Could It Be Dyslexia?

Little girl looking confused with question marks surrounding her wondering about Dyslexia.

Concerned someone you know may have dyslexia?

There are a number of warning signs of dyslexia that emerge well before a person is officially identified. While this page is not intended as a substitute for a formal educational evaluation, we do provide you with links to some assessment tools that can help provide valuable information on a student’s strengths and challenges.

The purpose of this post is to provide the reader with some basic background knowledge and some talking points when advocating for a child. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common signs of dyslexia by age group.

Be on the lookout for these common red flags. It’s important to note a child will not likely exhibit ALL of these warning signs. However, if the behavior(s) is repeated and ongoing, further investigation might be warranted.

Any Age

The first thing to check for is a family history of dyslexia. Because dyslexia is genetic, the likelihood of a child having dyslexia is increased if a family member also has dyslexia.

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschool

Well before formal reading instruction begins, there are signs of dyslexia to be on the lookout for in preschoolers. Watch for trouble with oral language skills or phonological awareness. This is important because a phonological weakness often leads to an impairment in decoding (reading).

Look for the following:

  1. Late talking.
  2. Struggling to name familiar objects.
  3. Difficulty rhyming or identifying words that rhyme.
  4. Difficulty saying multisyllabic words (ie. pasghetti/spaghetti, hopsital/hospital, aminal/animal).
  5. Trouble remembering and following directions.
  6. Trouble remembering the names of letters, numbers, and colors.

If you have a concern about your child’s development (ages 0-3), please visit your state website and contact the Birth to 3 office for further assistance.

Signs of Dyslexia in Early Elementary

  1. Weaknesses in phonemic awareness indicated by difficulty blending sounds into words (i.e. /c/…/a/…/t/, cat) or segmenting words into discrete sounds (i.e. dog, /d/…/o/…/g/).
  2. Adding or omitting sounds when blending and segmenting words orally or in print (i.e. fit/fist, grab/gab).
  3. Reading and spelling errors that reveal weaknesses in sequencing sounds (i.e. spot/stop, blast/blats).
  4. Trouble remembering the sounds associated with letters. (i.e. the alphabetic principle) Here is a FREE letter name sound assessment.
  5. Trouble decoding or matching print to sound (phonics) and reading or spelling simple words such as run, wish, and man.
  6. Continued difficulty with rhyming.
  7. Difficulty remembering common high frequency words (i.e. the, of, was, like, for).
  8. Letter reversals beyond age 7.

It is important to have a baseline measurement of a child’s phonological awareness. Here is a FREE, easy-to-use phonological awareness assessment.

Signs of Dyslexia in Upper Elementary

  1. Poor spelling.
  2. Slow and labored reading.
  3. Relying on memorizing or guessing at words in lieu of efficiently using word patterns (phonics). Here is a helpful resource to determine a student’s knowledge of the syllable types.
  4. Avoiding reading and/or writing.
  5. Pretend reading.
  6. Frustration when reading.

Signs of Dyslexia in Teens and Adults

  1. Slow and labored reading.
  2. Slow and labored writing with excessive spelling errors.
  3. Avoiding tasks that involve reading and writing.
  4. Mispronunciation of words.

Is there a standardized assessment that can be used to screen for dyslexia?

While there are several valuable norm-referenced assessments available, we use DIBELS 8 as a standardized universal screener to obtain beginning, middle and end-of-year benchmarks. DIBELS 8 offers free downloads for fall, winter and spring benchmarks as well as progress monitoring materials.

Importantly, when using DIBELS 8, the evaluator is able to calculate a composite score. This composite score can be used to identify at-risk readers.

The primary goal of the DIBELS 8th screening tool is to identify students who are at risk for reading difficulties. The measures are, “designed to screen students for deficits in important skills that are associated with future risk of both dyslexia and reading difficulty more broadly.” 

DIBELS 8 is an important first step in evaluating reading strengths and challenges. If the composite score falls in the at-risk range, further evaluation may be warranted.

What You Should Know About Dyslexia

  1. Dyslexia is not indicative of low intelligence. In fact, most students with dyslexia have average to above average intelligence. Often, their oral language skills (speaking vocabulary and comprehension) far exceed their current level of reading and writing performance.
  2. With systematic, multisensory instruction, those with dyslexia can improve their reading skills and achieve reading success. This means that instructors should be using a multi-sensory, structured literacy procedure that adheres to the science of reading. To be clear, a ‘balanced literacy’ approach is not sufficient to support students with dyslexia. This article provides a succinct overview of the science of reading versus balanced literacy. We also highly recommend listening to the podcast, Sold a Story.
  3. Students with dyslexia benefit from repeated practice
  4. Dyslexia is not something that can be ‘cured’, but, with effective instruction, it can be mitigated.
  5. Once a student has been identified as dyslexic, they MUST receive an evidence-based structured literacy intervention.

Helpful Websites on Dyslexia

  • Understood.org This amazing site addresses a variety of learning challenges, not just dyslexia. It is easy to navigate. There are sections designed for parents and caregivers, young adults, educators and employers.
  • International Dyslexia Association This comprehensive website includes such resources as FAQ’s, Provider Directories, and Advocating for Students with Dyslexia in Public Schools.
  • Reading Rockets This is another comprehensive website aimed toward supporting readers. There is a plethora of information for parents, teachers, and many others.
  • The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Recommended Reading About Dyslexia

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