Dyslexia and Behavioral Difficulties

One very important element of dyslexia is the effect that it has on behavior. Many behavioral issues can manifest themselves when an individual’s dyslexia is not addressed and treated properly. These behavioral issues can take many different forms, but here are some that are common to a high percentage of dyslexics who have not received proper treatment for their dyslexia.

1. Avoidance

This is an extremely common behavioral issue among dyslexic children, and it used as a coping mechanism. A dyslexic will often use a variety of means to avoid reading, spelling or writing, simply because they realize the difficulty they have with language; they want to avoid all possible situations in which those difficulties might be exposed. A dyslexic child may start telling jokes, act out in other ways, or even run away to avoid situations that involve reading. A fellow tutor of mine had a student who would actually disappear from the classroom on a regular basis to avoid reading and spelling, resulting in teachers having to search for her throughout the school. The student didn’t hate being in school, she simply hated being put in a position where she knew that she would fail. Once she started private tutoring with my friend, and began to make progress, she stopped this behavior entirely. Often, a dyslexic child will face consequences for their avoidance techniques, but they will still choose to use them rather than facing a situation that may cause them humiliation. Likewise, at home, they use a variety of means to avoid doing homework, reading books, or engaging in any other activity that they find intimidating due to their language challenges. Sometimes, they avoid these things simply because they are so difficult and exhausting for them.

2. Resignation

Students with learning difficulties tend to become withdrawn from educational situations over time if their learning difficulties are not addressed. Many dyslexic students begin to lose motivation for academic pursuits because they feel that they are beyond help, and will not be able to learn as others do even if they put forth the effort. They become resigned to the difficulties they are facing, and as a result, their academic aspirations and hopes begin to disappear. Students with these difficulties may be perceived as being lazy, even though their behavior is more the result of them lacking confidence in their ability to ever succeed in the tasks that are given to them.

3. Acting Out

Dyslexic students who have not received treatment for their dyslexia may also begin to act out and have disciplinary issues. This can manifest itself in a number of ways. For students who are outgoing by nature, they may seek to interrupt academic work and reading time by telling jokes and distracting other students from the assigned task. This is a coping mechanism to draw attention away from their inability to perform at the level that is expected of them. Dyslexic children may also act out simply because of frustration; they see others doing work around them that makes them feel inadequate. As a result, they act out towards the students around them, as well as the teacher.

These are just a few of the behavioral consequences that can occur when a dyslexic child does not receive proper treatment for their learning challenges. With the proper treatment, these difficulties can be avoided, and the child can realize that while they learn differently, they are just as capable of succeeding as the students around them.


17 thoughts on “Dyslexia and Behavioral Difficulties”

  1. Your post is very accurate, but teachers in UK secondary schools aren’t trained in dyslexia at all, yet 20% of pupils have reading and writing issues.
    My son (12) is struggling at school, always in trouble and always in the lowest groups (for everything). He has become like this since the work has increased in secondary school, but the teachers believe it’s just bad behaviour. They have emailed me:
    Following the meeting you had with Miss G and Mr P, I believe they fed back to you that currently our staff believe that your son is in the best set to allow him to access work and learn.
    The SEN team are working with and offering support to Criston to ensure he can access the work and that his dyslexia isn’t impacting his ability to access the work and make progress.
    Miss G and I are still observing disruptive and inappropriate behaviour from Criston, which we believe is chosen behaviour and not related to his SEN- and feel there needs to be some realisation that until he takes responsibility for how he chooses to act we are not going to make any progress.
    Any thoughts? My thought is that they don’t understand how constantly feeling stupid impacts his self-esteem and will to learn.

    1. Dyslexia Connect

      Hi, Sue. Thanks for your question.

      I would suggest contacting the British Dyslexia Association. They may be able to offer resources and advice regarding this situation.

      Have a great day!

  2. As I am dyslexic myself, I know that I am very privileged to have been a successful businessman with all the things about schooling. Again I correct. I am self taught to read and write and went to many different levels of education to get where I am now. 80% of people in prison or dyslexic, or have some problems if they addressed it at school, the situation could go down by 50% of people being in prison.
    I’ve also been a school governor, and when I tried to address this at schools, they did not need want to know how old I was born with a moment was getting the walls which seem to have some booty up to the top dyslexic again we left at the bottom. And as for the above comments of teachers, not knowing how to teach dyslexics is totally correct.

  3. My grandson is diagnosed SLP n ADHD; it is a struggle to fa e tests/ examinations which will require extensive reading and writing. He complains about headaches and stomachache to avoid going to school. It is hard for him, he fears failure. When asked orally, he knows all the information. Accommodation and concessions for exams are critical to be considered but schools don’t apply the policies

  4. Deidra sheffield

    I really think my grandson who is 9 have dyslexia cause he struggles with reading it hard foe him to sound words out he be beating his self up when u can’t sound the word out and his behavior is so terrible I try ny best to help be out and read to him and make him repeat what I read to help him out as much h as I can I only see him on the weekends so how can I help him to get better in reading and writing better and his behavior I need his father to have him test for this because I really believe he has it because everything I read thats him

  5. My great granddaughter is in our care through SS , we are battling to get a diagnosis through the resources ,, CAMHS , school psychologist , I am confident Jade has dyslexia now 10 years and our concerns are falling on deaf ears .

    1. Thanks for your comment. Since it looks like you are located in the UK, you may find it helpful to contact the British Dyslexia Association. Have a great day!

  6. Hi there, I am currently writing an essay on a dyslexic student and really like the comments above I don’t suppose you have a Harvard reference for these comments?

    1. Dyslexia Connect

      Hi, James. Thanks for your question. This blog post is an original article that we wrote. It is not based on other sources. Have a great day!

  7. Good day to the great team at dyslexia connect. Pls I am an educator. I have some dyslexic kids around me. The schools around me don’t seem to know what to do with these kids,as they just keep moving them up to thier next level with thier peers.
    I am really interested in helping these kids because I know they have the potentials to learn too but differently.
    Please is there a way I can get a link or so to a sponsored training,even online please.
    I will be utmost grateful if I can get this.

    Thank you so much.


    1. Dyslexia Connect

      Hi, Faith. Thanks for your question. I would check with the International Dyslexia Association. They may know of some teacher training grants or scholarships. Have a great day!

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