How to Look for Signs of Dyslexia

The signs of dyslexia can appear as early as preschool. Whether you’re a parent or teacher— or think you might have dyslexia yourself—here’s what to look for, starting in the earliest years through adulthood.

The Preschool Years

  • Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
  • Difficulty learning (and remembering) the names of letters in the alphabet
  • Seems unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
  • Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
  • Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like cat, bat, rat
  • A family history of reading and/or spelling difficulties (dyslexia often runs in families)

First Grade

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog
  • Does not understand that words come apart
  • Complains about how hard reading is; “disappears” when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Cannot sound out even simple words like cat, map, nap
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound

Second Grade to High School

Reading

  • Very slow in acquiring reading skills. Reading is slow and awkward
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out the word
  • Doesn’t seem to have a strategy for reading new words
  • Avoids reading out loud

Speaking

  • Searches for a specific word and ends up using vague language, such as “stuff” or “thing,” without naming the object
  • Pauses, hesitates, and/or uses lots of “um’s” when speaking
  • Confuses words that sound alike, such as saying “tornado” for “volcano,” substituting “lotion” for “ocean”
  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar or complicated words
  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions

School and Life

  • Trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists
  • Struggles to finish tests on time
  • Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Poor spelling
  • Messy handwriting
  • Low self-esteem that may not be immediately visible

Young Adults

Reading

  • A childhood history of reading and spelling difficulties
  • While reading skills have developed over time, reading still requires great effort and is done at a slow pace
  • Rarely reads for pleasure
  • Slow reading of most materials—books, manuals, subtitles in films
  • Avoids reading aloud

Speaking

  • Earlier oral language difficulties persist, including a lack of fluency and glibness; frequent use of “um’s” and imprecise language; and general anxiety when speaking
  • Often pronounces the names of people and places incorrectly; trips over parts of words
  • Difficulty remembering names of people and places; confuses names that sound alike
  • Struggles to retrieve words; frequently has “It was on the tip of my tongue” moments
  • Rarely has a fast response in conversations; struggles when put on the spot
  • Spoken vocabulary is smaller than listening vocabulary
  • Avoids saying words that might be mispronounced

School & Life

  • Despite good grades, often says he’s dumb or is concerned that peers think he’s dumb
  • Penalized by multiple-choice tests
  • Frequently sacrifices social life for studying
  • Suffers extreme fatigue when reading
  • Performs rote clerical tasks poorly

For more information about the dyslexia, or to book a consultation, contact Anel Annandale at 021 423 0739 or via email at  anel@childpsych.co.za.

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