What Are the Symptoms of Dyslexia?

The symptoms of dyslexia can be hard to spot until your child starts school. A teacher might be the first one to notice the signs, especially if your child struggles to read, spell, and follow instructions in the classroom.

Dyslexia symptoms change at different ages and stages of life. Each child with dyslexia is different, has unique strengths, and faces distinct challenges. Yet there are some general signs that your child might need some extra help in school.

Symptoms in Preschoolers

Children with dyslexia have trouble processing language. Preschoolers who have this learning disorder lag behind their peers in language skills. They take longer to speak and write than their friends, and they sometimes get their letters and words mixed up.

Preschoolers with dyslexia may show signs like these:

  • They find it hard to learn or remember the letters of the alphabet.
  • They mispronounce familiar words. “Baby talk” is common.
  • They have trouble recognizing letters. For example, they mistake "t" for "d."
  • They don't recognize rhyming patterns, like "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall / Humpty Dumpty had a great fall."

Symptoms in Grade-Schoolers

The signs of dyslexia become more obvious in elementary school. Kids with this disorder have a harder time learning how to read and write than their classmates.

Grade-schoolers with dyslexia:

  • Read more slowly than other kids their age
  • Can't tell the difference between certain letters or words
  • Don't connect letters with the sounds they make -- "buh" for "b" or "em" for "m"
  • Write letters or numbers backwards, such as "b" instead of "d"
  • Have trouble sounding out words when they read
  • Can't always understand what they've read
  • Write slowly
  • Misspell words -- even easy words like "and" and "dog"
  • Say that words on the page appear to blur or jump around
  • Struggle to follow a series of instructions

Symptoms in Older Children

Kids who were able to hide their symptoms in elementary school might start to have trouble in middle school as the demands on them increase. They can also withdraw socially as it becomes harder for them to communicate with their peers.

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Middle and high school students with dyslexia:

  • Have trouble writing clearly (make errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation)
  • Take a long time to finish their homework or complete tests
  • Have messy handwriting
  • Speak slowly
  • Avoid reading aloud
  • Use the wrong words -- like "furnish" instead of "finish" or "lotion" for "ocean"
  • Can't remember the names of words, so they might say "um" or "uh" a lot

If your child has these symptoms, talk to her teacher to find out what's happening in the classroom.

Then call your child's doctor to make sure a health problem like hearing loss or vision loss isn't to blame. If dyslexia is the cause, your doctor can refer you to a specialist for more tests and treatment. The earlier your child gets diagnosed, the sooner she can start treatment to bring her language and writing skills up to speed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 12, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: "Dyslexia: Symptoms."

National Health Service (U.K.): "Dyslexia: Symptoms."

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity: "Signs of Dyslexia.”

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