DAS is guided in its definition of Dyslexia by the Ministry of Education, Singapore in their November 2011 publication "Professional Practice Guidelines for the Psycho-educational Assessment and Placement of Students with Special Educational Needs".

Dyslexia is a type of specific learning difficulty identifiable as a developmental difficulty of language learning and cognition1. It is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and processing speed. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia2.

An appropriate literacy programme should include the following components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension3. The literacy programme provided by DAS meets these guidelines.

1 U.S. Department of Education. (2006). Assistance to States for the education of children with disabilities and preschool grants for children with disabilities; Final rule. Retrieved on May 26, 2011
from http://idea.ed.gov/download/finalregulations.pdf

2 Rose, J. (2009). Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

3 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Updated as of 21 March 2019

Learn more about What is Dyslexia from our video.

We have a series of videos on Dyslexia on our YouTube Channel.

Click here to view them.


International Dyslexia Association

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological 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. Many state education codes, including New Jersey, Ohio and Utah, have adopted this definition. Learn more about how consensus was reached on this definition: Definition Consensus Project.

British Dyslexia Association

'Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.'

Adopted by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) Management Board


Listed below are some common areas that dyslexic children often show difficulties in (For age specific symptoms, please refer to the checklist attached with the referral forms). However, it should be noted that not every dyslexic child will present with all of these difficulties. In addition, sometimes children who present with some of these signs could also have other difficulties aside from dyslexia.

To find out more about your child's difficulties, do look at the Learning Checklist.


Common errors in reading and spelling:

  • Confuses letters that look alike e.g. b/d, p/q
  • May reverse letter sequences e.g. "was" for "saw", "on" for “no”
  • Makes anagrams of words e.g. "tired" for "tried", "wives" for "views"
  • Mixes up words that start with the same letters e.g. “there”, “that”, “the”, etc.
  • Omits or adds letters in words e.g. “lip” for “limp”
  • Unable to write down a word even when the letters are dictated
  • Unable to identify the appropriate letter when given a sound and vice versa


Difficulties associated with reading:

  • Reads below age/grade level
  • Reads hesitantly and effortfully
  • Difficulty recognising familiar / high-frequency words
  • Substitutes words of similar meaning e.g., “road” for “street”
  • Misreads common words, such as “a” for “and”, “the” for “a”, “from” for “for”, etc
  • Ignores punctuation, e.g. not pausing for commas etc.
  • Difficulty remembering and/or understanding text passages
  • Difficulty extracting important points from a passage
  • Loses place in a line of print
  • Skips or re-reads a line of words in a passage
  • Leaves out words or adds extra words
  • Complains that words or lines of text on page seem to move, yet standard eye examinations do not reveal a problem


Difficulties associated with spelling and writing:

  • Spells below age/grade level
  • Poor handwriting
  • Numerous spelling errors in a piece of work and may spell the same word in several different ways.
  • Confuses similar sounding words when spelling, e.g. "one" and "won"
  • Poor standard of written work compared to oral ability
  • Messy, badly organised work
  • Has trouble copying from the board in class
  • Letters, syllables and words omitted, inserted or placed in the wrong order
  • Mixes capital and small letter within words e.g., dysLexiA
  • Lack of punctuation, or totally inappropriate use of punctuation
  • Cannot write in a straight line


Short-term and/or Verbal Working Memory:

  • May learn and understand how to do something, but requires frequent reminders before they remember to do it.
  • Difficulty remembering multiple-step instructions
  • May have excellent long-term memory for movies, experiences, locations and faces, but poor memory for sequences as well as unfamiliar facts and information


Sequencing Difficulties with:

  • Sorting or ordering information
  • Writing/reciting the alphabet / numbers 
  • Remembering/executing a list of instructions
  • The months of the year and days of the week in order
  • Mathematics
  • Giving a good verbal account of an event/events in their correct order



  • Difficulty expressing thoughts and may communicate more with gestures rather than words
  • Difficulty finding the words he/she wants to use
  • People who do not know the child well have difficulty understanding what he/she says
  • Mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases and words when speaking
  • Difficulty attaching names to things and people


Time / Mathematics:

  • Difficulty telling time as well as managing and being on time
  • Difficulty counting objects and/or dealing with money
  • Difficulty with Mathematical word problems despite adequate ability to solve arithmetic operations
  • May have a problem with numbers and calculations involving adding, subtracting and time tables
  • May be confused by similar-looking mathematical signs; e.g., + and - ; < (less than) and > (greater than)
  • May be confused by terms, e.g., deduction, minus and subtraction; adding versus find the total
  • May reverse numbers, such as reading or writing “17” for “71”
  • May transpose numbers i.e., 752 for 572; or transcribe their answers wrongly
  • May have a difficulty with performing mental calculations



  • Disorganised
  • Easily frustrated or emotional about school, reading, writing, or mathematics
  • Appears bright and articulate but performs unexpectedly poorer than expected in the academic areas
  • Performs much better when tested orally, but not in written form
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Has a poor sense of direction and/or confusion between left and right
  • Common signs of dyslexia by school level

Myths about Dyslexia

You are unable to determine if a child has dyslexia just by looking at them,  Children with dyslexia might start out fine at school, but gradually, schoolwork can become a struggle for them. If left unsupported, dyslexia may lead to low self-esteem, behavioural problems, withdrawal from friends, family and school. 

Here we explore some myths and facts about dyslexia.


Myth 1: Dyslexia is a sort of mental retardation.

FACT: Dyslexia is a difficulty in learning to read, write and spell, despite traditional teaching, average intelligence, and an adequate opportunity to learn. It is an impairment in the brain's ability to translate information received from the eyes or ears into understandable language. It does not result from vision or hearing problems. It is not due to mental retardation, brain damage, or a lack of intelligence.

Myth 2: There is no 'cure' for dyslexia.

FACT: Dyslexia is not a disease. Given the appropriate specialist teaching, dyslexics can successfully learn to read (and even to spell).

Myth 3: Dyslexia is rare in Singapore.

FACT: The incidence of dyslexia in Singapore is 10%, of that 4% will have dyslexia severe enough to warrant intervention. There are about 20,000 primary and secondary school students who are dyslexic. An average of 1 to 2 students could be dyslexic in a class of 40. Dyslexia can range from mild to moderate to severe.

Myth 4: My child can’t be dyslexic. No one else in the family has it.

FACT: Beware. In some families, one, or both parents, are obviously dyslexic and all, or most, of their children, have the difficulties. In other families, dyslexia is not apparent in either parent and the other children are unaffected.

Myth 5: Dyslexics are gifted/”stupid”.

FACT: Repeated studies have shown that there is very little relationship between dyslexia and intelligence in young children. Dyslexia occurs across a whole spectrum of intelligence and is as likely to be found in the gifted and talented population as it is to be present in the low-ability, and most of them fall in the middle. However, if dyslexics don't learn to read, their IQs tend to fall behind as they get older.

Myth 6: Reversing letters is a good indication of dyslexia.

FACT: In fact, backwards writing and reversals of letters and words are common among young children learning to write whether or not they have dyslexia. Only about 10% of dyslexics reverse letters. In general, letter-reversals become an area of concern if it persists beyond Primary 2 or 8 years old.

Myth 7: Dyslexics can't read.

FACT: People with mild to moderate dyslexia have usually learnt to read well enough to 'get by' and to avoid being noticed. Despite this, their reading usually remains slower than normal and a spelling skills check will often reveal their true difficulties.

Myth 8: He can’t have dyslexia because he can read.

FACT: All children with dyslexia can read—up to a point. But the problem they have with processing speech sounds prevents them from hearing all the individual sounds in a word. So they generally don’t read by sounding out.

With poor ability to detect and manipulate speech sounds, dyslexics tend to have inadequate knowledge and application of how sounds are linked with their written form. This weak letter-sounds link affects their ability to read to some extent. Instead, they often use alternative strategies such as memorising familiar stories, recognising words by their shapes or guessing based on the first letter or two. But our memories can hold only a limited number of words. So these strategies will fail them by P3 or P4. Without the right type of help, making progress will be a struggle—no matter how smart they are and how hard they try.

Myth 9: He can read okay. He just can’t spell. That’s not dyslexia, is it?

FACT: A child with severe dyslexia will struggle with reading from the very first day. But intelligent children with mild-to-moderate dyslexia can get away during the first few years in school. They can read. You just don’t know HOW they are reading. But their unusual reading strategies will force them into a brick wall by primary three or four.

Their difficulties with spelling, however, are obvious very early. If they spend hours each night working on a spelling list, they may be able to pass the test. But they tend to have difficulties spelling the same words when they’re writing sentences or compositions. Poor spelling is highly related to poor reading, and poor spelling shows up first. But it may take until primary three or four for the reading struggles to become equally obvious. Reading and spelling are closely related skills.

Myth 10: Reading difficulties disappear with age.

FACT: Not if it's dyslexia. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Dyslexic children become dyslexic adults. If they are identified and given the right kind of help early, dyslexics can learn to compensate for their learning difficulty and read accurately. Even so, they may continue to read slowly and not automatically.

Myth 11: Repeating a school grade can remove dyslexia.

FACT: Dyslexics learn in a different way. Specialist teaching is necessary to learn to overcome dyslexia and cope in mainstream school.

Myth 12: The way to help a dyslexic child to read is to force him or her to read at least 20 minutes a day.

FACT: It is necessary to make reading easy and fun so the dyslexic child learns. The DAS uses multi-sensory techniques like the Orton-Gillingham approach, spelling method to help the child read and write better.

Myth 13: Dyslexia only affects children who speak English.

FACT: In fact, dyslexia has been shown to affect native Dutch, Israeli and Portuguese speakers as well as speakers of other languages. Dyslexia primarily affects the processing of speech sounds, otherwise known as phonological awareness. Dyslexia is also known to affect languages that are orthographically-based like Chinese.

Myth 14: Dyslexia cannot be identified until a child is 8 to 11 years old.

FACT: Research suggests children at risk of developing reading, spelling and writing difficulties can be identified at 5 to 6 years of age. In fact, there are validated instruments which allow us to do so. It is also important to identify them early so that appropriate help can be given before they start failing in school.

Myth 15: There is no way to truly diagnose dyslexia.

FACT: There are highly sophisticated and well-recognized techniques to diagnose dyslexia. A qualified educational psychologist will be able to diagnose dyslexia through a series of assessments with the child.

Myth 16: Dyslexics will not succeed in life.

FACT: A great majority of dyslexics have succeeded in life in their own respect. Some famous and accomplished dyslexics include Albert Einstein, MM Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Branson and Tom Cruise to name a few.


Below are the questions that were found to be more predictive of dyslexia (as measured by prior diagnosis). In order to provide the most informative checklist, scores for each answer indicate the relative importance of that question. Alongside each line, you can keep a tally of your score and at the end find a total. For each question, circle the number in the box which is closest to your response.


Adult Dyslexia Checklist Page 1


The research and development of the checklist has provided valuable insight into the diversity of difficulties and is a clear reminder that every individual is different and should be treated and assessed as such. However, it is also interesting to note that a number of questions, the answers to which are said to be characteristics of dyslexic adults, are commonly found in the answers of non-dyslexics.

It is important to remember that this test does not constitute an assessment of one’s difficulties. It is just an indication of some of the areas in which you or the person you are assessing may have difficulties. However, this questionnaire may provide a better awareness of the nature of an individual’s difficulties and may indicate that further professional assessment would be helpful. Whilst we do stress that this is not a diagnostic tool, research suggests the following:

Less than 45 - probably non-dyslexic.

No individual who was diagnosed as dyslexic through a full assessment was found to have scored less than 45 and therefore it is unlikely that if you score under 45 you will be dyslexic.

45 to 60 - showing signs consistent with mild dyslexia Most of those who were in this category showed signs of being at least moderately dyslexic. However, a number of persons not previously diagnosed as dyslexic (though they could just be unrecognised and undiagnosed) fell into this category.
Greater than 60 - signs consistent with moderate or severe dyslexia All those who recorded scores of more than 60 were diagnosed as moderately or severely dyslexic. Therefore we would suggest a score greater than 60 suggests moderate or severe dyslexia. Please note that this should not be regarded as an assessment of one's difficulties. But if you feel that a dyslexia-type problem may exist, further advice should be sought.

Copyright Ian Smythe and John Everatt, 2011

Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) is a term used to describe a wide variety of learning differences. Many use the term specific learning differences in the same context as dyslexia.  However, it is generally accepted that dyslexia is only one of the many learning differences. 

Very rarely will an individual be affected by only one specific learning difference.  Research shows that individuals can have more than one of these differences and as a result, no two individuals are the same.  Specific learning differences typically affect the student's ability to learn and can also impact on:

  • Communication Skills
  • Concentration
  • Information processing
  • Lack of Social Awareness
  • Literacy, Numeracy and Oracy
  • Memory
  • Motor Skills
  • Organisation
  • Sense of direction
  • Sequencing
  • Time Management

As a result, having a specific learning difference can have a significant impact on stress, anxiety and self-esteem of the student.  Only those who have experienced the challenges of having a specific learning difference can truly understand the complications and difficulties that arise in a learning situation.  Specialist teaching and identifying strategies to help students with learning differences succeed are challenges of all educators.

Shortcut to the definition:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) | Dyscalculia |
Dysgraphia | Dyspraxia | Intellectual Disability | Visual Processing Difficulties


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder originating from childhood. Characteristic features of ADHD are symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that often occur in two or more settings (e.g. at home or school; with friends; during other activities) and affect their performance in school as well as their relationships with others. Some symptoms of inattention may include being easily distracted, having difficulties sustaining attention on tasks, or having difficulties organising tasks and activities. Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may include running about or climbing in situations where they are expected to be seated, being unable to play or engage in activities quietly, having difficulties waiting their turn, interrupting or intruding on others.




Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by deficits in social communication and social interaction as well as restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviours, interests or activities. Individuals with ASD may also have language and/or intellectual impairments. The symptoms of ASD are typically present from early childhood (12 - 24 months of age), and the manifestation and severity of symptoms vary across individuals with ASD.


Autism Resource Centre



Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the mastery of number sense and number facts as well as accurate and fluent calculation. Individuals may have difficulties understanding and grasping number concepts. They may also have difficulties using mathematical concepts to solve problems.





(Specific Learning Difficulty in the written expression)
Dysgraphia is a specific learning difficulty characterized by difficulties in handwritten expression, specifically in areas of spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as the clarity and organisation of written expression. Additional signs of dysgraphia include messy handwriting, inconsistent spacing, poor spatial planning on paper, amongst others. Other issues that may co-occur with dysgraphia include dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.





Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder which affects the planning, coordination, and sequencing of gross and/or fine motor movement. It may thus impact a diverse range of activities where motor skills are involved, such as walking, jumping, writing, and even speaking. It is a lifelong condition that may vary in its presentation across individuals and over an individual's course of life.


Dyspraxia Foundation

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves deficits in areas of cognitive functioning and adaptive functioning (e.g. difficulties with communication, self-care, social skills, safety). These deficits occur during the developmental period and are evident in childhood and adolescence.


American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Visual Processing Difficulties

Visual processing difficulties affect how visual information (such as symbols, pictures and distances) is processed by the brain. It is different from sight or sharpness of vision, and cannot be corrected by glasses. The student may struggle to discriminate objects, judge distance, and have poor spatial awareness.


Cortiella, C., & Horowitz, S. H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.