If you know little about dyslexia, you may be wondering, how to know if someone is dyslexic or not. There are quite a few signs of dyslexia that are easy to observe.
This is the first post in a 5-day series on Teaching Kids With Dyslexia to Read. Read the entire series by clicking here.
If you would rather listen to this post, click the ‘play’ button below for an audio recording. Scroll down to the end of this post to download a printable list of the signs of dyslexia.
If you are like I was when we had our first struggling reader some 17 years ago, and know nothing about the phenomenon called dyslexia, you may be wondering, as I did, how to know if someone you know is dyslexic or not.
It is no great mystery. There are quite a few signs of dyslexia that are easy to observe.
Signs of Dyslexia in Young Children
- Trouble with concepts of time
- Unable to follow 2 or 3-step directions
- Learning to talk later than other children their age
- Difficulty learning the names of shapes and colors
- Difficulty learning letter names and sounds
- Reversal of syllables and phonemes (letter sounds) within a word
- Unable to recognize or produce rhymes
- Early stuttering
- Cannot sequence rote memory concepts such as days of the week, months of the year, alphabet, and numbers
- Trouble recognizing letters in words or even their names
- Delays with fine motor skills like tying shoes, coloring, and writing
Dyslexia in preschoolers is harder to diagnose than in the older years because many of its symptoms are developmentally common for all preschoolers. The more symptoms that are present, and the longer they persist, the more likely it is that your child may need some help. Dyslexia is marked by a combination of signs and a lack of progress over time.
Signs of Dyslexia In Elementary School
- Does not enjoy reading but likes being read to
- Slow, inaccurate reading
- Uses context clues rather than sounding words out
- Skips or misreads little words (at, to, of)
- Poor spelling – very phonetic
- Trouble telling time on a clock with hands
- Difficulty expressing self
- Inattentiveness, distractibility
- Slow and messy handwriting – also called dysgraphia
- Letter and number reversals after first grade
- Trouble memorizing math facts
- Hesitant speech; difficulty finding the right words to express self
- Extremely messy bedroom, backpack or desk
- Dreads going to school
Signs of Dyslexia In Adolescence and Adulthood
All of the above signs plus:
- Difficulty processing auditory information
- Losing possessions; poor organizational skills – also referred to as executive function
- Slow reading; low comprehension
- Difficulty remembering the names of people and places
- Difficulty organizing ideas to write a paper
- Difficulty reading music
- Unable to master a foreign language
- Inability to recall numbers in proper sequence
- Lowered self-esteem due to past frustrations and failure
- May drop out of high school
As a general rule of thumb, if your child has 3 or more of these signs and there is a close relative with dyslexia (yes, dyslexia is genetic) your child may have dyslexia.
What to do if You Suspect Dyslexia
Take a Class. Our courses were specifically designed to teach you what you need to know about dyslexia so you can get started teaching your kids the way they learn. Visit our Parent Dyslexia Course page for the latest courses available.
Get support. Find a group of people who can relate to what you are going through. Our Homeschooling With Dyslexia Facebook Page is a great place to start. These groups are a great place to find encouragement and advice on everything from curriculum to teaching tips and simple encouragement when it is ‘one of those days’. Find other dyslexia support groups here.
Join us here tomorrow when we will look at how to teach a child with dyslexia in the ways in which they learn best.
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Signs of Dyslexia
We spent years wondering if my daughter had dyslexia, but she didn’t.
It is amazing how many of the signs that I can answer yes to. Looking forward to looking at your site!
Our 8yr old has apraxia and dyspraxia, he has all the signs of dyslexia and dysgraphia. WE just pulled him out of school to home school him. After doing tons of researching, our 12yr old, who is really beginning to struggle in school, has always had horrible handwriting, can’t copy information from the board to paper without many mistakes, he has trouble memorizing and retaining information, he also fits all the signs of dyslexia and dysgraphia. I hope this site will help me teach them both.
So nice to find you through Mom 2 Mom Monday! I have a 7 year old with dyslexia, and for now we do not homeschool, but I’m very involved with her schooling. It’s so nice to find other parents dealing with similar issues! Signing up to follow you…
I have three boys, ages 7,8,9, who are all dyslexic. Two profoundly so. All three are also dysgraphic. We use All About Reading and All About Spelling and Handwriting Without Tears in our homeschool. We are seeing slow progress! We enjoy the programs we use and enjoy listening to lots and lots of read-alouds and audio books. This website has been such a great resource for our family! Thank you for all the time and effort and experience you have shared.
Thanks for the encouraging words Christina!
Thanks this was very good ,glad i came across it. you mention that dyslexia is generic , i was wondering is it possible to have one kid with dyslexia and not the others?
Yes, it is. Most of our kids are dyslexic – from mild to moderate and one profoundly dyslexic!
I’m generally a pretty laid back home school mama 🙂 but my 6yob is still having trouble identifying many letters, writes some letters backwards, writes some words backwards (Ex: Mama = amaM), gets very frustrated and angry when he realizes he did it the wrong way… however, he can identify many #’s and perform simple math computations. He’s full of spunk & energy! Has trouble keeping on task… I look forward to digging into this site to learn more & find ways to help him! 🙂
I’m glad you found us! Your son sounds a lot like my 7 year old son. We have been steadily working through Math U See and All About Reading and he has made nice progress this year. Relaxed is okay but I do recommend working now with curriculum that work so he can begin to build the foundation that he needs. A little every day. Keep it fun. Let me know if you have any questions!
Hi Blessed Mama,
Writing backwards is not a sign of dyslexia. I have been teaching dyslexic children for 11 years and know this for a fact. Many children write backwards until about the time they finish grade 1.
Hi Luqman – yes! I am blessed. 🙂 Writing backwards is not the ONLY sign of dyslexia but a persistence in writing backwards after grade 1 is one of many signs.
Where are you getting your information from? You are lumping together several different disabilities. Symptoms of dyslexia are not always “easy to spot” and many students are excellent at hiding signs to save face. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia are completely different and have their own separate symptoms, diagnoses, and strategies that best help those students. I am an 11 year teacher with a Master’s degree and have dyscalculia myself, but was gifted in reading and writing growing up. I struggled with math literally up until college when I was finally tests and it all made sense. I just want to make sure no other child experiences this.
Hi, Kelly.I get my info from many places. I am a certified Orton Gillinghmam dyslexia tutor and have been teaching my own kids with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, working memory issues, executive function issues and processing issues for over 20 years. I agree that dyslexia isn’t always easy to spot, especially for those who have little experience with it. I disagree that dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia are completely different. There is a ton of overlap and comorbidity between these different aspects of learning. Difficulties with writing and math are harder to diagnose but the ‘treatments’ are often very similar to those for dyslexia – explicit, systematic, individualized and multi-sensory instruction is helpful in all of these issues, whether diagnosed or not. I am with you on wanting to increase awareness of these learning differences and the best ways to teach these bright, creative kids!
I was in the fourth grade when my parents were told I should be tested for dyslexia. Many people are surprised when I say I have dyslexia. It sometimes feels that to have dyslexia is to be labeled as stupid or just too lazy to learn like the other “normal” students. Thenks for this articles .
I hope to learn how to better homeschool my six yr old who, school said, wasnt ready for formal learning because of just about every sign you list above! Yet he’s bright and curious and loves listening to stories, songs etc.
Your child could very well just be a shut-down kid. Many kids classified as dyslexic are kids who disengage from learning because they are confused.
I have successfully taught about 50 such lids since 2004.
You may write to me for more information.
Wish you well.
Thanks for the information. My daughter does a lot of reversals in writing and reverses syllables or sounds in reading, but she is only 6 and a half, so I think we can give it a little more time before we have to worry, especially since she has so few symptoms.
I think that is wise. Knowing the signs of dyslexia, you can keep an eye out for her in the future. 🙂
Your site has provided me with countless support and encouragement. Thank you for this. My son has recently been tested but because of his intervention and now ability to read on grade level the psychologist stated he (my son) doesn’t present signs of dyslexia. Could you link me to the sources you used for this article. I would like to share this with the psychologist.
I came across your site this morning. My husband and I suspect our 8 year old son is dyslexic. He’s been in a traditional school and has received help through the reading specialist and now resource via an IEP. The resource teacher, his classroom teacher and myself have been so puzzled by his lack of progress over the years in school specifically in reading/writing/spelling. And of course, as he finishes 3rd grade, there’s so much reading in every subject (including math!) he’s is not able to keep pace with his classmates. He’s also an ADD kid. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned Orton-Gillingham and I started researching that we said AHA! This is probably what’s going on. (Shame on us because my husband is dyslexic and still struggles to this day). Anyway, we have made the decision to bring him home so I can work with him and focus on his areas of greatest struggle (as well as let him explore his areas of interest). I’m thankful for this site. It looks like a wealth of resources for a newbie like me.
Hi Jennifer. You are not alone! So glad you’re figuring things out. There are lots of resources here to help you. Welcome!
I’ve been a homeschooling mom for 10 years. I began homeschooling my daughter who is 9 and in 4th grade when she finished 1st grade at public school. She has some mild speech issues which she was receiving some services for but my concerns with her are writing/reversing certain letters and in math (doing math and writing numbers backwards) . She does not appear to have a problem with reading at all. She enjoys reading and is not behind in this area but she still often writes her b’s, d’s, z’s backwards and continues to write some numbers backwards 3’s and 5’s … sometimes 2’s. She also still writes with a mixture of upper and lower case within her words and sentences. Could it possibly be dyslexia with it only affecting her writing but not reading? I’ve always been told no by friends who have diagnosed children and that I shouldn’t bother with testing. So that has always deterred me from pursuing anything.