What Are Early Symptoms of Dyslexia?

Prevention strategies and interventions can be implemented if educators are given the proper tools to identify early symptoms of dyslexia.

What Is Dyslexia?

According to The International Dyslexia Association (IDA), “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

The cause of dyslexia is still unclear, but we know that there are differences in brain development and function between those who have dyslexia and those that don’t.

According to The Reading Well, approximately fifteen percent of people have dyslexia. They also state that “between 25-40% of children with dyslexia also have ADHD, and conversely, approximately 25% of children with ADHD also have dyslexia.”

Many children who struggle with dyslexia are unidentified and left to tackle significant challenges in reading, spelling, and writing without interventions.


What Are the Early Symptoms of Dyslexia?

In the preschool through second-grade years, many children are in the process of “learning to read.” From third grade on, students are shifted into a “reading to learn” approach. When students make that shift, they are then expected to apply automatic and accurate decoding strategies to read with improved fluency.

Around this age is when dyslexia proves to be most evident. Students begin to showcase signs of frustration or a lost desire to read as they are unable to keep up with their classmates.

Patterning is how the brain learns. Patterns and rules for spelling that many were explicitly taught include:

i before e except after c…  

two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking…

These rules forge patterns for reading and spelling between familiar and unfamiliar words. Many other rules like these exist but are rarely taught because most students do not need direct, explicit instruction to become efficient readers.

However, students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities need that direct, explicit instruction, like Orton-Gillingham, to understand the irregularities that exist in the complex English language. 

For at-risk students, it is important to frequently screen and assess them for reading problems. If a student is showing signs of reading difficulty, screening and assessment will help to recommend appropriate strategies to prevent further reading gaps from developing.

Dyslexia Symptoms to Look Out for in Preschool

  • Delayed speech
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Difficulty pronouncing words
  • Confusion with following directions
  • Mixing the sounds and syllables in long words
  • Difficulty learning the names of colors or shapes
  • Trouble reciting the alphabet
  • Difficulty with rhyming
  • A family member with dyslexia

Dyslexia Symptoms to Look for in Elementary and Middle School

  • Frequent spelling mistakes
  • Letter or number reversals after first grade
  • Slow, choppy reading
  • Guessing after repeated exposure to letters or words
  • Poor comprehension
  • Poor memory for sight words (e.g. they, were, does)
  • Difficulty following instructions with multiple steps
  • Trouble memorizing math facts

Universal screening for dyslexia helps to prevent the advancement of reading difficulties associated with unknown reading disabilities. Evidence-based reading interventions, such as Orton-Gillingham, can better prepare students to confront reading at the word, sentence, and passage levels. 

Screening should begin as soon as preschool and should address the developmental skills of phonological awareness, letter-sound association, blending, word recognition fluency, word identification, vocabulary, oral reading fluency, and comprehension.

Below is a list of resources for universal screening and curriculum-based measurement tools:

  1. https://dyslexiaida.org/universal-screening-k-2-reading 
  2. https://dibels.uoregon.edu/ 
  3. https://www.nessy.com/us/screening-for-dyslexia/ 
  4. https://learningally.org/Dyslexia/Dyslexia-Test 
  5. http://onlinepar.net/resources/about-the-par/ 

Universal screening results should be used to identify the right intervention and recommendations for a further professional evaluation. To ensure struggling readers are making adequate improvements and interventions are proving effective, progress monitoring should be conducted frequently.

Parents and educators must recognize the importance of universal screening and early intervention to support struggling readers. Students identified with dyslexia cannot thrive in a traditional education setting. They must be given the proper tools and techniques for reading.


Ways to Help Students with Dyslexia

Address the Issue

A thorough evaluation will help to identify areas of need in learning the five components to reading. Students who show symptoms of dyslexia benefit best from the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading. Research shows that the brain changes when consistent explicit, multisensory instruction is delivered.

Understand Individual Student Learning Styles

Promote a positive learning environment by understanding each individual student’s learning style, motivation, and interests. Students who struggle with dyslexia show signs of dominance in the right side of their brains. Incorporating imagination, art, visual memory, hands-on skills, music, and creativity can promote overall success.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is Key

Stimulate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile senses to promote learning. You can do this by:

  • Visual: have the student refer to memory anchors through writing, drawing, highlighting, and visual cues 
  • Auditory: provide repetitive input through reading aloud, singing, and chanting 
  • Kinesthetic-Tactile: utilize movement to reinforce formation and patterns, like tapping, acting out, and air-writing

Activate all of the senses simultaneously whenever possible.

Empower Students with the Right Tools

Identify appropriate accommodations and develop a plan that includes valuable benefits and support. Being able to independently manipulate and apply strategies is vital in building fluent reading skills. Text-to-speech, audiobooks, spellcheck, and more are some assistive technology tools that enhance the learning experience and alleviate stress and frustration.

Propose Enrichment Lessons

Students who struggle with dyslexia are bright, creative, and talented and should develop their talents through music, technology, art, sports, science, and more.

Read Aloud

Research reports that in the development of mirror neurons, children will mimic good reading and fluency skills if repeatedly exposed to them. Parents can positively influence their children by showcasing enthusiasm for reading at home.

The best first step in identifying students with dyslexia is through universal screening. A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation should be conducted if problems continue despite initial intervention.

Screening and evaluation results can assist in developing an intervention plan that identifies the student’s needs, promote the implementation of approaches like Orton-Gillingham, and monitor progress yearly. Early identification leads to essential prevention and intervention to give the student the resources they need.