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What is dyslexia?

Often described as a hidden disability, dyslexia affects people of any age, ability and background. It affects around 1 in 10 people. It is biological in origin, caused by differences in the language areas of the brain, and is seen to run in families. 

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects reading, writing and spelling but may also cause additional difficulties, including:

  • difficulty with organisational and sequencing skills
  • difficulties with short-term memory
  • confusing left and right
  • difficulties with learning the sounds in words
  • problems with reading comprehension
  • difficulty with handwriting
  • difficulties expressing thoughts verbally
Dyslexia affects different people in different ways. People with dyslexia often have strengths in areas such as visual thinking and creativity.

What is the impact of dyslexia?

If dyslexia is left unrecognised and unsupported, young people can be at a disadvantage in life, as many things we do at school and throughout life requires us to have the skills to be able to read fluently and accurately.

Individuals can become frustrated and have low self-esteem because they feel less able than their peers. They may also feel misunderstood if others do not appear to appreciate or recognise their difficulties which, in some cases, may lead to challenging behaviour.

In Scouting, a young person may need a little extra support or adaptations to some activities. They may need some support in understanding instructions, organising themselves and remembering things.

Practical tips for Scouting

A Leader may only find out that a Scout has dyslexia when they are told by the parents or young person themselves, or notice the individual is showing characteristics of the specific learning difficulty.

Spending time with the parents and young person, to understand their specific difficulties and plan any support, can be really helpful. Some small considerations and adaptations can be really supportive, and enable the young person to get the most of of Scouting.

Encouragement to cater to their strengths and develop those abilities and giving praise for achievements will lead to an increase in confidence and self-esteem. Scouting should be a positive experience and provide opportunities for development and success.

Some young people with dyslexia have poor short-term memories so it is not uncommon for them to forget what they have been told, eg. a set of instructions. It is important to provide reminders, be patient and keep in mind the difficulties associated with dyslexia.

The types of activities undertaken by the group should be carefully considered. Map reading, for example, may be difficult for individuals with dyslexia because of the many signs and symbols involved or a Scout with dyslexia may feel uncomfortable reading a story to the group if they have reading difficulties.

Directions or instructions should be given verbally, and Leaders could ask the individual to repeat the instructions to increase understanding and remembering. For those who have difficulty with literacy skills, alternative ways of taking part in activities which require reading or writing can be provided, for example using pictures or working in pairs to allow dictation.

For some more tips on supporting young people who have difficulties in understanding or in expressing themselves, see Scouting Speaks to All: A Leader's Guide to Speech, Language and Communication Needs

Further information and support

Dyslexia Action


This page was written in collaboration with Dyslexia Action. Dyslexia Action is a national charity that takes action to change the lives of people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties.

The educational charity specialises in assessments, teaching, training and consultancy. It also develops and distributes dyslexia and literacy support materials for teachers, psychologists, parents and learners and undertakes research.

For further support from Dyslexia Action, follow the links to the right or email info@dyslexiaaction.org.uk. You can also contact The Scout Information Centre via info.centre@scouts.org.uk


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