Skip to Content

Do dyslexics have social problems?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding abilities. Dyslexia impacts areas of the brain that process language, often runs in families, and is not connected to intelligence. Many dyslexics struggle not only academically but also socially due to their learning challenges. In this article, we will explore whether dyslexics are more likely to have social problems and difficulties with peer relationships.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills. The severity of dyslexia ranges from mild to severe, depending on the individual. The core difficulty for dyslexics is inaccurate and slow word reading and poor spelling.

Some common signs and symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty learning letters, matching letters to sounds, and blending sounds into words
  • Struggles to recognize familiar words quickly and accurately
  • Problems spelling words correctly
  • Slow and choppy reading fluency
  • Poor written expression with grammar and punctuation errors
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper

Dyslexia is caused by differences in how the brain processes language. Neuroimaging studies show that dyslexia is connected to dysfunction in several areas of the brain involved in reading and language processing. Genetics also play a role, as dyslexia tends to run in families.

With appropriate support and interventions, dyslexics can succeed in school and life. But without help, they are at greater risk for poor academic performance, low self-esteem, and social-emotional issues.

Social Challenges Faced by Dyslexics

Many dyslexics encounter social problems and difficulties forming peer relationships. There are several reasons why dyslexia can negatively impact social skills and interactions:

Embarrassment About Reading Struggles

Since reading is such a key skill for academic success, dyslexics often feel deeply embarrassed and ashamed about their difficulties. They may go to great lengths to hide their struggles from peers to avoid being labeled as “stupid” or “lazy.” This can lead dyslexics to withdraw socially and avoid participating in group activities like reading out loud.

Appearing Inattentive and Disinterested

Dyslexics frequently have trouble following verbal instructions, tracking long conversations, and processing auditory information as quickly as peers. This can make them seem inattentive, uninterested, or unintelligent in social settings. In reality, dyslexics are often exerting extra effort just to keep up.

Language Processing Difficulties

Many dyslexics have weaknesses in language processing beyond just reading. This includes problems retrieving words efficiently, difficulty understanding figurative language like sarcasm or metaphors, and struggling to express themselves verbally in an organized way. Such language barriers can impede social connections.

Misinterpreting Social Cues

Some dyslexics are less adept at picking up on nonverbal social cues like facial expressions and body language. This makes it harder for them to navigate social interactions and understand the unwritten “rules” of social behavior. Dyslexics may miss important cues or respond in inappropriate ways.

Anxiety in Social Situations

After years of academic and social struggle, many dyslexics develop anxiety around social situations. They may avoid or withdraw from social activities and peer interactions to prevent embarrassing themselves again. Social anxiety and isolation tend to reinforce each other.

Low Self-Esteem

Continuous academic difficulties and social missteps often batter the self-esteem of dyslexics, especially when their struggles are misunderstood. Poor self-image makes it harder to initiate social connections. Dyslexics may convince themselves they are incapable of making friends.

Social Immaturity

Because dyslexics devote extra mental effort to reading and writing, they sometimes have less energy left over to develop socially. As a result, some dyslexics display maturity levels slightly below their peers in social settings. This immaturity can hamper peer relationships.

Research on Dyslexics and Social Skills

Various studies have explored the social abilities of dyslexic children compared to typical readers. Here is some of what the research shows:

Study Findings
Wadlington & Wadlington (2005) 78% of parents surveyed reported their dyslexic children had difficulty interacting with peers.
Frederickson & Jacobs (2001) Dyslexic students self-reported significantly more loneliness and social dissatisfaction than non-dyslexic peers.
Wiener & Schneider (2002) Teachers consistently rated dyslexic children as having poorer social skills than typical readers.
Gadeyne et al. (2004) Dyslexic boys showed poorer social cognition and more social anxiety than non-dyslexic boys.

Additional studies using sociometric assessments and behavioral observations also demonstrate that dyslexic children have more difficulty “fitting in” socially and are more likely to be rejected, neglected, or bullied by peers. However, research is mixed – some studies have not found significant social skill deficits among dyslexics compared to peers. More research is still needed in this area.

Tips for Improving Social Skills

If you or your child is dyslexic, don’t lose hope! With patience and the right support, social skills can improve over time. Here are some tips:

Explain Dyslexia to Friends & Peers

Openly talking about dyslexia helps demystify it for others. Peers are often more accepting when they understand the root causes of social awkwardness. Discuss accommodations that make social situations easier.

Role Play Social Scenarios

Practice compensatory strategies through role play, rehearsal, and positive feedback. Work on recognizing social cues, maintaining eye contact, listening skills, and conversational skills. Start with low-stakes practice with family to build confidence.

Develop Child’s Talents and Interests

Help dyslexic kids identify and pursue personal passions like sports, art, or music. Getting involved in group activities built around their talents provides social interaction with like-minded peers.

Find Kind, Patient Friends

Seek out playmates and companions who are kind, loyal, and patient by nature. Nurture these relationships. Avoid peers who exclude or tease the dyslexic child.

Enlist Social Skills Training

Find social skills groups, classes, camps, or counseling to help dyslexic kids learn social strategies. Look for specialized dyslexia programs.

Practice Conversational Skills

Have regular conversations with the dyslexic child to work on back-and-forth discussion abilities. Model good listening skills and topic-staying skills during your chats.

Reframe Social Setbacks Positively

If social problems occur, reframe them as learning experiences and opportunities to improve. Emphasize effort over outcomes. Offer constructive feedback and encouragement.

Watch for Social Anxiety and Depression

Be alert for signs of prolonged social withdrawal, avoidance, anxiety, or depression. Get professional counseling when needed to address the root causes and teach healthy coping strategies.


Dyslexia certainly poses extra social challenges for many affected children. Dyslexics are at heightened risk for peer rejection, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem largely due to poor language processing, reading struggles, and repeated academic failures over time. However, their social difficulties are not inevitable. With family support, targeted intervention, coping strategies, disability accommodations, andpractice, dyslexics can overcome obstacles and connect successfully with peers. Continuing research and education around dyslexia will help foster more socially inclusive and understanding school environments as well.