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Signs of Dyslexia in Children

Posted on February 5, 2016

What is Dyslexia?


“Dyslexia” literally means, “dys-,” “difficulty,” “lexia,” “with words.” People with dyslexia have difficulty with words. That means people with dyslexia may have trouble translating their thoughts into writing, reading written words or letters, or recalling words while speaking, even though they have average or above average intelligence.

Having a high I.Q. can make these challenges feel especially frustrating and even embarrassing to a child. Addressing dyslexia early can help children learn in a way that suits them best, making them feel better about school and social life.

Dyslexia can run in families, so you might already be familiar with some of the signs of dyslexia in children. You may even have experienced some of these challenges yourself!

signs of dyslexia in children

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschool


It’s difficult to notice the signs of dyslexia before children start learning to read. However, it’s possible to identify a few signs in preschool. Your child might mispronounce familiar words. He or she might have difficulty with rhyming patterns (like, “ball,” “hall,” “call”). He or she may also have trouble recognizing letters even if they’re familiar – like the ones in their own names.

Signs of Dyslexia in Early Elementary


Kindergartners and first graders with dyslexia will often demonstrate difficulty when learning to read, and will avoid reading time. They may not understand that words can be broken down into sounds (e.g., “cat” can be sounded out as /c/ /a/ /t/). They don’t associate letters with the sounds they make.

They also may rely too much on pictures or other clues when reading. This leads them to “read” words that are completely different than on the page (like reading “kid” instead of “boy” after looking at the picture). However, this strategy may be useful to students with dyslexia.

Signs of Dyslexia in Later Elementary and Middle School


As children with dyslexia get older, their difficulty with reading persists. They avoid reading out loud and struggle to read new words. In general, reading is slow and not enjoyable. The child may have difficulty completing work in a set time period and may turn in incomplete work. He or she may have messy handwriting and make frequent spelling mistakes.

Memorization of facts (such as names, dates, or lists like multiplication tables) is challenging. When speaking, the child may have trouble recalling the right word. He or she may pause frequently when speaking or need extra time to answer questions.

Strengths of Children with Dyslexia


Children with dyslexia are often very creative. They may be very good problem solvers and are great at quickly grasping the “big picture.” Children with dyslexia may do very well in subjects that don’t rely on reading and memorization, like math, science, art, and even creative writing.

Parenting and Teaching Children with Dyslexia


This poem, written by a ninth grader in Canada with dyslexia, gives a good idea of how children can feel when their learning needs are not met (Canadian Dyslexia Association):


I’m asked to read aloud in front of the class,
But the words swim before my eyes.
I start to sweat, I’m breathing fast;
The print I see I cannot recognize.

I’m asked to read aloud in front of the class,
But the words swim before my eyes.
I start to sweat, I’m breathing fast;
The print I see I cannot recognize.

The giggles start as they see my trouble,
No one seems to understand what’s wrong.
The letters, for me, flip around and double;
My class assumes I’m stupid because I’m taking so long.

Their laughing faces fill my head,
Mocking me, making me feel like I’m somehow less
Important than they. “Let one of us read instead!”
I shrink at their success.

I don’t know why I am this way,
I’ve done nothing to deserve this;
Why choose one person through which to convey
The pressure that becomes paralysis?

I finally decide there’s no more use;
I descend from the podium, shamefaced.
My teacher’s mad, she thinks it’s some ruse;
For my punishment, I am braced.

I sink in my seat, my skin a lot paler,
Through the window, a cloud covers the sun.
But I don’t notice, all I see is my failure;
Once again, the dyslexia has won.

Written by Tilly
Grade 9
Language Arts Class ~ Fredericton High School

Kids with dyslexia need to be supported and encouraged. Telling kids with dyslexia to, “try harder”, usually backfires. Learning in a traditional classroom environment requires a lot of hard work for a child with dyslexia. Telling a child that he or she is not working hard enough or is being “lazy” can make him or her feel deeply ashamed and not want to learn. Low self-esteem is a constant challenge for children with dyslexia.

People with dyslexia simply learn differently. At Eaton Arrowsmith, we help children and teens strengthen the cognitive weaknesses that cause their learning disabilities and make learning difficult. We believe that the brain can change and that learning disabilities are not for life.

Next Steps if you Suspect Dyslexia


School psychologists can test for dyslexia. Once you know for sure, addressing your child’s needs with an IEP (Individualized Education Program, similar in both the U.S. and Canada) or 504 plan (in the U.S.) can ensure he or she receives the right help.

People with dyslexia go on to be wonderfully successful. Continue to support and encourage your child.

Dyslexia Resources


For further reading on dyslexia, visit Yale’s website: You can also read first-hand accounts of people with dyslexia and their parents on The Mighty. Also, for more information on Dyslexia, read our post on ‘Deconstructing Dyslexia.’

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