What Are the Different Types of Reading Disabilities?

Girl standing in school library looking down at a book. She may have one of these 5 types of reading disabilities.

Maria’s parents were puzzled when she started struggling in school. Her third-grade report card was full of comments about her difficulties in reading, a stark contrast from her usually stellar evaluations.

She seemed to have hit a wall over a single school year. They knew they had to act fast to prevent her from falling behind.

The idea of reading disabilities was new to them, and it took some time to accept the possibility. They had always known Maria to be a bright child, eager to learn and explore.

Her struggles in school didn’t align with the curious and intelligent girl they knew.

They sought the guidance of her teacher. She brought up the reading challenges that Maria might be facting and  introduced them to the world of reading interventions.

After countless hours of research and consultation, they were convinced that Maria could benefit from specialized assistance.

The journey wasn’t easy. It involved acknowledging that Maria learned differently, and that’s okay. It wasn’t a reflection of her potential, just a different path to success.

Understanding reading disabilities can be confusing and even overwhelming. It can be challenging to navigate the landscape of these learning challenges.

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However, with the right resources, parents can become strong advocates for their children, ensuring they get the support they need to excel.

As Maria’s parents soon discovered, understanding your child’s reading disability is the first step toward helping them overcome it.

In this article, I will dive into various types of reading disorders, their common characteristics, and the different intervention methods available to help struggling readers.

As Maria’s parents did, you can help your child turn their struggles into triumphs.

Understanding Reading Disabilities

Imagine you’re trying to read a book, but the words are like puzzles spread out across the page. They need to make sense the way they’re supposed to.

But they don’t.

That can be what it’s like for a kid having a difficult time reading

– It’s Not About Being Smart

It’s crucial to remember that these reading challenges do not reflect a person’s ability or intelligence. Instead, they show us that every child learns in their unique way, regardless of their reading abilities.

It’s just that their brain works differently when reading. They can still do amazing things.

It may take a different way of learning.

– Spotting a Reading Disability (Early) is Key

The sooner you find out about the reading problem, the better. That way, you can help your child learn in a way that works for them.

Imagine a young child trying to read a book, but all the words look blurry, no matter how close they bring it to their face.

That’s like trying to read with a reading disability.

Now, let’s say that the child continues without glasses. They’d probably feel frustrated, lose confidence, and even begin to dislike reading or school altogether.

The world would seem fuzzy, and they’d have to work much harder than their peers to make sense of things.

But what if someone gave that child a pair of glasses at the first sign of blurry vision? Suddenly, the world becomes clear!

Words that once seemed indecipherable now make sense.

The child can engage in stories, learn from texts, and even start to enjoy reading.

Spotting a reading disability early is just like recognizing the need for glasses.

With the right tools and interventions—like glasses for the eyes or specialized teaching for the brain—what was once blurry and confusing can become clear and accessible.

The earlier we spot and address the issue, the sooner the child can enjoy the vibrant world of reading, setting them up for future academic and personal success.

Without intervention your child may struggle with things such as: 

  • Individual sounds of letters
  • Individual words
  • Comprehension problems
  • Phonological awareness– recognizing and using the sounds that language
  • Phonemic awareness– understanding that words are made up of different sounds
  • Fluent word recognition or speed of word recognition

If you notice any of these reading problems, seek an early diagnosis. 

#1 Dyslexia

Do you remember trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle? That’s what reading can feel like for someone with dyslexia. Dyslexia is the most common reading disability.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a reading problem where the brain mixes up letters and words. Phonological deficit is often the cause. 

Another reason this might happen is if a person’s orthographic processor or phonological processing skills aren’t working quite right. These are parts of the brain that help us recognize and remember what words look like and how they sound.

Dyslexia is when a person finds connecting the letter to the sound hard. Their brain processes this information differently.

Signs of Dyslexia

  • Finds it hard to read quickly or smoothly
  • The child struggles with spelling words right
  • Has a tough time writing words down
  • Finds “sounding out” words tricky
  • Having frequent letter reversals

How to Help Someone with Dyslexia

Don’t worry. There are ways to help! These can include:

  • Using a teaching style that involves all the senses, not just looking and listening
  • Giving them one-on-one lessons or small groups so they can learn at their own pace
  • Using special computer programs designed to help with spelling and reading skills

Remember, having visual dyslexia doesn’t mean a person can’t learn. They just need to learn differently. With the right help, they can also unlock the magic of words!

#2 Dysgraphia

Have you ever tried to draw a picture with your eyes closed? It might come out looking funny. That’s a bit like what dysgraphia is for writing.

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is when a person finds it hard to write by hand. This could be because their orthographic processor is having trouble. That’s the part of the brain that remembers what letters and numbers should look like.

It doesn’t mean they’re not smart or creative. Their brain just has a hard time making their hands write what they’re thinking.

Signs of Dysgraphia

You might notice someone with dysgraphia:

  • Holds their pencil in a strange or tight way
  • Has trouble keeping their words evenly spaced or in a straight line
  • Makes lots of spelling mistakes
  • Finds it hard to put their thoughts into words on paper

How to Help Someone with Dysgraphia

There are ways to help! These can include:

  • Getting help from an occupational therapist
  • Giving them more time to finish tests or assignments
  • Letting them use a computer to type instead of writing by hand

Just like with dyslexia, having dysgraphia doesn’t mean a person can’t learn. They just need some special tools to help them along the way.


#3 Hyperlexia

Have you ever met someone who can read beyond their age or loves books and letters a lot? That might be hyperlexia.

What is Hyperlexia?

Hyperlexia is when a person can read words or numbers beyond their age. But even though they can read, they might need help understanding what the words mean or talking with other people.

This is known as having language comprehension problems

Signs of Hyperlexia

You might notice someone with hyperlexia:

  • Finds it hard to understand what people are saying
  • Struggles to make friends or chat with other people their age
  • Finds it hard to learn new things by listening

How to Help Someone with Hyperlexia

There’s good news: there are ways to help! These can include:

Having hyperlexia doesn’t mean a person can’t learn or make friends. They might need some help to understand the world in their own way. With the proper support, they can shine like the stars they are!

#4 Visual Processing Disorder

Do you remember looking through a kaleidoscope and seeing all the colors and shapes mix and move? That’s a bit like what a visual processing disorder is for reading.

What is a Visual Processing Disorder?

A visual processing disorder is when a person’s brain has difficulty understanding what their eyes see. This doesn’t mean they can’t see well.

Their brain has a hard time understanding the pictures their eyes send.

For example, the challenge with comprehension problems in visual processing disorder is about more than understanding the words themselves but rather the way they’re arranged on the page.

Signs of a Visual Processing Disorder

You might notice someone with this disorder:

  • Has trouble reading or spelling words
  • Finds it hard to tell the difference between shapes or letters
  • Struggles to pay attention when they need to look at something

How to Help Someone with a Visual Processing Disorder

Ways to help your child include:

  • Special eye exercises called vision therapy
  • Changing the way they learn so it’s easier for them to understand
  • Making changes to where they learn, like using better lighting or less busy decorations

 With the right help, a child with a visual processing disorder can discover their own way to shine!

#5 Auditory Processing Disorder

You know how it’s hard to hear someone when there’s a lot of noise around you? That’s what an auditory processing disorder is like all the time.

What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder is when a person’s brain finds it hard to make sense of sounds. This doesn’t mean they can’t hear well. Their brain struggles to understand the sounds their ears hear.

Even though kids with auditory processing disorder can hear words, they might have trouble understanding what those words mean, which is another type of language comprehension problem.

Signs of an Auditory Processing Disorder

You might notice someone with this disorder:

  • Has trouble hearing differences between sounds in words
  • Struggles to follow directions, especially if there’s a lot of steps
  • Finds it hard to focus when there’s a lot of noise

How to Help Someone with an Auditory Processing Disorder

Ways to help include:

  • Special listening exercises to help them focus on sounds
  • Teaching them strategies to remember what they hear
  • Creating a quiet, calm space where they can listen and learn

With the proper support, a child with an auditory processing disorder can achieve success. 

Tips for Parents

Having a kid with a reading disability can feel scary. But remember, you’re not alone. Here are some things that can help:

– Catch It Early

The sooner you know about the reading problem, the sooner you can help. This means your kid can start learning in a way that works best for them.

So, if there is a problem, it’s a good idea to talk to someone who can help, like a teacher or doctor.

– Team Up With Teachers and Therapists

Teachers and therapists can help you understand what’s happening and how to help. They can also ensure your child gets the right help in school, such as special education services. So, make sure to keep in touch and ask lots of questions.

– Be Your Child’s Biggest Fan

Remember, this isn’t easy for your kid, either. They need to know you’re there for them, no matter what. So, make sure to tell them you’re proud of them and that you know they’re doing their best.

With these tips in mind, you can help your child overcome any reading hurdle they face. Just remember: they’re not alone, and neither are you.

Together, you can conquer anything!

Next Steps

If you think your child might face one of these challenges, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Teachers, therapists, and doctors are there to support you.

Reach out to them, share your worries, and ask your questions. They can guide you through this journey.

You are your child’s greatest cheerleader and most important teacher.

Even if reading is tough for them, your love and support can make a huge difference. With you by their side, they can face any challenge.

Encourage them. Praise them for their effort. Show them how proud you are of every step they take. Help them see that learning in their own way is okay.

In the end, remember this: a reading disability does not define your child. They are so much more than that. They are unique, they are special, and they are capable of incredible things.

With your help, they can learn to navigate those challenges.

And that’s what really matters. 

Check Out These Additional Resources to Help Your Child With Reading


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Shannah Holt

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