The New Definition of Dyslexia

Published on 20 June 2024 at 13:32

The New Definition of Dyslexia

Dyslexia has long been a subject of extensive research and debate among educators, psychologists and healthcare professionals. Recently, SASC’s research has brought forward a refined definition of dyslexia, which provides a clearer understanding of this learning difference. Here at Music Dyslexia, we recognise the significance of this updated definition and its implications for the diagnosis and receiving the right support for individuals with dyslexia. That is why, in this blog, we will delve into the new definition of dyslexia, explore its nature, causes, signs and traits, diagnostic procedures and possible support therapies to help those with this condition.


New Definition of Dyslexia

SASC’s new definition, following The Delphi study conducted by Professor Junia Carroll and her colleagues, offers a comprehensive and updated definition of dyslexia. In the new definition Dyslexia is described as a set of processing difficulties primarily affecting the acquisition of reading and spelling skills in individuals. It acknowledges that literacy attainment in people with dyslexia is often weak relative to their age, standard instruction and other cognitive attainments. Key markers of dyslexia include difficulties in reading and spelling fluency across various languages and age groups.

This definition highlights the multifaceted nature of dyslexia, influenced by genetic and environmental factors and recognises its continuum, with varying degrees of severity.

Nature Of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is fundamentally a neurodevelopmental condition rooted in the brain's processing systems. It is characterised by difficulties in phonological processing, which includes phonological awareness, processing speed and memory. However, these issues do not entirely account for the variation observed in dyslexia. Additional cognitive challenges can also manifest in dyslexia, including working memory deficits, poor orthographic skills and problems converting sound into information. How it will manifest and its severity in an individual are influenced completely by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. This is a key part of the research conducted by Music Dyslexia, where music is studied as an environmental factor that influences how dyslexia manifests. Please see our research page for more information.

Causes Of Dyslexia While the exact causes of dyslexia remain unknown, recent research has identified several contributing factors, such as:

  1. Genetic And Hereditary Factors: Dyslexia often runs in families, with approximately 40% of siblings and 49% of parents of individuals with dyslexia also experiencing reading difficulties. Scientists have identified anomalies in specific genes that are associated with language processing ability, which indicates the hereditary nature of dyslexia.
  2. Brain Anatomy and Activity: Brain imaging studies reveal structural and functional differences in the brains of individuals with dyslexia. These differences are primarily observed in regions responsible for key reading skills, such as phonological processing and visual word recognition. However, brain activity can change with appropriate instruction due to the neuroplasticity of the brain.

Signs And Traits

Dyslexia presents a wide range of signs and traits, which can vary significantly among individuals. These signs commonly include:

1. Issues In Decoding and Phonemic Awareness

One of the most common traits observed in dyslexia is trouble decoding words, which requires matching letters to sounds. Difficulties with phonemic awareness (recognising sounds within words) can also be noticed during the preschool years.

2. Complex Skills

Often, the signs of dyslexia can be so subtle that some individuals may not be diagnosed until they encounter issues with complex reading and writing tasks, such as grammar, reading comprehension and sentence structure.

3. Emotional And Behavioural Indicators

Dyslexia can also impact emotions and behaviour in individuals. They might avoid reading, experience anxiety or frustration when reading and even struggle with self-esteem due to their reading difficulties.

4. Everyday Skills

Beyond academic challenges, dyslexia can also affect an individual’s everyday activities. People with dyslexia may experience challenges in social interaction, memory and stress management.

How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

A definitive diagnosis of dyslexia requires a comprehensive evaluation, typically conducted by SpLD Assessors or Educational Psychologists. During these assessments, an individual goes through a series of tests aimed at identifying their specific challenges and strengths in information processing. Here at Music Dyslexia, we have specialist assessors who can diagnose dyslexia and provide the right support.

Note: Getting a diagnosis for dyslexia is crucial for accessing support services in schools and workplaces.

Possible Support Therapies

Support therapies for dyslexia are tailored to address the specific needs of each individual. Structured literacy programmes, which provide explicit, systematic instruction in phonics, are often effective. These programmes focus on building foundational skills in phonological awareness, decoding and spelling. Additionally, support for working memory, processing speed and orthographic skills can also help to manage the impact of dyslexia. However, early diagnosis and intervention are crucial in order to develop effective coping strategies and help individuals with dyslexia achieve their full potential.

Here at Music Dyslexia, we incorporate music into dyslexia tuition, which is an innovative approach to supporting literacy development in dyslexic individuals. Music therapy has been proven to improve auditory processing, rhythm perception and memory, providing a holistic complement to traditional literacy interventions.


The updated definition of dyslexia by SASC provides a detailed understanding of this complex condition. Dyslexia primarily manifests a set of processing difficulties affecting reading and spelling acquisition, influenced by genetic and environmental factors. We hope this blog helps individuals suffering from similar conditions recognise the signs and symptoms, understand the causes and take the necessary actions.

Music Dyslexia: Assisting People with Dyslexia in the UK

Here at Music Dyslexia, I, Alicia Johnson, with my extensive experience in special educational needs, am committed to providing innovative therapies that support individuals with dyslexia in achieving their literacy goals and enhancing their overall well-being. Call me today for a dyslexia assessment or support therapies.

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