Dyslexia Signs



The earliest observable challenges many children with dyslexia display involve spoken language. From ages two to four the following are potential signs of elevated dyslexia risk:

  • Delayed speech development (late onset of speech, or delays in developing fluency).
  • Difficulty with speech articulation (correctly pronouncing the component sounds in words). For example, children may alter, leave out, or reverse word parts (e.g., berlapse/relax, wold/world, pasghetti/spaghetti) or even invent their own unique words for things.
  • Difficulty learning or recalling the names of things.
  • Difficulty mastering the appropriate use of tenses, cases, pronouns, and grammatical and syntactical rules (e.g., understanding the effects of sentence order on meaning, or beginning to pick up that different word forms are used for different parts of speech).


From ages five and beyond the following behaviors can point to heightened dyslexia risk:

  • Difficulty recognizing when words rhyme.
  • Difficulty learning letter names and sounds.
  • Difficulty “discriminating” word sounds—that is, telling when certain sounds in different words are alike or different.
  • Difficulty identifying the beginning and/or ending sounds of words.


There are two important factors to keep in mind when considering the likelihood that the above-mentioned early language difficulties are early signs of dyslexia.

  • The first is family history. If a close relative (parent, sibling, or even grandparent) has been identified as dyslexic, then the likelihood that a child showing these behaviors will later experience dyslexic reading and spelling difficulties is much greater than when such family links are absent, though in the latter case it is still increased over the general population.
  • The second factor is age. The longer the following language-related symptoms persist (especially beyond around 5 1/2 years old) the more likely they are to be signs of dyslexia.


Moving on to the early elementary years, most dyslexic children will show obvious signs of difficulty with many aspects of reading and spelling. Many will also show challenges with other basic skills. Such challenges include:

  • Difficulty breaking down words into their component sounds (e.g., c-a-t), and then manipulating those sounds (by, for example, dropping, adding, or changing individual sounds).
  • Difficulty sounding out (decoding) or spelling (encoding) words.
  • Difficulty recognizing words by sight, even after frequent exposure.
  • Difficulty gaining speed and accuracy in reading.
  • Difficulties reading aloud with speed and accuracy.
  • Special difficulties reading small print or densely packed pages, whether of written text, math problems or numbers, maps, or other kinds of written information.
  • Slow pace of work.
  • Difficulties putting thoughts into words.
  • Difficulties with various aspects of writing, including handwriting, punctuation, grammar, syntax, and sentence and passage construction, with the latter errors usually significantly out of proportion with errors in similar aspects of speech.
  • Difficulties acquiring fast and accurate math calculation skills or rule-based procedures such as adding, dividing, and multiplying fractions, despite relatively sound or even excellent math reasoning.
  • Difficulties with organization, time management, error detection, work planning, resistance to distraction, learning of classroom routines, etc.


As school progresses toward the secondary grades or college, some dyslexic students who have been able to compensate for their challenges through excellent language or attention abilities and very hard work may show difficulty for the first time due to problems keeping up with the increasing workload in reading and writing. In fact, about half of students who graduate from college with a diagnosis of dyslexia were diagnosed for the first-time during college . Some may even be identified for the first time in graduate or professional schools. Dyslexic students often have special difficulties finishing tests in time-limited settings, especially lengthy standardized tests that involve significant amounts of reading. Difficulties most likely to persist into adulthood include:

  • Spelling
  • Speed of reading
  • Oral reading
  • Decoding of new and unfamiliar words
  • Writing mechanics


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