Dyslexia - Symptoms 

Symptoms of dyslexia 

The symptoms of dyslexia can differ from person to person, and each individual with the condition will have a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses.

Preschool children

In some cases, it's possible to detect symptoms of dyslexia before a child starts school. Symptoms can include:

  • delayed speech development in comparison with other children of the same age (although this can have many different causes besides dyslexia)
  • speech problems, such as not being able to pronounce long words properly and "jumbling" up phrases – for example, saying "hecilopter" instead of "helicopter", or "beddy tear" instead of "teddy bear"
  • problems expressing themselves using spoken language, such as being unable to remember the right word to use, or putting together sentences incorrectly
  • little understanding or appreciation of rhyming words, such as "the cat sat on the mat", or nursery rhymes
  • difficulty with, or little interest in, learning letters of the alphabet

School children

Symptoms of dyslexia usually become more obvious when children start school and begin to focus more on learning how to read and write.

Symptoms of dyslexia in children aged 5-12 include:

  • problems learning the names and sounds of letters
  • spelling that is unpredictable and inconsistent
  • putting letters and figures the wrong way round –such as putting "6" instead "9", or "b" instead of "d"
  • confusing the order of letters in words
  • reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud
  • visual disturbances when reading – for example, a child may describe letters and words as seeming to move around or appear blurred
  • answering questions well orally, but having difficulty writing down the answer
  • difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions
  • struggling to learn sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet
  • slow writing speed
  • poor handwriting
  • problems copying written language, and taking longer than normal to complete written work
  • poor phonological awareness and "word attack skills" (see below)

Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognise that words are made up of smaller units of sound (phonemes) and that changing and manipulating phonemes can create new words and meanings.

A child with poor phonological awareness may not be able to correctly answer these questions:

  • what sounds do you think make up the word "hot", and are these different from the sounds that make up the word "hat"?
  • what word would you have if you changed the "p" sound in 'pot' to an "h" sound?
  • how many words can you think of that rhyme with the word "cat"?

Word attack skills

Young children with dyslexia also have problems with "word attack skills". This is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar words by looking for smaller words or collections of letters, such as "ph" or "ing", that a child has previously learnt.

For example, a child with good word attack skills may read the word "sunbathing" for the first time and gain a sense of the meaning of the word by breaking it down into "sun", "bath", and "ing".

Teenagers and adults

As well as the problems mentioned above, the symptoms of dyslexia in older children and adults can include:

  • poorly organised written work that lacks expression –for example, even though they may be very knowledgeable about a certain subject, they may have problems expressing that knowledge in writing
  • difficulty planning and writing essays, letters or reports
  • difficulties revising for examinations
  • trying to avoid reading and writing whenever possible
  • difficulty taking notes or copying
  • poor spelling
  • struggling to remember things such as a PINs or telephone numbers
  • struggling to meet deadlines

Seeking advice about your child

If you are concerned about your child’s progress with reading and writing, first talk to their school teacher.

If you or your child’s teacher has a continuing concern, take your child to visit a GP so they can check for signs of any underlying health issues, such as hearing or vision problems.

If your child doesn't have any obvious underlying health problems to explain their learning difficulties, different teaching methods may need to be tried, or you may want to request an assessment to identify any special needs they may have.

Read more about diagnosing dyslexia.

Page last reviewed: 06/01/2014

Next review due: 06/01/2016


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

PandaLady said on 17 May 2013

Msbucks, if your son is at college he can get diagnosed there, or if he's still a school. Dyslexia is life long, I advise the link I'm giving to sooooz69 now for you too.
Sooooz69 try these they have helped me with my memory issues, e-mail them? http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/

I'm sure what they mean is he just struggles the most with processing but dyslexia is really more than reading and spelling. It's an information prosessing issue. The link here is reliable sooooz69 though, a lot of myths about dyslexia exsist online, hope this helps folks. A war still needs to be won for dyslexic people, people are not told enough.

Anoonymous, have you heard of dyscalculia? It's dyslexia with numbers, though, dyslexia effects your ability with numbers too.

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Anoonymous said on 08 April 2013

Im 19,I dont have a writting problem,Im good at everything spelling,grammar,reading everything,except maths,I cant count,I have poor numerical skills and Its embarassing,and i dnt understand it I was good at all my subjects at school except maths I hate it could,this be some form of dyslexia is this normal?

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Msbucks said on 06 March 2013

I cant believe this! Our 16 year old son was diagnosed with Asperger's Autism many years ago. I believe he was misdiagnosed & really has Dyslexia. Link 1of2. Thinking that many other Asperger's kids have been misdiagnosed. He has pretty much every symptom of Dyslexia. He told me today about how he always mixes up b&d, w&m, p&q, 6&9, 2&5, etc. He told me before, Not sure y I didnt look into it. I guess it was cuz other times he only told me it was b&d &I've heard some people just have trouble w those ones. He today just told me that he told teachers many times but they only asked him, "What are u talking about?" That it hates reading out loud in class cuz he always had2ask which letters they were. U would thinkI professionals would have caught it, understood what he
meant & had him assessed. Dyslexia also often have behavioral outbursts & anger& often relationships with siblings are very strained w fights. He has always learned better when taught orally or has a visual display. He never knows what he's reading. His writing is poor&spelled a total mess, but is spelled how it sounds not how its spelled. Etc, & pretty much every other symptom. I'm glad I looked this up, I hate that I have now found this when he is 16. I wish this was found many years ago. No wonder meds & therapy never seem to work. I wonder how much better & easier his life & our lives woulda been if this was diagnosed when he was younger. I read the other persons comment above & it really helped, cuz I thought since my son is 16, is it too late?

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sooooz69 said on 15 February 2013

my son has just been diagnosed with dyslexia but they said it isnt his literacy skills its to do with working memory,fluency to do things and proccessing..... i cant get seem to get any help or info only things to do with reading, writting and spelling,please can anyone help, oh he is 16 and only has a few weeks left at school and exams are looming ever closer
any help or advise would be appreciated

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Associated symptoms of dyslexia

Some people with dyslexia also have other problems not directly connected to reading or writing, such as:

  • difficulties with numbers (dyscalculia)
  • poor short-term memory
  • problems concentrating and a short attention span
  • poor organisation and time-management
  • physical coordination problems (dyspraxia)

Help your child learn

Two experts offer tips to help your child reach their potential if they have a learning disability