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Dyslexia and Fatigue: Probable Causes, a Simulation, & Treatment

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Dyslexia is a reading disability that results in difficulty learning to read and decode words, but does not affect general intelligence.  Symptoms include reading below grade level, difficulty with phonemic awareness, and difficulty with decoding. Parents and teachers of children with dyslexia may notice that literacy activities result in fatigue. Although there seems to be limited research regarding dyslexia and fatigue, there is research that shows…

Dyslexic children when compared to non-dyslexic readers have:

  • difficulty with eye tracking (following words and lines on a page) while reading text (Jainta & Kapoula, 2011).
  • an increased activity in the cortical area of the brain during reading activity (Morken, Helland, Hugdahl, & Spect, 2014).
  • difficulty with working memory (Sela, Izzetoglu, Izzetoglu, & Onarial, 2012)

The above research demonstrates that literacy activities just take more brain power and focus for individuals who have dyslexia. It is easy to conclude why dyslexia and fatigue would go together. I can image putting sustained effort and focus into difficult task would be exhausting.

Dyslexia and Fatigue: A Simulation Activity

To simulate what decoding words might be like for a dyslexic child, study the following table and then read the paragraph after it. Feel free to refer back to the decoding chart as needed.

when you see x, say /d/ or /t/, for q, say /m/, for z, say /g/ as in gift, for p say b and b say p, for ed, say ing. For short i, say short e, for o as in on, say i as in bit.

Accorxed xo the CDC, all chilxren neex ax leasx 60 qinuxes of aeropic acxivixy every xay. Juqbed, rixed pikes, swiqqed, runned, prisk walked, and cliqbed on blayzrounx equibqenx are soqe of the ways exercise can pe incluxex in a chilx’s xay. ADHD xibs for acxive chilxren incluxe zexxed enough exercise; however, chilxren with ADHD or similar symbxoqs qay neex qore then the 60 qinuxe qiniquq.

Was that exhausting?

Were you able to finish the paragraph? Even though I created this simulation and I know what the original paragraph was supposed to say, I still got stuck on words and did not want to finish reading the paragraph.

The altered paragraph is from my article ADHD Tips: Adaptations to Help an Active Child. Here is what the original paragraph said:

According to the CDC, all children need at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity every day. Jumping, riding bikes, swimming, running, brisk walking, and climbing on playground equipment are some of the ways exercise can be included in a child’s day. ADHD Tips for active children include getting enough exercise; however, children with ADHD or similar symptoms may need more then the 60 minute minimum.

A similar similar simulation can be found on

How to help children with dyslexia and fatigue

Research clearly shows that literacy activities require more attention, brain power, and focus for individuals who have dyslexia. When reading is difficult, symptoms of fatigue may surface due to the extra effort required. The memory of difficulty with previous reading activities may result in fatigue as soon a literacy activity is even mentioned. To make reading more enjoyable for dyslexic individuals, work on improving fluency, create a balanced approach to reading, and consider other adaptations that may help.

Work on building reading fluency

It is common for children with reading challenges to get insufficient reading practice to build fluency (reading at the rate of speech). Fluent reading is easy reading. Start where the child is successful. If his fluency level is below what is expected, start at the reading level where he is able to read fluently with minimal errors (95-100% accuracy).

CLICK HERE to learn how to conduct a running record to measure fluency.

CLICK HERE to read about how to keep track a child’s reading fluency progress.

Find ways to include many reading activities throughout the day at the child’s current level. For example, if a 10 year old can read 1st grade level texts fluently, have him read picture books or early readers to pets or younger siblings. At the same time, be attentive to the child’s fatigue. Fluent reading should not cause fatigue. If the child tires, follow their lead and end the activity. The purpose is to 1) gradually build up endurance and 2) for reading activities to be enjoyable.

Create a balanced reading program

The National Reading Panel (2000) conducted a thorough review of reading research. They concluded that phonics instruction should be integrated into other reading activities. A balanced approach will focus on word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. A child’s interests should also be incorporated into reading activities.

These conclusions are also appropriate for a child with dyslexia. Phonics skills are important for reading unfamiliar words; however, the child needs to build fluency for reading to become an enjoyable activity. If needed, improve word recognition skills through whole word methods. It may take some trial and error to find the instructional approaches that will work best with each child.

Other adaptations

Shorten reading activities

If a dyslexic child needs to complete 30 minutes of reading practice per day, they may feel overwhelmed or become fatigued after 5-10 minutes. You want to start where the child is successful. For example, the child could:

  • complete 10 minutes of practice 3 times during the day, with long breaks between, or
  • complete 5 minutes of practice 6 times spread throughout the day.


Research indicates that e-readers provide easier reading for some individuals with dyslexia (Schneps, Thomson, Chen, Sonnert, & Pomplun, 2013). Eye tracking studies (as referenced by Schneps et al.) have shown that shorter lines facilitate reading for dyslexic individuals. An e-reader allows the user to adjust font size and the number of lines visible. These adjustments will promote the conditions needed for easier eye tracking.

Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fires are both affordable choices.

Final thought on dyslexia and fatigue

Individuals with dyslexia may experience fatigue during literacy activities due to difficulty with eye tracking, memory, and the overall extra brain effort required for reading. Steps to build fluency and endurance should be considered. Short literacy activities spread throughout the day and the use of an e-reader may also be beneficial for dyslexia and fatigue.



Jainta, S., & Kapoula, Z. (2011). Dyslexic children are confronted with unstable binocular fixation while reading. PLOS One, 6, e18694.

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