Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia

Dyslexia has many warning signs. Some warning signs can appear before a child learns to read.

Dyslexia in Pre-School Years

Signs and symptoms of dyslexia in preschool children

  • Delayed speech (not speaking in complete sentences until age 2 to 2-½, and even 3)
  • Unusual difficulty pronouncing words
  • Difficulty pronouncing R’s and L’s
  • Difficulty rhyming or learning nursery rhymes
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Difficulty establishing a dominant hand (right-left confusion)

Dyslexia in Elementary School Age Children

Many signs of dyslexia will be noticeable in elementary school. In grades 1-3, children are learning to read. In grades 4 and up, children are reading to learn.

As a result, by fourth grade it is common for dyslexic students to “hit a wall” because their poor reading skills are beginning to affect learning across all academic subjects.

Novels and textbooks include more text and fewer pictures, making it more difficult to rely on context clues.

Classwork and homework take longer to complete than it does for their classmates. They fall further behind in school and become frustrated, which can lead to behavioral problems, and their self-esteem plummets.

Below are signs to look for:

Signs and symptoms of dyslexia in elementary school children

  • Slow, choppy reading
  • Reading below grade level
  • Unable to sound out an unfamiliar word despite knowing phonics
  • Avoiding reading aloud
  • Difficulty spelling (May get 100% on a spelling test, but by the following week can’t spell those same words; spells phonetically, but omits vowels and suffixes)
  • Consistent letter and word reversals: d-b, p-q or w-m; “tip” for “pit” (directionality confusion)
  • Omitting, adding, or misreading small words such as “at”, “and,” “to,” and “the”; omitting, adding or changing a word’s suffix, when reading
  • Unusual pencil grip (thumb on top of one or more fingers)
  • Avoiding writing
  • Difficulty remembering the sequence of things (days of the week, months of the year in order)
  • Difficulty memorizing rote facts (multiplication tables, address, telephone number)
  • Late learning to tie shoes (directionality confusion)
  • Declining/diminishing self-confidence
  • Not wanting to go to school—frequent complaints of stomach aches or headaches
  • Homework battles

Dyslexia in Teenagers and Adults

In addition to the elementary school age warning signs, dyslexic teenagers and adults may display some or all of the following:
Signs and symptoms of dyslexia in adults

  • Difficulty with reading and comprehension (reads very slowly; often has to immediately reread passages more than once or twice to understand the material)
  • Trouble summarizing a story or text
  • Trouble understanding idioms or jokes that have metaphorical meaning (ex: “piece of cake” meaning “easy”)
  • Struggles with time management
  • Difficulty memorizing
  • Difficulty with math problems
  • Trouble learning a foreign language

If your child or teenager has 3 or more warnings signs listed above, it is important to get help immediately. Although it is never too late, the longer you wait, the farther your child will fall behind, which will affect not only their grades, but more significantly, their self-esteem.

Strengths and Positive Traits