Dyslexia Symptoms to Look for When Testing at Different Stages


Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading fluency and comprehension. While it can manifest in challenges with spelling and writing as well, the core difficulty lies in processing the written word. However, dyslexia can present itself differently depending on a child’s age and developmental stage. Here’s a breakdown of dyslexia symptoms to look for when testing at different stages:

Preschool (Ages 3-5):

  • Delayed Speech and Language Development: This might include difficulty learning letter names and sounds, trouble rhyming, or mispronouncing familiar words.
  • Difficulties with Phonemic Awareness: Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in spoken language. A dyslexic child may struggle to break down words into individual sounds (segmentation) or blend sounds together to form words (blending).
  • Trouble Learning the Alphabet: They may have difficulty memorizing letters or associating them with their corresponding sounds.

Early Elementary (Grades K-2):

  • Persistent Confusion of Similar Letters: This includes letters that look alike (b/d, p/q) or sound similar (f/v, b/p).
  • Inaccurate Reading of Simple Words: Even after instruction, they may struggle to recognize frequently used words (sight words) and rely heavily on sounding out unfamiliar words.
  • Hesitation and Errors When Reading Aloud: They may substitute words, omit small words, or have difficulty decoding unfamiliar vocabulary.
  • Poor Spelling: They may spell phonetically (writing words based on how they sound) or make frequent reversals of letters (e.g., “was” for “saw”).

Later Elementary (Grades 3-5):

  • Slow Reading Speed: Reading fluency may be significantly slower than their peers, impacting comprehension.
  • Difficulty Understanding Complex Texts: They may struggle to grasp the meaning of passages, especially those with unfamiliar vocabulary or complex sentence structure.
  • Frustration and Avoidance of Reading Activities: They may dislike reading aloud, avoid reading for pleasure, and become easily discouraged during reading tasks.

Adolescence and Young Adulthood (Ages 12+):

  • Persistent Reading Difficulties: Despite extra effort, reading fluency and comprehension may continue to lag behind peers.
  • Slow Reading Speed: They may require additional time to process written information, impacting performance on tests and academic tasks.
  • Difficulties with Spelling and Written Expression: They may continue to make frequent spelling errors, struggle with written assignments, and have a limited vocabulary in their writing.
  • Organizational Challenges: Difficulties with processing written information can lead to problems with organization, note-taking, and following written instructions.

It’s important to remember that these are just general guidelines, and not all dyslexic individuals will exhibit all of these symptoms. A qualified professional can conduct a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose dyslexia and determine the most appropriate interventions.

Early identification and intervention are crucial for helping individuals with dyslexia reach their full potential. If you suspect a child may be dyslexic, advocate for a thorough evaluation and explore resources that can provide support.

Characteristics of Dyslexia to Look For When Testing at Different Ages