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Dyslexia, Academic Achievements and Self-Esteem


This paper provides a review of the literature on the problem of dyslexia and its relationship to children’s and adolescents’ academic achievements and self-esteem. The purpose of this literature review is to analyze, compare, and contrast the recent studies on the topic and identify possible interventions to cope with the discussed learning disability. This paper also presents the implications for future research on the topic. The findings of the literature review are summarized in the conclusion of the paper.

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Dyslexia is a learning disability that is characterized by persons’ impaired skills in reading and spelling words. The researchers state that this disability is of a neurobiological origin (Swanson, Harris, & Graham, 2013). Those children and adolescents who are diagnosed with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with reading because of their impossibility to recognize, decode, and spell words (Armstrong & Squires, 2015). The preliminary review of the literature has allowed for identifying two specific relationships associated with the topic. Thus, students can have problems with their learning as a result of experienced difficulties, and this disability can affect their academic performance (Kaluyu & Ooko, 2016).

Furthermore, according to many studies on the topic, dyslexia can also influence students’ self-esteem (Armstrong & Squires, 2015). Although the relationships between dyslexia and academic achievements or dyslexia and students’ self-esteem are mentioned by some researchers, little attention is paid to this topic, and the purpose of this literature review is to discuss these two relationships in detail with the focus on some proposed interventions and applications which can have an effect on the correlation between dyslexia, academic achievements, and self-esteem.

Statement of the Problem

In spite of the fact that the analysis of relationships between such learning disability as dyslexia and students’ academic achievements or between dyslexia and students’ self-esteem is presented in several studies, there is still a need for a complex discussion of the problem with the focus on three mentioned aspects which can be directly connected with each other. From this perspective, the focus question which guides this literature review is the following one: What is the relationship between dyslexia, academic achievements, and students’ self-esteem? In this review, it is important to focus on analyzing the literature which provides the information regarding the correlation between dyslexia, students’ academic performance, and possible changes in their self-esteem caused by problems with reading as well as academic achievements.

In spite of researchers’ interest in this problem, there is still a gap in discussions of these phenomena with the focus on their connectedness. The problem is in the fact that those children and adolescents who suffer from dyslexia can fail to cope with tasks that require reading, and this aspect can influence their academic achievements. Furthermore, these difficulties or failures can provoke certain reactions in students and changes in their self-esteem (Armstrong & Squires, 2015; Novita, 2016). This problem requires further discussion with the focus on the analysis of recent studies in the field.

Literature Review and Analysis

The term “dyslexia” and its definition were proposed in the 1880s (Armstrong & Squires, 2015). Today, this term is used to define individuals’ inabilities to decode letters and read words. In spite of primary effects of this learning disability associated with students’ difficulties with reading, researchers also identify secondary effects or consequences, such as low grades and the affected self-esteem, as well as low self-confidence, and high levels of anxiety among other changes (Novita, 2016; Swanson et al., 2013). These secondary effects of dyslexia on students and their performance should be discussed in detail.

Dyslexia and Academic Achievements

In spite of the fact that reading skills are viewed as important to affect students’ performance at school, there are only a few studies that discuss dyslexia as influencing individuals’ academic achievements (Armstrong & Squires, 2015). As a result of their study, Kaluyu and Ooko (2016) have found that there is a statistically significant relationship between dyslexia and academic achievements of students from Kenya who were diagnosed with this learning disability. According to the researchers, those students who study at primary school and suffer from dyslexia experience problems with reading, spelling, writing, and structuring sentences. Their comprehension of any text is also limited.

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As a result, the academic performance of these students is lower in comparison to the achievements of their classmates (Kaluyu & Ooko, 2016).

These findings are also supported by the conclusions made by Rimkute, Torppa, Eklund, Nurmi, and Lyytinen (2014), who stated in their earlier research that students’ dyslexia could be discussed as a factor to predict their academic success. Similar findings were also proposed by Armstrong and Squires (2015). Thus, the researchers are inclined to agree that dyslexia can significantly influence students’ academic performance.

In their work, Swanson et al. (2013) also cite the researchers who have found that there is a direct relationship between students’ ability to read and their success in learning. According to Novita (2016), the problem is in the fact that this disorder, which is associated with the language deficit, can prevent students from understanding instructions, perceiving and learning the materials, and completing tasks. As a result, students begin to experience problems not only in reading but also in performing all activities associated with learning, as it is noted by Armstrong and Squires (2015). These ideas are in line with the conclusions made by Rimkute et al. (2014), who have stated in their article that students often concentrate on their possible failure, and these children’s expectations regarding their academic achievements decrease along with their grades.

Dyslexia and Self-Esteem

Different studies report that self-esteem of students with dyslexia is usually lower in comparison to the self-esteem of students who have no such problems, and possible reasons are not only high expectations of teachers and parents but also low academic achievements of students with learning disabilities (Rimkute et al., 2014). According to Novita (2016), there is a positive correlation between students’ condition and their self-esteem. Furthermore, Swanson et al. (2013) add to this discussion while stating that the usual cause of these students’ low self-esteem is their academic performance.

However, in their work, Armstrong and Squires (2015) put emphasis on another direction of the relationship between dyslexia, academic achievements, and self-esteem of students. According to the authors, dyslexia can affect students’ self-esteem, and then, their academic performance becomes also influenced. Thus, when children experience failures while trying to read texts, their self-esteem becomes lower, and they can stop trying to improve their academic results. Armstrong and Squires (2015) note in their work, “a vicious circle is created in which failure leads to further erosion of self-belief and self-esteem and this, in turn, leads to more resistance to learning” (p. 87). Still, the relationship between dyslexia and self-esteem also has other dimensions to discuss.

As it is noted by Rimkute et al. (2014), both students and their parents are inclined to consider children’s capacities as low, and this aspect influences individuals’ self-esteem because students do not view themselves as able to learn better.

In contrast to discussing the problem of the relationship between dyslexia and self-esteem in general and accentuating changes in the self-confidence with reference to both school and family contexts, Novita (2016) focuses on the idea that students with dyslexia usually experience problems at school, and their vision is affected in school environments when they communicate with teachers and peers and demonstrate their inability to learn effectively. On the contrary, in their families, these students are often supported by parents and other relatives, and there are no problems with students’ self-esteem in this context.

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Effective Interventions and Instructional Implications

In order to cope with students’ problems with learning caused by dyslexia and contribute to increasing their motivation and self-esteem, researchers propose different interventions. According to Novita (2016), students with dyslexia should receive a specific treatment at school in order to address their learning disabilities. Furthermore, special treatment and certain educational and psychological interventions, including therapies, are important to improve students’ achievements, help them adapt to their learning situation, and increase their self-esteem (Armstrong & Squires, 2015).

In spite of the reported positive effects of interventions on students’ learning and perceptions of their abilities, Kaluyu and Ooko (2016) also refer to the importance of changing policies in educational institutions in order to implement certain interventions. Thus, the researchers note that the principles of teaching students with dyslexia, creating curricula, and providing their assessments should be reflected in clearly formulated policies (Kaluyu & Ooko, 2016). The implementation of interventions is directly connected with the application of certain instructions to be used by teachers while working with students who have dyslexia.

The instructions proposed by teachers for students with dyslexia should follow certain criteria in order to contribute to children’s learning and improving their performance. Thus, according to the researchers, the instructions for students with learning disabilities should be systematic, concise, explicit, and adapted to their needs (Armstrong & Squires, 2015). However, Novita (2016) pays attention to the fact that, while speaking about students’ self-esteem, more aspects should be covered by instructions and adopted interventions.

According to Novita (2016), educators should understand that students with dyslexia usually “develop more problems than ‘only’ difficulties in reading and therefore classroom management, task distribution, instruction of the task, and other scholastic activities should take into account this condition as an important factor” (p. 9).

From this point, although the opinions of researchers regarding interventions and instructional implications are different in some aspects, the importance of interventions to address the problem of teaching students with dyslexia, as well as increasing their academic performance and self-esteem, is supported by studies on the topic.

Implications for Future Research

The discussed topic which is associated with the relationship between dyslexia, children’s academic achievements, and their self-esteem can be viewed as important for students, their families, and teachers. The reason is that many students who have dyslexia face difficulties while completing school assignments, and their self-esteem decreases (Armstrong & Squires, 2015; Swanson et al., 2013). Students and parents should know what interventions and strategies are available to address this problem.

Furthermore, teachers should become aware of this relationship and identify and use specific practices to cope with the problem at school. Nevertheless, this research is not enough to cover all aspects of the determined problem, and future research on the topic is needed.

The relationship between dyslexia, students’ academic performance, and their self-esteem is complex, and it requires the further discussion of the question with the focus on how teachers and parents can cooperate to decrease secondary effects of dyslexia on children’s vision of themselves and their successes. Moreover, it is also important to study what role in affecting students’ learning and self-esteem is played by different environments. In this review, little attention is paid to analyzing the situation when children’s self-esteem at home and at school differs, and this aspect requires the further examination. From this point, future research is important in order to discuss the problem from several perspectives and provide students, their relatives, and teachers with appropriate recommendations.

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The review of the literature on the relationship between dyslexia, students’ academic progress, and their self-esteem has provided the researcher with opportunities to examine the relationship between dyslexia and academic achievements, the relationship between dyslexia and self-esteem, and possible interventions for addressing the problem. The literature review has provided the answer to the question about the relationship between dyslexia and problems in students’ academic performance and self-confidence.

Thus, according to the reviewed studies, there is a direct positive correlation between the progress of dyslexia and changes in students’ academic performance. Problems in learning caused by dyslexia are associated with low academic achievements. Furthermore, low grades and problems at school are in correlation with students’ self-esteem which tends to decrease when students’ grades are low. In addition, there is also an adverse relationship when children’s low self-esteem can provoke their problems with learning. In order to address these issues, researchers propose psychological and educational interventions to provide students with appropriate instructions and therapies.


Armstrong, D., & Squires, G. (2015). Key perspectives on dyslexia: An essential text for educators. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kaluyu, V., & Ooko, P. (2016). The relationship between reading dyslexia and academic performance of upper primary pupils in public schools in Changamwe Sub-County, Kenya. International Journal of Social Science Studies, 4(5), 21-30. Web.

Novita, S. (2016). Secondary symptoms of dyslexia: A comparison of self-esteem and anxiety profiles of children with and without dyslexia. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 31(2), 279-288. Web.

Rimkute, L., Torppa, M., Eklund, K., Nurmi, J. E., & Lyytinen, H. (2014). The impact of adolescents’ dyslexia on parents’ and their own educational expectations. Reading and Writing, 27(7), 1231-1253. Web.

Swanson, H. L., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of learning disabilities (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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