What Are the Symptoms of Dyslexia?

by Sarah Forrest | 10 October 2019

So, you suspect your child might have dyslexia. Or maybe their teacher has brought the D-word up in a conference and you are in investigation mode, searching the web. You want to know if your child is likely to be diagnosed as dyslexic. Getting an assessment is expensive!

When you start researching, you will find any number of lists online with definitions of dyslexia. They can each be slightly different and the whole thing feels confusing at best. In a moment, we will explain why these patterns are connected to dyslexia.

But first, here is a list that covers most of the apparent dyslexia “symptoms” out there:

Reading Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Flips, skips, adds, and interchanges letters, words, and numbers
  • Reads with poor comprehension despite loving to be read to
  • Struggles to sound out words and/or blend sounds
  • Passes normal sight test but seems to have vision problems while reading
  • Makes random, inconsistent reading mistakes
  • Does not grasp letters-to-sound patterns
  • Simple, common “sight words” are often wrong
  • Gets stressed when reading
  • Doesn’t recognize a word that has literally just been read
  • Skips a line in a paragraph or loses place while reading
  • Lack of fluency or lack of expression

Writing Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Atrocious spelling
  • B/D confusion
  • Inconsistent: spells a word multiple ways in a single piece of writing
  • Punctuation issues
  • Writing is extremely messy or illegible, with poorly formed letters and reversed letters
  • Poorly spaced words
  • Misaligned lines of writing
  • Doesn’t show a dominant hand preference until primary/elementary school
  • Holds pen/pencil in an unusual way
  • Has trouble copying information from the board
  • Struggles to get thoughts down on paper

Auditory Processing and Language Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Difficulty following verbal commands
  • Easily distracted by noise
  • Cannot easily identify syllables/chunk words
  • Struggles to pinpoint the starting, middle and ending sounds in a word
  • Highly verbal
  • Has trouble saying rhymes and reciting sequences (days, months, etc.)

Motor Skills Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Struggles learning to tie shoelaces, fasten buttons, pull zippers etc.
  • Clumsy
  • Difficulty learning to skip, hop throw or catch a ball.
  • Confusion with spatial orientation such as right and left, above and below, over and under, etc.

Behavioural Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Independent
  • Impatient
  • Easily frustrated
  • Daydream-y
  • Somewhat distractible, but able to hyper focus on something of interest
  • Loses track of time
  • Sometimes prone to sensory overload
  • Curious
  • Socially immature
  • No delay of gratification
  • Has poor working memory, but in contrast, quite good long-term memory
  • Seems unmotivated, sometimes labelled as “lazy”
  • Has been labeled as having behavioral problems at school
  • Becomes emotional or stressed about school
  • Sometimes has tummy aches or other psychosomatic issues around school
  • Finds school exhausting, and seems to work twice as hard as peers to get results

Personality Characteristics of Dyslexic People

  • Sensitive
  • Creative
  • Artistic
  • Imaginative
  • Intuitive
  • Musical
  • Perceptive
  • Observant
  • Ambitious
  • Unique
  • Sees the big picture (grasps the “gist”)
  • Has a complex nature
  • Can be disorganized
  • Needs constant stimulation
  • Thinks in images rather than in words
  • Learns best through practical experience or teaching with strong visual emphasis

The Real Causes and Symptoms of Dyslexia

So, what is this mysterious dyslexia business?  How can so many symptoms actually relate to a single thing? How could a dyslexic child possibly exhibit all of these sometimes conflicting symptoms?

The truth is, these symptoms actually relate to one of the underlying causes of reading difficulty, rather than the single dyslexia label. Dyslexia can be a helpful term when it comes to eligibility for school accommodations and also validation that the child should not feel dumb or less-than – their brain simply works differently!

You can have a very small subset of these symptoms and still be diagnosed with dyslexia. Meanwhile, another child or person might get diagnosed after displaying a completely different subset of symptoms.

To actually pinpoint and fix the underlying issues, you have to look at the actual reading patterns they are exhibiting. Fixing those patterns will allow your child to flourish and become the person that she or he has the potential to be.

In our experience and research, children with dyslexia are often not given the targeted help they need, and this can have dramatic effects on their life outcome. Here are 4 of the top causes of dyslexic reading patterns. Nearly all of the things on the above lists boil to one of these:

Symptom: Guessing – Cause: Optilexia – Optilexia is the term we have coined for “whole word sight-reading”: chronic guessing, especially of short common words

Symptom: Skipping – Cause: Eye-Tracking Weakness – Skipping words, losing place, getting fatigued when reading, preferring large font are all signs of weak convergence and tracking of the eyes along the page.

Symptom: Battles/tantrums – Cause: Stress Spirals – Getting angry, sad, or refusing when it comes to reading practice. are signs of someone going into a stress response due to their fears and worries about reading.

Symptom: Difficulty blending sounds – Cause: Auditory Processing Weakness – Struggling to sound out words and blend sounds together are signs of delayed auditory processing development, often after some glue ear when small.

If you see your child in these symptom patterns, then it is vital to give them the right kind of support, that their brain needs. Once they get the right type of guidance, most dyslexic children can learn to read at a good or average level for their age. Their spelling also then becomes much more normalized.

Sarah Forrest is an Advisor for David Morgan Education, and contributor at Helping Children to Read. After studying Spanish literature at Yale University, she worked at Easyread HQ in Oxford, England for 4 years. She now lives in the sunny south of the United States with her two children, where she loves coaching parent and children through pictophonics.

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