Exploring the Link Between Dyslexia and Autism

Exploring the Link Between Dyslexia and Autism

Dyslexia and Autism are two neurodevelopmental conditions that have been extensively examined by researchers. Studies show that they often co-morbid, with individuals having characteristics of both conditions.

The two most notable similarities between Dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) lies in their shared impact on verbal communication and both are linked to difficulties with sensory processing.
Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty with reading, spelling, or communicating words.

While individuals with Autism often have challenges with speech, communication, language, and interpreting nonverbal cues. Suggesting there is an overlap in the affected areas of the brain between these two conditions.

Both conditions are frequently identified in childhood, because children often experience social difficulties, struggle with academic performance, and face challenges in adapting to new situations. Dyslexia is known to affect reading and spelling abilities, as well as having an impact by numerous academic skills. Check out the common characteristics of Dyslexia.

Some potential social impacts of Dyslexia include:

  • Dyslexia can impact language processing and fluency, potentially affecting verbal communication. Individuals might find it challenging to express themselves clearly, leading to misunderstandings in social interactions.
  • Difficulties in reading and writing frequently cause stress or anxiety about school performance. In turn, affecting an individual’s social interactions.
  • The challenges in school and professionally associated with Dyslexia may lead to lower self-esteem and confidence, particularly if individuals are aware of their difficulties compared to their peers.
  • Unfortunately peers, parents and educators might not fully understand the nature of Dyslexia, leading to misconceptions or stigmas. This lack of awareness can affect how individuals with Dyslexia are perceived socially.

Several studies have indicated a significant overlap between Dyslexia and Autism. For example, the prevalence of ASD in youth is currently given as 1 in 59, with rates of some symptoms of Dyslexia in youth as high as 15-20% (Shea et al., 2018).  A study by Peterson and Pennington (2015) found that 29% of children with Dyslexia are also on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms. The prevalence rates can vary however, they do show that there is a significant overlap between Dyslexia and Autism.

While there are certainly similarities between Dyslexia and Autism, there are also some key differences. One of the most significant differences is the fact that Autism is typically characterized by difficulties with social communication and interaction, as having limited or very focused interests, as well as repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. In contrast, Dyslexia primarily affects abilities associated with words, although it can also impact other areas of life as well.

Another difference between these two conditions is the way they are diagnosed. Dyslexia is typically diagnosed through an assessment of reading abilities by a school or private psychologist or neurologist, while Autism is diagnosed based on observed behaviors and social communication skills by a doctor. Additionally, there is often a greater emphasis on identifying Autism at an earlier age, as early intervention while school administrators and teachers tend to encourage parents to wait and see if the child outgrows the learning challenges.

The reason for the comorbidity of these conditions is not yet fully understood, however it is believed that genetic and environmental factors may play a significant role. Researchers have identified genetic variations that may increase the likelihood for both conditions.

If you suspect your child might be Dyslexic are to start with a self-assessment. If you find that you or your child have at least three characteristics on the list, then they likely are Dyslexic and could benefit from the following recommendations:

  • Gain a deeper insight into your child’s learning style to better support their education. By incorporating a variety of teaching methods, educators can better meet the needs of students with Dyslexia. Our free webinar explores effective strategies for parents, offering valuable guidance on understanding and nurturing their strengths.
  • Multisensory instruction is crucial. This approach engages visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements, catering to diverse learning styles and reinforcing essential concepts.
  • This structured, multisensory approach to teaching language is particularly effective for individuals with Dyslexia. It involves visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements, helping students to build strong connections between letters and sounds. At 3D Learning Experts, our specialized tutoring programs address the unique needs of individuals with Autism and Dyslexia. Our tutors employ multisensory strategies, emphasizing the Orton-Gillingham approach for Dyslexia and are experienced working with individuals on the Spectrum.
  • Schools can implement accommodations to support students. These may include extended time on exams, providing audiobooks, allowing the use of assistive technology, and offering a quiet space for reading or testing, to name a few options.
  • Assistive technology tools tailored to the needs of individuals with Autism and Dyslexia can enhance learning experiences. These may include communication devices, visual aids, and text-to-speech software speech recognition tools, and Dyslexia-friendly fonts can enhance reading and writing experiences.
  • Encouragement and positive reinforcement play a crucial role. Focusing on strengths and building confidence helps individuals with Dyslexia develop a positive attitude toward learning.
  • Collaborating with schools to create and implement Individualized Education Plans ensures that specific needs related to Autism and Dyslexia are addressed. Accommodations and modifications can be included in the plan.
  • Advocating for your child with Autism and Dyslexia until they can advocate for themselves is paramount. This may involve working closely with educators and school administrators.

In conclusion, the intricate relationship between Dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), emphasizing their co-occurrence and shared impact on verbal communication and sensory processing. Social challenges associated with Dyslexia, including language processing difficulties and academic stress, can contribute to lower self-esteem and potential misconceptions by peers and educators. Notably, research indicates a substantial overlap between Dyslexia and ASD, with approximately 30% of individuals with Autism also experiencing Dyslexia.

Despite similarities, key differences exist between Dyslexia and Autism, particularly in their characteristics, diagnostic methods, and emphasis on early intervention. To support individuals with Dyslexia and ASD, the article recommends various strategies, including multisensory instruction, accommodations in schools, assistive technology, positive reinforcement, and collaboration with educators to develop Individualized Education Plans.

Empowering parents to advocate for their children underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing the unique needs associated with both Dyslexia and Autism.


Shea, L., Hecker, L., & Lalor, A. (2018). From disability to diversity: College success for students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder. National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from https://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2846&context=capstone

Peterson, R. L., & Pennington, B. F. (2015). Developmental dyslexia. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11, 283-307.

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