What Are The Warning Signs of Dyslexia?

Child Dyslexia

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Are you wondering if your child or teen has dyslexia? Parents often tell us they were told much too late that their child may have reading difficulties that are beyond what would be expected. Early identification and intervention is key in helping students with dyslexia thrive.

Parents often ask, “why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?” The answer to this question varies, but sometimes, these children go missed because dyslexia does not mean a student lacks intelligence.

In fact, as Sally Shaywitz, MD, an expert on dyslexia often explains, dyslexia is often swimming in a “sea of strengths.” Children and teens with dyslexia are often creative, bright, and have many talents, but they may struggle with reading and other language-based learning tasks.

Common warning signs of dyslexia are present at every stage of a child or teen’s development. Here are some common signs broken down by age group:


  • Mispronouncing words like “weddy” instead of “ready”
  • Difficulties rhyming and learning the alphabet
  • Telling stories that don’t make sense
  • Trouble following multi-step directions

Kindergarten through 2nd Grade

  • Confusing letters (like b and d)
  • Mixing up letters that sound similar (v and f)
  • Trouble learning letter names and remembering their sounds
  • Struggling to read familiar words without pictures
  • Substituting words when reading aloud like home instead of house
  • Trouble separating and blending sounds to make words
  • Struggling with spelling

3rd through 5th Grade

  • Trouble recognizing common words and sounding out words
  • Skipping words like of or from when reading aloud or confusing them
  • Reversing letters
  • Spelling the same word correctly and incorrectly in the same activity
  • Struggling to answer questions from a story or explaining what was read
  • Avoiding reading and getting frustrated when reading
  • Inability to sound out the pronunciation of words
  • Spending a long time completing reading and writing assignments
  • Trouble with memorization
  • Difficulties with learning foreign languages

Middle School through College

  • Searching for words and substituting similar words
  • Reading slowly
  • Skipping small words or parts of words when reading aloud
  • Taking a long time to complete assignments that involve reading
  • Improved performance answering questions from a book that are read aloud
  • Difficulty reading aloud
  • Problems with spelling
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Mispronouncing names or words or problems retrieving words
  • Trouble learning foreign languages
  • Difficulty with math problems
  • Difficulty with summarizing stories
  • Trouble with memorization


What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading for someone who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. It is most commonly due to a difficulty in phonological processing (appreciation of the individual sounds of a spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and often, learn a second language.


Why is it important to get a comprehensive evaluation for dyslexia?

Seeking an evaluation from a child psychologist who is trained in the assessment of cognitive, academic, executive functioning, memory and learning is important because there are other factors that can co-occur with dyslexia.

A higher percentage of children and teens who have dyslexia also have Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD symptoms include trouble with sustaining attention and focus, and some children and teens have impulsive and/or hyperactive behavior that makes learning more difficult.

By only evaluating for dyslexia, parents and students often are missing other important aspects that impact their day-to-day functioning. We often see patients who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, but they have not explored other co-occurring challenges that are essential to identify so students can access learning.

By treating other difficulties such as ADHD or anxiety after proper identification, children are able to absorb what they are learning during tutoring sessions for dyslexia to truly “unlock” their potential.

Child DyslexiaSource: Pexels.com


How common is dyslexia?

Approximately 20% of people have dyslexia. Dyslexia represents 80-90% of all those with learning disabilities. It is the most common of all neurocognitive disorders.


Is dyslexia more common in boys?

A 1990 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz found that dyslexia affects a comparable number of boys and girls. More boys are referred by their teachers for evaluation, but this appears to reflect the more rambunctious behavior of boys in the classroom.


What are the risks of not identifying dyslexia?

If a child has dyslexia and it has not been discovered, there are multiple problems that can occur, such as trouble with learning, social problems, and problems that cross over into adulthood:


Social Problems

If dyslexia is not identified, students may develop behavior problems to compensate, have low self-esteem, and suffer from anxiety and/or aggression as they do not know why learning is so hard. Sometimes peers may tease them, or they may have negative relationships with parents and teachers as they learn effort does not result in high levels of performance.


Trouble Learning

Since reading is a skill that is necessary for all subjects, children with dyslexia often have trouble across all classes. Keeping up with peers can be challenging, and children and teens with dyslexia and ADHD (who have not been diagnosed) have further difficulties with school. 


Problems in College and Adulthood

If a child or teen has never properly learned the building blocks of reading, this can prevent one from reaching their potential. Many students are talented in ways that could lead to a wonderful job, but that job may involve reading or writing. By choosing not to pursue a certain career path, or by stumbling through college, young adults are at risk of dropping out of college or choosing an alternate career. 


What can parents do if they suspect their child has dyslexia?


Teen Dyslexia

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Having your child evaluated for dyslexia and ruling in or out other common co-occurring factors is a gift for life. By thoroughly exploring a child or teen’s strengths and weaknesses through an evaluation with a child psychologist, this opens the door for early support and specific recommendations for intervention.

Working with an Orton Gillingham tutor regularly and communicating with your child’s learning team is essential to give children and teens the tools for success. By identifying and intervening early, research shows that children can make great gains in reading abilities, which allows them to access learning in a way they could not do before.

Further, this allows children and teens to build self-confidence and explore all areas of academics that they enjoy. Let’s not let trouble with reading hold children back! By advocating for further research and support for dyslexic learners, we can make a difference. 


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