBC. October 28, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4384414.stm.

Shaywitz. 2003. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. 1st ed. New York: Knopf.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2007. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Harper.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...


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