The International Dyslexia Association
The International Dyslexia Association The Houston Brach

The International Dyslexia Association

What is dyslexia?
What are the FAQs about dyslexia?
What is the Texas dyslexia law?
What organizations provide help and information?
Which websites are reliable and informative?
Which books are recommended reading?
What help is available through HBIDA’s helpline?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

What are the signs of dyslexia?
Are there some other related learning disorders?
How does a person get dyslexia?
Can individuals who are dyslexic learn to read?
How common are language-based learning disabilities?
Is Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD) a learning disability?
How do I get an educational evaluation (testing) for my child?
What type of testing is done to diagnose dyslexia?
Are there other laws besides IDEA to protect students with learning disabilities?
What kind of instruction does my child need?
Where can I find Orton-Gillingham-based instruction?
What is assistive technology?
Where can I find IDA FACT SHEETS on dyslexia and related language-based language differences?

Q: What are the signs of dyslexia?
A: Individuals with dyslexia usually have some of the following characteristics.

As many as one in five students have dyslexia. Undiagnosed or without special instruction, dyslexia can lead to frustration, school failure, and low self-esteem. The common myths about dyslexia are that dyslexics read backwards and reverse words and letters. While these characteristics may be part of the problem with some individuals, they are NOT the most common or important attributes.

Dyslexia is not a disease! The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means poor language. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble with reading, writing, spelling, and/or math although they have the ability and have had the opportunities to learn. Individuals with dyslexia can learn; they just learn in a different way. Often these individuals, who have talented and productive minds, are said to have a language learning difference.

Individuals with dyslexia usually have some of the following characteristics:

Difficulty with oral language

  • Late in learning to talk
  • Difficulty pronouncing words
  • Difficulty acquiring vocabulary or using age-appropriate grammar
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Confusion with before/after, right/left, and so on
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet, nursery rhymes, or songs
  • Difficulty understanding concepts and relationships
  • Difficulty with word retrieval or naming problems

Difficulty with reading

  • Difficulty learning to read
  • Difficulty identifying or generating rhyming words or counting syllables in words (Phonological Awareness)
  • Difficulty with hearing and manipulating sounds in words (Phonemic Awareness)
  • Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words (Auditory Discrimination)
  • Difficulty in learning the sounds of letters
  • Difficulty remembering names and/or the order of letters when reading
  • Reverses letters or the order of letters when reading
  • Misreads or omits common little words
  • Stumbles through longer words
  • Poor reading comprehension during oral or silent reading
  • Slow, laborious oral reading

Difficulty with written language

  • Difficulty putting ideas on paper
  • Many spelling mistakes
  • May do well on weekly spelling tests, but there are many spelling mistakes in daily work
  • Difficulty in proofreading

Everyone can probably check one or two of these characteristics. That does not mean that everyone has dyslexia. A person with dyslexia usually has several of these characteristics, which persist over time and interfere with his or her learning. If your child is having difficulty learning to read and you have noted several of these characteristics in your child, he or she need may need to be evaluated for dyslexia and/or a related disorder.

Copyright 2003, The International Dyslexia Association, Fact Sheet #63 – 01/03


Q: Are there some other related learning disorders?
A: Yes.

Difficulty with handwriting (Dysgraphia)

  • Unsure of right or left handedness
  • Poor or slow handwriting
  • Messy and unorganized papers
  • Difficulty copying
  • Poor fine motor skills

Difficulty with math (Dyscalculia)

  • Difficulty counting accurately
  • May reverse numbers
  • Difficulty memorizing math facts
  • Difficulty copying math problems and organizing written work
  • Many calculation errors
  • Difficulty retaining math vocabulary and/or concepts

Difficulty with attention (ADD/ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

  • Inattention
  • Attention varies
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Over-activity

Difficulty with motor skills (Dyspraxia)

  • Difficulty planning and coordinating body movements
  • Difficulty coordinating muscles to produce sounds

Difficulty with organization

  • Loses papers
  • Poor sense of time
  • Forgets homework
  • Messy desk
  • Overwhelmed by too much
  • Works slowly
  • Things are out of sight out of mind


  • Difficulty naming colors, objects, and letters (rapid naming)
  • Memory problems
  • Needs to see or hear concepts many times in order to learn them
  • Distracted by visual stimuli
  • Downward trend in achievement test scores or school performance
  • Work in school is inconsistent
  • Teacher says, "If only she would try harder," or "He's lazy."
  • Relatives may have similar problems

From: Dealing with Dyslexia, HBODS copyright 1994, By Suzanne Carreker, M.S., CALT-QI, Vice President of Program Development, Neuhaus Education Center, Past President, HBIDA


Q: How does a person get dyslexia?
A: The causes for dyslexia are neurobiological and genetic. 

Individuals inherit the genetic links for dyslexia. Chances are that one of the child's parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles is dyslexic.


Q: Can individuals who are dyslexic learn to read?
A: Yes!

If children who are dyslexic get effective phonological training in Kindergarten and 1st grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until 3rd grade.

74% of the children who are poor readers in 3rd grade remain poor readers in the 9th grade. Often they can't read well as adults either.

It is never too late for individuals with dyslexia to learn to read, process and express information more efficiently. Research shows that programs utilizing multisensory structured language techniques can help children and adults learn to read.

With proper diagnosis, appropriate instruction, hard work and support from family, teachers, friends, and others, individuals who are dyslexic can succeed in school and later as working adults.


Q: How common are language-based learning disabilities?
A: 15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability.

Of the students with specific learning disabilities receiving special education services, 70-80% have deficits in reading.
Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.

Dyslexia affects males and females nearly equally, and people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds as well.


Q: Is Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD) a learning disability?
A: No, they are behavioral disorders.

An individual can have more than one learning or behavioral disability. In various studies as many as 50% of those diagnosed with a learning or reading difference have also been diagnosed with ADHD.

Although disabilities may co-occur, one is not the cause of the other.


Q: How do I get an educational evaluation (testing) for my child?
A: You may request testing from the school district where your child is zoned or you may have your child or yourself tested privately by a qualified professional.

Under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004), you may request free testing for learning disabilities or dyslexia from your child’s public school. Your child’s teacher should be able to tell you about the procedure to follow for your school district.  All requests should be in the form of a written letter and directed to the principal stating your concerns and requesting a full and complete educational battery of tests. Federal law, states that testing must be completed within 60 days after the consent for testing has been signed by the parents.

Under the Child Find Law, children in private school are entitled to free educational evaluations. Go to the public school to which your child is zoned to learn where to direct your written request.

You may prefer to have your child or yourself tested privately by an educational diagnostician or other qualified professional.  For a referral in the Houston area, please call HBIDA’s Helpline at 832-282-7154. 

HBIDA offers a limited number of scholarships to families with financial need who are unable to get testing for their child’s dyslexia.  Scholarships are limited to children ages 3-17.  Call HBIDA’s Helpline at 832-282-7154 for information on these Nancy LaFevers Ambroze Scholarships.

For more information on federal law on IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), go to


Q: What type of testing is done to diagnose dyslexia?
A:  Several different tests are used to make a diagnosis.

A complete education battery of tests should include the following:

Testing of intelligence (IQ) to determine:

  • your child’s overall learning ability

Testing of reading to determine:

  • word reading skills
  • reading vocabulary
  • reading comprehension – oral and silent
  • phonological processing skills
  • phonemic awareness skills
  • rapid, automatic naming skills

Testing of writing to determine:

  • understanding of sentence and paragraph structure
  • level of mechanics – spelling, grammar, handwriting
  • measure of content/ideas

Testing of oral language to determine:

  • auditory processing and comprehension
  • expressive language skills
  • linguistic awareness skills

Testing of math to determine:

  • basic computation skills
  • basic concept understanding
  • reasoning skills and application of skills


Q: Are there other laws besides IDEA to protect students with learning disabilities?
A: Yes, Section 504.

Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs that receive federal assistance. Section 504 states that a person cannot be discriminated against for a disability that “substantially affects a major life activity," which includes learning.  This law does not provide for remediation for learning disabilities, but may provide accommodations and modifications to eligible students in public school districts and also colleges that accept federal assistance. 

For information on the differences between IDEA and Section 504, go to


Q: What kind of instruction does my child need?
A:  Individuals with dyslexia need an effective evidence-based, structured, sequential, multisensory language program.

Proper instruction promotes reading success and alleviates many difficulties associated with the disorders. Instruction for individuals with learning differences should include the following descriptions included in the Texas Dyslexia Handbook

[19 TAC §74.28(c)].

Individuals diagnosed with dyslexia need an effective evidence-based, structured, sequential, multisensory language program (MSL) that includes the principles and characteristics of an Orton-Gillingham-based curriculum.  It should provide instruction in phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, letter recognition, beginning and advanced decoding skills, spelling, reading fluency, comprehension, handwriting, vocabulary development, oral expression, written composition, and strategies for learning.


Q: Where can I find Orton-Gillingham-based instruction?
A: The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) provides information through its referral line.  It supports the work of several organizations that accredit practitioners of Orton-Gillingham curriculums.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) works to provide information to the public about informed, evidence-based reading instruction and professional development for teacher and intervention specialists (i.e., dyslexia specialists, reading specialists, reading therapists.)

IDA supports the work of The Alliance for Accreditation and Certification of Structured Language Education (The Alliance, which includes The International Dyslexia Association (IDA, the Academic Language Association (ALTA, and the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC,, and also The Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, (AOGPE,

Some of these programs provide referral services and information. For information on programs and local centers affiliated with The Alliance, call HBIDA’s Helpline at 832-282-7154.


Q: What is assistive technology?
A: Assistive technology is equipment that enhances an individual’s ability to communicate.

The world of technology can open up a variety of possibilities to the individual with language processing differences. These so-called "assistive technologies" are changing the world of individuals with dyslexia...much like "spell checkers" changed the way the business world communicates. New software, CD-ROMs, scanners, speech synthesizers, highlighters, speech-to-text printouts, and other equipment can enhance the individual with dyslexia's ability to communicate and are beginning to become more affordable.

Students and adults are finding certain assistive technologies invaluable. However, these devices are tools, not replacements, for basic language skills. The use of the computer as a tool gives access to creative expression with the aid of grammar, spell, and style check software. Using a keyboard enables the individual with dysgraphia (the inability to write properly) to present information that is readable while the visibility of the text on the screen aids the writer's ability to focus on his or her task. Rewriting is less arduous and reinforcement of previously learned material puts less pressure on the individual. Instructional methods are still needed to make the most of these powerful tools.

Articles on assistive technology can be found at and (Schwab Foundation for Learning is transitioning to


Q: Where can I find IDA FACT SHEETS on dyslexia and related language-based language differences? 
A: IDA has FACT SHEETS online in English; some are also in Spanish, Italian, and Arabic.

Go to IDA’s website at


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Texas is one of only a few states that has a state law specifically addressing the needs of students with dyslexia.  Texas Education Code §38.003. on Screening and Treatment for Dyslexia and Related Disorders states:


Students enrolling in public schools in this state shall be tested for dyslexia and related disorders at appropriate times in accordance with a program approved by the State Board of Education.


In accordance with the program approved by the State Board of Education, the board of trustees of each school district shall provide for the treatment of any student determined to have dyslexia or a related disorder.

The State Board of Education shall adopt any rules and standards necessary to administer this section.
In this section:
“Dyslexia” means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.

“Related disorders” includes disorders similar to or related to dyslexia, such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.
(Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, § 1, eff. May 30, 1995.)

Your child's school should have a copy of the booklet entitled, Dyslexia Handbook Revised 2007, Updated 2010, Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders, which is published by the Texas Education Agency. This booklet is not copyrighted, and the school is allowed to duplicate the book for you.

  • For complete information about the Texas Dyslexia Law and the Handbook in English and Spanish, go to
  • To contact the State Dyslexia Consultant, call or email: Brenda Taylor, 972-348-1410 or (in Texas 1-800-232-3030 ext. 1410.

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International Dyslexia Association (IDA) - a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with dyslexia, their families, and the communities that support them.
* Fact Sheets in English and some are also in Spanish, Italian, and Arabic
(410) 296-0232             

Houston Branch of The International Dyslexia Association (HBIDA) – a non-profit branch of IDA that is Houston’s and the surrounding area’s connection to resources, information, conferences, resource directory and Helpline.

Advocacy, Inc. - a nonprofit corporation funded by the United States Congress to protect and advocate for the legal rights of people with disabilities in Texas.
713-974-7691 or 1 (800) 880-8021 from
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The Arc of Greater Houston - a non-profit organization that provides advocates, workshops on the ARD process, presentations to school districts, help in making parent referral, information and referral over the phone and through mail-outs.

Attention Deficit Disorder Association -- Southern Region - an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to meeting the educational, social, and emotional needs of families with children with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) a national membership organization that provides information, sponsors conferences, and holds meetings and support groups.
301-306-7070 or 1-800-233-4050

Learning Disabilities Association of Texas (LDAT) - a nonprofit organization serving children and adults with learning differences.
512-458-8234 or 1-800-604-7500
to leave a message

Neuhaus Education Center - a nonprofit that provides teacher professional development in research-based methods of literacy instruction and also is a resource for parental consultation and adults seeking literacy education.

Learning Ally - a nonprofit, voluntary service which provides recorded educational books free-on-loan to qualifying persons. There is a one-time registration fee plus an annual fee.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) - the state agency that oversees schools. Parents may request a copy of Texas Dyslexia Handbook: Revised 2007: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders or access it on the web.
972-348-1410 or
1-800-232-3030 ext. 1410 (in Texas)

Texas State Library - provides "Talking Books" on cassette and disk as well as a special cassette player free-on-loan to qualified persons with reading disabilities. The services are free.
1-800 252-9605

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The International Dyslexia Association

The Houston Branch of The International
Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association
Fact Sheets

All Kinds of Minds

Balanced Reading

Education Service Center Region 10

LD Online

National Center for Learning Disabilities

Neuhaus Education Center

Schwab Foundation for Learning
(Soon to become part of Great Schools)

(4-7 YEARS)

Get Ready to Read

Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers


Handbook - English

Handbook - Spanish

Education Service Center Region 10


Florida Center for Reading Research


Advocacy, Inc.                                                    

The ARC of Greater Houston

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education/IDEA 2004

Wrights Law


Attention Deficit Disorder Association – SR

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder


The Alliance

Academic Language Therapy Association             

National Reading Panel

Neuhaus Education Center

Office of Special Education

Learning Ally                 

Region 4 Dyslexia Services

Region 10 Dyslexia information

Texas State Library “Talking Books Program”

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Books for Parents

About Dyslexia by Priscilla Vail

The Between the Lions Book for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Child Learn to Read by Linda K. Rath and Louise Kennedy (Ages preschool – third grade)

Dysgraphia: Why Johnny Can’t Write: A Handbook for Parents and Teachers by Diane W. Cavey

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

Parenting a Struggling Reader: A Guide to Diagnosing and Finding Help for Your Child’s Reading Difficulties, by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D.

Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D.

Additional books for parents

Books for Students

All Kinds of Minds: A Young Student’s Book About Learning Abilities and Learning Disorders: A Student's Book About Learning Abilities and Learning Disorders by Dr. Mel Levine

The Don’t Give Up Kid and Learning Disabilities by Jeane Gehret

Josh: A Boy with Dyslexia by Caroline Janover

Keeping A Head in School: A Student's Book About Learning Abilities and Learning Disorders by Dr. Mel Levine

Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Additional books for children and teens

Books for Teachers and Parents

Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print – A Summary by Marilyn Adams

A Language Yardstick by Priscilla Vail
Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, 2nd Edition  by Judith Birsh

Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum by Marilyn Adams, Barbara R. Foorman, Ingvar Lundberg, and Terri Beeler

Preventing Reading Failure in Young Children by Catherine Snow

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf

Speech to Print by Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D.

What Reading Research Tells Us About Children with Diverse Learning Needs by Deborah Simmons and Edward Kaneenui

When Writing is a Problem by Regina Richards

Additional books for teachers

Books for Adults with Learning Disabilities

Dyslexia in Adults: Taking Charge of Your Life by Kathleen Nosek

Learning a Living: A Guide to Planning Your Career and Finding a Job for People with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Dyslexia by Dale Brown

The Runaway Learning Machine: Growing Up Dyslexic by James Bauer

Additional books for adults

IDA Fact Sheets in English (Some Fact Sheets available in Spanish or Italian or Arabic)

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Calls to the HBIDA Helpline at 832-282-7154 provide…

  • answers your questions about dyslexia;
  • referrals to local service providers for diagnostic testing, reading specialists, other professionals;
  • information on teacher and parent scholarships to our conferences and symposiums; and
  • information on scholarships for families needing financial assistance getting students’ diagnostic testing for dyslexia.

Call 832-282-7154 for information and referrals to our qualified member professionals.


The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means poor language.

Dyslexia is a life-long status; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life.

Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or a desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods dyslexics can learn successfully.

Early identification and treatment is the key to helping dyslexics achieve in school and in life.

(Source: The International Dyslexia Association)