Dyslexia is not laziness. How to cope with it, and what is the upside?

Dyslexia is not laziness. How to cope with it, and what is the upside?

“Ohh, my spoken words just... don’t do as I wish,” young Albert sighed unhappily. The others had long since learned to read fluently, but when challenged to read aloud at school, he stuttered and blushed.

Dyslexia — what is it?

You’ve probably come across the term ‘dyslexia’ by now. Up to ten percent of the population suffers from a mild form of the condition. Dyslexia belongs to the group of “specific learning disabilities”. It’s something that makes learning extra challenging, creating problems with reading. Frequent mistakes, a slower reading pace, and fatigue arise when reading, or there’s an inability for the person to understand what they are actually reading. This often goes hand-in-hand with difficulties in written expression. 

It is not, as many people think, only related to reading aloud. Dyslexia can also be a problem when reading quietly to oneself. People with dyslexia read slowly, and transpose (mix up) words, letters, and/or phrases... They can even miss-out on certain words. This can mean failing to understand what they’ve just read. And here’s the catch: people need to read all the time in daily life. As soon as we start school, reading becomes an everyday thing. We read when we need to learn something, when we want to get somewhere, when we shop, when we engage in activities. We regularly communicate with family, friends, classmates, and eventually colleagues, through emails and text messages. 

Isn’t it just laziness or lack of trying hard enough?

Dyslexia is often downplayed. Some people see it as laziness or even stupidity. However, dyslexia is not related to one’s level of intelligence, not at all. It can just take longer to read textbooks and even our own notes. Through societal pressure, this can lead to low self-esteem and a dislike of learning or of school itself. 

Does my child have it or not?

Suspected dyslexia usually arises once a child starts going to school and learning to read. If they are struggling despite applying effort, dyslexia could be considered a possible cause. The diagnosis is usually made in the second year of school. Waiting until the age of eight is recommended because by that time, visual and auditory perception should have matured. Certain warning signs can be observed earlier, though, such as delayed speech development or other speech difficulties, a limited vocabulary, difficulty in distinguishing between similar words or pictures... However, none of this necessarily indicates the presence of dyslexia. 

What action should be taken if dyslexia is suspected?

In the first instance, the best thing to do is to consult a teacher, a special-ed professional, or the school psychologist. Next, you could make an appointment at a pedagogical-psychological counselling centre or visit a specialised practitioner. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis and make recommendations as to the appropriate approach for the particular child. It is equally important for parents or guardians to find the best ways to help with the learning process and remove the frustration factor. 

What are some ways to help a dyslexic child?

  • Do not insist on speed. Take things step by step, don’t rush. Aim for a relaxed atmosphere and eliminate outside distractions (TV, noisy household members...).
  • Practise in short stretches. Use simple texts in an enlarged font, pointing at the words as you go along, and using a straightedge or a reading window to identify the line that is being read. Initially, it’s enough for the child to read for three minutes and then talk about the text they’ve  read. Afterwards, they can decide if they want to continue for another three minutes or to talk more about the text.
  • Praise, praise, praise. And don’t compare. It’s likely that other kids you know can read faster, but your child certainly has other strengths. Why knock their self-esteem unnecessarily?
  • Read together. You yourself can read for a bit, then have the child read, taking turns. After that, you can both talk about what you have read.
  • Choose appealing themes and engaging forms. Children tend to like comic strips. More experienced readers can try Readmio, where their reading is accompanied by related sounds here and there, triggered by their voice. This is stimulating and can help them get the words right and move steadily along. Some children also find it exciting to collect badges for the stories they’ve read. And why not try the quiz at the end of the story?
  • Balance the ‘failures’. Identify activities that your child will excel at and provide opportunities for doing those. Look for natural situations in which to praise them — such as when they spontaneously read a shop sign or a licence plate, decipher the name of the bus stop in a timetable, ... Don’t forget to remind them that they have just managed to read the word(s) and will surely continue to do so.
  • Incorporate the child’s strengths into the learning process. They may be weaker in reading, but how about trying some mind maps, images, or films? Creativity has no limit.
  • Don’t shy away from the topic of dyslexia. You needn’t be afraid to explain to your child why they are not so great at reading. Describe what dyslexia is and stress that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. At the same time, they need to know that it’s not an excuse to avoid reading or speaking, and that it doesn’t mean they are unable to learn.

Does having dyslexia only spell trouble?

No way! At first, it might seem that the “dyslexia” label is something bad. But once you understand the condition holistically, you will see that although it’s ‘different’, it’s far from negative. Many dyslexics have higher levels of creativity, visualisation, and holistic thinking skills. Dyslexics often excel at thinking in the form of pictures and coming up with solutions that non-dyslexics wouldn’t think of. This may be related to the fact that they have to develop creative abilities at an early age in order to find solutions to learning, since they cannot read text in the traditional way. They are good at thinking in different contexts and, last but not least, they are persistent and resilient to pressure. They are, in short, used to working hard to get where others are. For many dyslexics, if they fail at one thing, they succeed all the more elsewhere. Which brings us back to our opening story...

The year is 1921. Albert, who many of his teachers had thought lazy, is blushing again. But this time it’s only because he’s collecting a prize — the Nobel Prize in Physics. Yet, it is ‘merely’ being awarded for his explanation of the photoelectric effect and for his contribution to the development of theoretical physics. His theory of general relativity was already so advanced by then that even leading scientists had not been able to grasp it. Albert Einstein’s story is just one of many that prove that dyslexia has an extremely positive side.

Jane Draber

Is a psychologist specializing in working with children and adolescents. In addition to psychology, she also studied pedagogy. For seven years she has worked in a psycho-pedagogical counseling center. Currently, she devotes herself to psychological work mainly within her private practice.


Download Readmio

  • Join more than 400 000 happy parents
  • Build a healthy habit of reading to kids every day
  • Start by reading free stories that are included
  • Unlock all 300+ stories, new tales are added every week
Try for Free

Available for iOS, Android and Web


4.8/5 · 4,5k ratings