Signs of Dyslexia


Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Remember that dyslexia affects between 15 and 20 percent of the population, so it isn’t as unusual as you might have thought.  Additionally, because dyslexia is genetic, if you recognize the signs in one person in a family, it is likely that you will see this in other members as well.

The characteristics listed below can help you recognize signs of dyslexia and help you determine if you, your child, or someone in your classroom, might be living with dyslexia.

Reprinted in part from the public domain website of The International Dyslexia Association.


The problems displayed by individuals with dyslexia involve difficulties in acquiring and using language. Reading and writing letters in the wrong order is just one manifestation of dyslexia and does not occur in all cases. Other problems experienced by individuals with dyslexia include the following:

  • Learning to speak
  • Organizing written and spoken language
  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Memorizing number facts
  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Correctly doing math operations

Not all individuals who have difficulties with these skills have dyslexia. Formal testing is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia.

Young Children

Signs of dyslexia in young, preschool children include talking later than expected, a slowness to add new words, difficulty rhyming, and trouble following multi-step directions.  After a child begins school, the signs of dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty reading single words, such as a word on a flashcard
  • Difficulty learning the connection between letters and sounds
  • Confusing small words, such as “at” and “to”
  • Letter reversals, such as d for b
  • Word reversals, such as “tip” for “pit”

Having one of these signs does not mean your child has dyslexia; many children reverse letters before the age of 7. But if several signs exist and reading problems persist, or if you have a family history of dyslexia, you may want to have your child evaluated.

Elementary-Aged Children

Dyslexic children in 1st, 2nd or 3rd-Grade might find it difficult to:

  • Remember simple sequences, such as counting to 20, naming the days of the week, or reciting the alphabet
  • Have an understanding of rhyming words, such as knowing that “fat” rhymes with “cat”
  • Recognize words that begin with the same sound (for example, that “bird”, “baby”, and “big” all start with b)
  • Easily clap hands to the rhythm of a song
  • Frequently use specific words to name objects, rather than words like “stuff” and “that thing”
  • Easily remember spoken directions
  • Remember names of places and people
  • Show understanding of right-left, up-down, front-back
  • Sit still for a reasonable period of time
  • Make and keep friends easily

Not all students who have difficulties with these skills have dyslexia. Formal testing is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia.

Older Children and Adults

The difficulties noted below are often associated with dyslexia if they are unexpected for the individual’s age, educational level, or cognitive abilities. A qualified diagnostician can test a person to determine if the individual has dyslexia.

  • May hide reading problems
  • May spell poorly; relies on others to correct spelling
  • Avoids writing; may not be able to write
  • Often very competent in oral language
  • Relies on memory; may have an excellent memory
  • Often has good “people” skills
  • Often is spatially talented; professions include, but are not limited, to engineers, architects, designers, artists and craftspeople, mathematicians, physicists, physicians (esp. surgeons and orthopedists), and dentists.
  • May be very good at “reading” people (intuitive)
  • In jobs, are often working well below their intellectual capacity
  • May have difficulty with planning, organization, and management of time, materials, or tasks.
  • Are often entrepreneurs