Warning Signs

What Dyslexia Looks Like in Each Grade

Dyslexia in Children Birth – Preschool

Even as early as when a child is learning to walk and talk, signs of future reading difficulties will often show up. In a preschooler, you may see some or all of these signs of dyslexia:

  • Late learning to talk; uses nonverbal gestures instead of words
  • Slow to learn new vocabulary; trouble remembering names of common items
  • Mixed up pronunciation of words (aminal for animal, busketti, for spaghetti)
  • Trouble with sounds such as th, r, s, l, w
  • May not enjoy looking at books or following along when being read to
  • May not want to learn letter names or the alphabet; may have trouble remembering the letters in her own name
  • Trouble rhyming; cannot tell which words start with same first sound
  • Difficulty understanding simple questions or directions; has a hard time remembering what was just said
  • Trouble sequencing words in a sentence
  • Clumsy; difficulty with motor skills; difficulty hopping, running around obstacles, catching a bounced ball, throwing a ball overhead, riding a tricycle, walking downstairs

Dyslexia in Children – Kindergarten and 1st Grade

When a child is in kindergarten or first grade, beginning to read, you might see these dyslexia symptoms:

  • Slow to learn the alphabet
  • Difficulty learning letter names and sounds
  • Begin to show frustration and anxiety, as he realizes he is lagging behind his peers
  • May exhibit health or behavior problems, emotional difficulties or want to avoid school
  • Difficulty recognizing and making rhymes
  • Lack of phonemic awareness (understanding that letters represent speech sounds in words)
  • Difficulty recognizing common words by sight, or automatically (i.e. family names, names on common signs on cereal boxes)
  • Difficulty spelling words phonically, so they can be figured out by the reader

Remember that even with these difficulties, the child may have great strengths in other unrelated areas. This discrepancy is a blessing – AND it can cause confusion to the child, her teachers and family.

Dyslexia in Children – Second and Third Grade

In an ideal school setting, children with learning disabilities are identified early and given adequate amounts of intervention by highly qualified teachers using programs proven to be effective with dyslexic students. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Dyslexic children in 2nd or 3rd grade typically continue to have difficulties with reading, spelling and writing.

In addition, they have often developed some negative and limiting habits of emotional and mental responses when faced with school work relating to reading and writing. These negative thoughts and emotions can become great hindrances to remediation, even when remediation is given with an optimal environment, program and teacher.

Here are some predictable symptoms of dyslexia in 2nd and 3rd grade:

  • Lack of reading fluency (reading with natural-sounding phrasing, expression and ease)
  • Inability to recognize common words automatically (by sight)
  • Difficulties with sounding out words; unsure of correct letters sounds
  • Poor spelling
  • Increasing symptoms of school anxiety and distressing emotions: headaches, stomach aches, not wanting to go to school, lethargy or depression, disruptive or avoidance behavior, “boredom,” frustration and anger

If a dyslexic child is given high quality intervention that strengthens her weaknesses, she can begin to feel and be more successful in the areas of reading, writing and language.

If, simultaneously, she is given opportunities to demonstrate her strengths – perhaps in verbal expression, artistic or athletic areas, she will be much more likely to continue to like school and feel good about herself as a capable learner.

Dyslexia in Children – Intermediate Grades – 4th, 5th and 6th

If the child has not had expert instruction specifically targeting the needs of the learning disabled student, all of the previously noted difficulties will likely still be occurring and to nearly the same degree as before. However, even with expert instruction, many of the same difficulties will persist for the severely dyslexic student.

Here are some common, persistent indicators of dyslexia in the intermediate grades:

  • Poor reading fluency (unable to read quickly and naturally in general and as measured on timed oral reading fluency tests)
  • Difficulty reading lists of words
  • Even greater difficulty reading lists of nonsense words
  • Poor spelling
  • Possible difficulties with comprehension when reading (but not when being read to)
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts for speaking and writing assignments

Grades 5 through 8

Children in fifth through eighth grade may:

  • Read at a lower level than expected.
  • Reverse letter sequence such as “soiled” for “solid,” “left” for “felt.”
  • Be slow to recognize and learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other reading and spelling strategies.
  • Have difficulty spelling, and he or she may spell the same word differently on the same page.
  • Avoid reading aloud.
  • Have trouble with word problems in math.
  • Write with difficulty or have illegible handwriting. His or her pencil grip may be awkward, fist-like, or tight.
  • Avoid writing.
  • Have slow or poor recall of facts.

 High school and college

Students in high school and college may:

  • Read very slowly with many inaccuracies.
  • Continue to spell incorrectly, or frequently spell the same word differently in a single piece of writing.
  • Avoid tests that require reading and writing, and procrastinate on reading and writing tasks.
  • Have trouble preparing summaries and outlines for classes.
  • Work intensely on reading and writing tasks.
  • Have poor memory skills and complete assigned work more slowly than expected.
  • Have an inadequate vocabulary and be unable to store much information from reading.



Adapted from http://www.learning-inside-out.com/dyslexia-in-children.html