The Signs of Dyslexia

Parents ask me often if there are tell-tale signs that a child may have dyslexia. Here are some red flags to watch for.


1. Difficulty at an early age processing or producing language.

2. Student has an early speech and language impairment.

3. Struggles with learning letters and the sounds they make.

4. Problems learning and memorizing number facts.

5. Trouble rhyming and manipulating sounds.

6. Visually similar words are confused.

7. Student guesses the word from the initial letter.

8. A slow reading rate, and oral reading and sounding out of words is labored.

9. The student is a poor speller.

10. Student confuses vowel sounds.

11. There is a family history of dyslexia.

12. Issues with expressing oneself in writing, and with using proper conventions.

13. Poor handwriting.


Although the common understanding of dyslexia is that students with dyslexia read backward, this is not actually true. Those with dyslexia have different brains, and their deficit is with phonological processing, or manipulating our language, not with seeing the words. Dr. John Gabrieli, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, puts it this way: dyslexia is the "consequence of a brain organization that is not optimal for reading." However, many students with dyslexia do write letters like b, d, j, g, h, p, and q backward. If your child is reversing letters, that isn't a reason to immediately worry. Check to see if other items from the list above are present as well.


Additionally, dyslexia exists on a spectrum. Some students can read, but struggle greatly with spelling and writing. Not all of the items on the list have to be present for it to be dyslexia.


If you notice your child falling behind his or her peers and struggling with items on the list, it is likely time to ask your school to have your child tested, or to pursue testing outside of the school. I have helped parents navigate this decision and I can give you advice on how to proceed and connect you with resources. You will definitely want your child to be diagnosed by a trained professional who does educational testing.


While someone may suspect a student has dyslexia based on the list above, a test by a professional is important. If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia by such a professional, they may qualify for accommodations at your school, as well as on standardized testing, which can make a big difference for your child.


If you have questions about dyslexia not answered here, please feel free to reach out. This short TED Ed video is also an excellent resource.