Could It Be Dyslexia?

child with dyslexia trying to read a book

Concerned a child may have dyslexia?

Before an official diagnosis is made, you can be on the lookout for some common red flags that may signal dyslexia. 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 weaknesses. 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.

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 one can 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 weaknesses with phonological awareness.

  1. Late talking.
  2. Learning new words slowly.
  3. Difficulty rhyming or identifying words that rhyme.
  4. Difficulty saying multisyllabic words (ie. pasghetti instead of spaghetti).
  5. Trouble remembering the names of letters, numbers, and colors.

It is important to have a baseline measurement of a child’s phonological awareness. Click on the image below for an easy-to-use phonological awareness assessment.

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. For example instead of reading the word grab, the student may say gab.
  3. Trouble remembering the sounds associated with letters. (i.e. the alphabetic principle) Click on the image below for a FREE letter name sound assessment.
  4. Trouble decoding or matching print to sound (phonics) and reading or spelling simple words such as run, wish, and man.
  5. Continued difficulty with rhyming.

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). Click on the image below for a helpful resource to determine a student’s knowledge of the syllable types.
  4. Avoiding reading.
  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.

What You Should Know About Dyslexia:

  1. Dyslexia is not indicative of low intelligence. In fact, the difficulties manifested in those with dyslexia often seem at odds with the dyslexic’s other cognitive abilities.
  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 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.
  3. Dyslexia is not something that can be ‘cured’, but with effective instruction it can be mitigated.

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.

Recommended Reading About Dyslexia


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