Signs & Symptoms of Dyslexia


Children can show signs of dyslexia long before they begin the actual process of learning how to read and spell. This is because dyslexia affects many earlier-developing language skills that are the building blocks of reading and spelling.

A preschool age child may:

  • begin talking later than most children his/her same age
  • have more difficulty than other children pronouncing words (i.e. may say “pumputer” rather than “computer”)
  • demonstrate frequent confusion of left versus right
  • be late establishing a dominant hand
  • have excessive trouble memorizing his/her address, phone number, the days of the week, colors, shapes or the alphabet
  • be slow to acquire new vocabulary words and have difficulty coming up with the right word (i.e. may say “spoon” when meaning “fork”)
  • have difficulty reciting common nursery rhymes or producing rhyming words (i.e. may not be able to come up with words that rhyme with “cat” or “pan”)
  • be slow to develop fine motor skills (i.e. may have more difficulty compared to peers when learning how to hold a pencil properly, use buttons and zippers, and brush his/her teeth)

Grade School

Each year, children are expected to read, spell, and write more. Reading and writing fluency (how quickly one can read and write) expectations jump significantly year to year. Signs of dyslexia may become increasingly apparent as the child struggles to keep up with the curriculum.

A grade school student may:

  • have difficulty learning the connection between letters and sounds (i.e. will make 2 or 3 guesses at the sound of a given letter before saying the correct sound)
  • confuse small words such as “a” and “an” or “has” and “is”
  • make consistent reading and spelling errors, including:
    • letter or number reversals such as “d” for “b” or backwards “3’s” or “6’s”
    • word reversals such as “pool” for “loop”
    • inversions such as “u” and “n” and “m” and “w”
    • transpositions such as “waist” and “waits”
    • substitutions such as “pen” for “pencil”
  • demonstrate show, choppy, inaccurate reading
  • make guesses based on shape of the word or content of the sentence
  • substitute or confuse prepositions (at, to, of)
  • leave off suffixes (i.e. says “base” for “basement”)
  • have difficulty sounding out unknown or nonsense words (i.e. “stoich” or “blapperty”)
  • struggle to memorize sight words (you, for , again) or homonyms (one, won)
  • have trouble with math
    • memorizing multiplication tables
    • memorizing a sequence of steps
    • directionality
  • have difficulty finding the correct words when speaking (i.e. lots of “thingies” or “stuff”)
  • dread going to school, make excuses to avoid attending school

Middle School

Signs of dyslexia may increase throughout the middle school years or may appear for the first time as the workload and expectations for independence increase.

A middle school student may:

  • read at a lower level than expected
  • have trouble recognizing and learning affixes (pre, re, ment, tion, ture)
  • have poor spelling skills and he/she may spell the same word differently on the same page
  • avoid reading aloud
  • have trouble with word problems in math
  • write with difficulty, have illegible handwriting or have an awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip.
  • avoid writing
  • have slow or poor recall of facts
  • demonstrate a limited vocabulary
  • have a large discrepancy between verbal skills and written expression (i.e. may talk about a subject fluently, but struggle to write even a single sentence about the same subject)
  • struggle to learn a foreign language
  • have difficulty reading printed music
  • have poor grades in many classes

High School and Adulthood

As students with dyslexia are exposed to increasingly challenging classroom or work expectations, they may become more and more frustrated. They may excel in some areas that do not tax their academic skills, but struggle with reading and spelling based activities.

A high school student or adult may:

  • have to read a page 2 or 3 times to understand it
  • have significant spelling difficulties
  • struggle to put thoughts onto paper
  • make multiple spelling or grammatical errors when writing emails or letters
  • continue to demonstrate left-right confusion
  • often gets lost, even in a familiar city

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