In simple terms, dyslexia is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language—despite at least average intelligence.

Dyslexia is a neurologically-based disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.

Dyslexia is not the result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment, inadequate instructional or environmental opportunities, or other limiting conditions, but may occur together with these conditions.

Researchers have determined that a gene on the short arm of chromosome #6 is responsible for dyslexia. That gene is dominant, making dyslexia highly heritable. It definitely runs in families.

Dyslexia results from a neurological difference; that is, a brain difference. People with dyslexia have a larger right-hemisphere in their brains than those of normal readers. That may be one reason people with dyslexia often have significant strengths in areas controlled by the right-side of the brain, such as artistic, athletic, and mechanical gifts; 3-D visualization ability; musical talent; creative problem solving skills; and intuitive people skills.

In addition to unique brain architecture, people with dyslexia have unusual “wiring”. Neurons are found in unusual places in the brain, and are not as neatly ordered as in non-dyslexic brains.

In addition to unique brain architecture and unusual wiring, fMRI studies have shown that people with dyslexia do not use the same part of their brain when reading as other people. Regular readers consistently use the same part of their brain when they read. There appears to be no consistent part used among dyslexic readers.

It is therefore assumed that people with dyslexia are not using the most efficient part of their brain when they read. A different part of their brain has taken over that function.

Historical figures with dyslexia

Albert Einstein

Einstein was a Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the famous E=mc2 equation. Einstein was well known for his brilliance in math and physics but he also struggled with language difficulties, leading some people to suggest he may have had dyslexia. He had extremely delayed speech and didn’t speak fluently until he was 6 years old. Einstein also had problems getting his thoughts down, retrieving language and reading out loud, all characteristic signs of dyslexia. His contributions to his field demonstrated a unique and novel approach to problem solving which is one of the strengths associated with dyslexia.

George Washington

Washington was the first president of the United States and was also thought to be dyslexic. He was said to have issues with written language, including an inconsistent approach to spelling in his personal papers – in one example he wrote ‘cloathes’ for ‘clothes.’ He also made grammar mistakes and generally had difficulty expressing himself in writing. It’s worth noting that Washington is not the only US president who is suspected of having dyslexia. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and JFK are on the list too!

Leonardo Da Vinci

This Renaissance engineer, mathematician, architect, inventor, and painter of the Mona Lisa, often wrote in reverse mirror image. He also had inconsistent spelling in his notes, which some people have suggested points to dyslexia. Moreover, Da Vinci was a creative genius and an original thinker of the highest order, qualities commonly associated with dyslexia.

Pablo Picasso

Picasso, the famed Spanish artist and sculptor whose paintings now sell for millions and millions notoriously struggled with reading in school. He was said to have difficulty seeing the letters correctly and could not read. Yet, he also had a keen sense of space, and more advanced visual-spatial ability is often found in dyslexia.