Common Signs of Dyslexia: Preschool to Grade 4

Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects both oral and written language. With help, children with dyslexia can become successful readers. Find out the warning signs for dyslexia that preschool and elementary school children might display.

Facts about dyslexia

Startling facts about dyslexia and related language-based learning disabilities:

  • Fifteen to twenty percent of the population has a reading disability.
  • Of students with specific learning disabilities who receive special education services, seventy to eighty percent have deficits in reading. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
  • If children who are dyslexic get effective phonological training in kindergarten and first grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until third grade.
  • Seventy four percent of the children who were poor readers in the third grade remained poor readers in the ninth grade. This means that they couldn't read well when they became adults.
  • Individuals inherit the genetic links for dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia affects males and females nearly equally, and people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds as well.

Common signs: Preschool

The following difficulties may be associated with dyslexia if they are unexpected for the individual's age, educational level, or cognitive abilities. To verify that an individual is dyslexic, he/she should be tested by a qualified testing examiner.

  • May talk later than most children
  • May have difficulty pronouncing words, i.e., busgetti for spaghetti, mawn lower for lawn mower
  • May be slow to add new vocabulary words
  • May be unable to recall the right word
  • May have difficulty with rhyming
  • May have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name
  • May have trouble interacting with peers
  • May be unable to follow multi-step directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills may develop more slowly than in other children
  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in the correct sequence
  • Often has difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words

Common signs: Kindergarten through fourth grade

The following difficulties may be associated with dyslexia if they are unexpected for the individual's age, educational level, or cognitive abilities. To verify that an individual is dyslexic, he/she should be tested by a qualified testing examiner.

  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)
  • May be slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • May confuse small words – at/to, said/and, does/goes
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including:
    • Letter reversals – d for b as in, dog for bog
    • Word reversals – tip for pit
    • Inversions – m and w, u and n
    • Transpositions – felt and left
    • Substitutions – house and home
  • May transpose number sequences and confuse arithmetic signs (+ - x / =)
  • May have trouble remembering facts
  • May be slow to learn new skills; relies heavily on memorizing without understanding
  • May be impulsive and prone to accidents
  • May have difficulty planning
  • Often uses an awkward pencil grip (fist, thumb hooked over fingers, etc.)
  • May have trouble learning to tell time
  • May have poor fine motor coordination

Excerpted from: ABC's of Dyslexia. (2000). International Dyslexia Association.


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We have dyslexia in my family. I was interested to read that it affects memory and retrieval. I have always struggled with people’s names to an embarrassing extent. Also things like remembering routes when driving. My eldest was a very early talker, loved being read to and could recite lots of nursery rhymes by 24mths. We knew she was very bright in so many ways but school was disastrous.

I'm in the same boat with my 8 year old. The school keeps telling me he isn't a candidate for testing but he has been in Title 1 reading help his entire school career (K-2nd). I've now heard that if Title 1 doesn't help in 6 months then there is a problem. I'm paying for private tutoring and seriously willing to pay $3000 for private testing except that I read the school can chose to not accept my private testing. I'm so mad at the educational system in the country. Thank god I'm doing above and beyond for my son but I feel for those children that have less than concerned or caring parents. The system is failing them all.

Trust your gut. Look online for every clue to your child's issue and request a referral meeting to discuss concerns for your child. Be specific. Site many examples of possible delays and why you want evaluations. Do not take no for an answer! If you child is struggling with behavior and learning problems in the classroom there is probably a reason and there may be more than one. So be nice, but don't leave that meeting until the school has agreed to evaluate your child. I'm fighting for 2 children now; both brilliant but combination of issues with handwriting, dyslexia symptoms, language expression, and attention. But I'm learning and eventually they will be okay because I am doing all I can do to get them instruction in the right learning environment.

It takes special certification to be able to evaluate and diagnose Dyslexia. In the state I work in, it is extremely hard to find anyone qualified to administer such an evaluation or even have access to it. It makes sense that a school would not suggest something they are not even equipped to do.

I can't believe that any parent would actually believe a teacher when she/he says child "will grow out of" an inability to read. I just want to vomit reading that. Shame on any teacher who has EVER said that! Boo!

U.S. parents: make absolutely sure you know more about IDEA 2004 and state Ed code than teachers and administrators - it's your concern about your child's LIFE and FUTURE vs. their concern about their paycheck and pension. KNOW and exercise your legal rights (meaning request specific assessments to address your concerns about dyslexia, especially if one parent is dyslexic.) When the school psychologist comes back and miraculously doesn't determine dyslexia (common), get the outside expert and keep pushing because even with outside PROOF of dyslexia, the administration is happy to let your child's self esteem suffer, spend 3 hours doing simple homework, have you lose your sanity - all so they don't have to implement new methodologies. Expect to get RTI'd to death - don't let them. I have a client that had TWO outside assessments that clearly ID'd dyslexia (dad is dyslexic) and finally threatened to pull child out of school district to place at dyslexia-speciality school; on 8th day of 10th day district had to respond, they relented. Parents IEP goals were finally implemented, private tutor expert in research-based methodologies for dyslexic students was hired and 4th grade boy went from reading 17 wpm (yes, 17!!) to 180 wpm inside 18 months. Now, mom is getting her certification, teaching parents how to advocate as she learned from me as her advocate and SpED director quit. Keep at it parents - squeakiest, informed, rights-exercising parents get the grease for their children and the opposite is also true.

I have the same problem for years, I have been telling my daughters school that I think she has dyslexia but they wouldn't hear of it. Even previous doctors we had didn't seem too concerned. My daughter has had an IEP since she stated school but mainly for speech. But each year they saw that she wasn't grasping reading and wrote like a 5 year old so they changed her IEP. But still she isn't grasping it that well. So finally I changed doctors and they sent her for Behavior and Development testing. And the results were that she does have dyslexia and also mild to severe autism, but she is highly inteligent. But now I feel that it may be too late for her since no one would listen to me that there was something wrong with her with her academics and the way she acted. But at least I finally got what I needed and now can try to persue ways to help her.

My daughter is in grade one ( Australia ) and is struggling with reading , spelling and maths . The school did some basic phonological testing which showed she was well below where she should be but offered no further testing or help. I have had to go out side of school and get help elsewhere . It's appalling !!

Shae, it is never too late. My boys were not diagnosed with dyslexia until they were in their late teens. What can be done varies with each individual, because dyslexia can involve a number of issues: trouble organizing their ideas in written form, possibly ADHD, rote memory struggles, etc.. What is true for all dyslexics is that they will need work on their decoding skills, unless they have already undergone extensive training in an Orton-Gillingham based reading program. The teachers in our schools were never taught the phonetic code of our language in college, other than simple basics like double vowel talkers and such. Thus they are not prepared to help dyslexic kids. School psychologists are generally used for testing whether a student is eligible for special education services, but not for diagnosing a student's learning issues. Some districts and states are concerned about dyslexia, and are trying to do something about it. They are in the minority though.

For your daughter, go to the website Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. Click on "Could it be Dyslexia", and watch this 43 minute free video. It will discuss the symptoms and solutions of dyslexia. This website is owned by the Barton Reading Program which is an Orton-Gillingham based program for dyslexics. They can send you a list of tutors in your area, or you can teach your daughter yourself. The program comes with easy to follow, scripted videos so you know exactly what to do if you decide to teach her. The developer of this program is considered an expert on dyslexia, nationally. The program works. Studies have been done with dyslexics who were in their late 60's. They were taught with an Orton-Gillingham based program. In the studies, fMRI scans showed that the areas of their brains which automatize reading had become more active once they had gone through one of these reading programs. Their brains were able to be rewired even though they were older. Not only could they read better, but reading became easier for them. The younger a child gets this type of intervention, then the greater potential for rewiring this critical area of the brain. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!

Dyslexia is listed as a “specific learning disability” in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1401(30)) and in the federal special education regulations. (34 CFR 300.8(c)(10)). (See pages 55 and 194 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition for the legal definition of "specific learning disability").This is from

@Deborah.. It took me switching Pediatricians to get the right tools to "make" the school test my daughter (which she is going through right now) for LD. She got reading help for the 2 months of First Grade we were in Ohio, but we moved to Colorado and ha

I have the same problem with my 8 year old. He is really struggling and the teachers just say that he's not the only one having those problems and he'll grow out of it. Well I've been saying that for 2 years now and can't get any help from the school system. I want help for him now. What can we do as parents to make the school system take this seriously?

My son is 8 years old and nearly 9 and has had problems with dyslexia starting very early so i started talking to the teachers and every year i said the same thing he is dyslexic and having issues we need help correcting this now. and every teacher said the same oh dont worry he will grow out of it. He is now in 3rd grade and really stuggling and his teacher said well if he doesnt has the state wide tessting he just wont go to 4th grade and we will address it then. Why is it so hard for teachers and the school system to accept the a parent knows best instead of making the child suffer. I mean he is so frustrated and doesnt understand why.

I understand parents frustration with schools and wanting the school to suggest thT the child be tested for dyslexia. Being in the school system, specifically as a special educator, I can tell you that most schools will never suggest you get testing from an out side source. The reason for thisnis that legally, if they suggest it, they have to pay for it. The teachers, even the principalsnin most cases do not have the power to say yes to that without the superintendent or the director of support services permission. It is the all mighty dollar. If you do not follow the proper protocol you can be written up. Parents are always welco e to get out side evaluations and have them considered by the school. I am not sure about all states but my state does not consider dyslexia to be a disability category. One of the main contributors to this decision is that the National Dyslexic foundation does not consider Dyslexia a disability just another way of thinking. Schools in the Northeast and again not all, have made efforts to make learning more universal. Some practices include using phonetic systems that were originally designed for students with dyslexia such as Wilson Reading system and its spin off Fundations. The blame game is not helping anyone. The child's best advocate is the parent. If you think your child would benifit fro an evaluation done by the school, your best bet is to write a letter to the principal and cc it to the superintendent. This will be thw quickest wasnto ensure a sit down meeting where the school knows you are serious. Please, please don't be afraid to ask and advocate. Remembder the sqeaky wheel gets the grease!

I never been tested. But feel like.I have dyslexiaSome of the things listed above like trouble reading my hold life i read at a 4th grade level my letters mixed up like b as p i told my mom when i was in high school but she called me a lair it hurt me that she said never spoke of it again until 2 years a go told my roommate so she bro-ht something home for me. I can only read digital clocks not the hand clocks.

I have run into the same problem. The school will not consider dyslexia, even when I bring it up, because they don't want to address it. I found out from a neighbor (who is a teacher outside of our school district) that we have to have her diagnosed first and then go back to the school and ask them to handle it. But they won't do it or suggest it on their own. Backwards and frustrating! Think of the time that would have gone by if I hadn't taken the bull by the horns? And some poor kids don't have strong parents to advocate for them. I am sad to think of the struggles they go through!

Why is it that I, as a parent, know more about dyslexia than teachers and administration? Why are they not looking at data driven research on dyslexia? Why aren's most teachers and administrators advocating for dyslexic students? The answer--they are not allowed to advocate, speak up in PPTs, etc. If parents knew their rights, school systems would have to defend their practices. If they have to defend their practices, then changes would results in students learning to read. Wow, what a wonderful idea!!!

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