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What Is A Reading Disability?

Developmental reading disabilities (RD) are known by a few different names. One of the more common names is dyslexia. People will often misunderstand this disability and believe that it refers only to the inversion of letters and/or numbers. The definition is far more complex. The International Dyslexia Association definition:

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 (International Dyslexia Association. (2015). Definition of Dyslexia. International Dyslexia Association. Retrieved from http://eida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/

Reading disability is the most common disorder of childhood estimated to affect as many as 7 to 15 per cent of normally developing children, depending on the definition used (Peterson, Pennington, 2015; Lyon, 1995). Reading difficulties often persist into adolescence and adulthood. According to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, almost 43 per cent of the United States and 40 per cent of Canadian adults have difficulty with reading (Kutner et al., 2007). Lower literacy standards are associated with poorer general health outcomes (WHO, 1999), while higher literacy standards are associated with improved health, greater occupational opportunity, and better economic security. Currently, with the added demands for digital literacy skills, the personal and societal burdens of low adult literacy will only escalate.

Despite these unfavourable statistics, Empower™ Reading is an evidence-based intervention program that has benefited many students who struggle with reading. It is designed specifically to address the language literacy difficulties of children and adolescents with, or at-risk of, having a reading disability.



Robin L. Peterson and Bruce F. Pennington. (2015). Developmental Dyslexia. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 11,  283-307. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032814-112842