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Dyslexia Signs and Symptoms

1-2 years old:

The earliest signs of dyslexia emerge around 1 to 2 years of age when children first learn to make sounds. Children who don’t say their first words until 15 months of age or their first phrases until 2 years of age have a higher risk of developing dyslexia.  A language delay alone does not make a child have dyslexia but family history and further delays moving forward are risk factors.


​3-4 years old (Preschool) signs of dyslexia:

  • Mispronouncing words, like saying beddy tear instead of teddy bear

  • Mispronouncing familiar words or using baby talk

  • Struggling to name familiar objects and using general words like thing and stuff instead

  • Having a hard time learning nursery rhymes or song lyrics that rhyme

  • Having trouble remembering sequences, like singing the letters of the alphabet

  • Telling stories that are hard to follow or having trouble talking about an event in a logical order

  • Having difficulty remembering and following directions with multiple steps

  • Having problems learning and remembering the names of letters in the alphabet

  • Being unable to recognize the letters of their own name


Kindergarten and 2nd grade

​Around age 5 or 6 years, when kids begin learning to read, dyslexia symptoms become more apparent. Children who are at risk of reading disabilities can be identified in kindergarten. There is no standardized test for dyslexia, so your clinician will work with you to evaluate their symptoms.

Signs that your kindergartener-2nd grader may be at risk include:

  • Not understanding that words break apart into sounds

  • Having trouble separating the individual sounds in words and blending sounds to make a word

  • Making reading errors that aren’t connected to the sounds of the letters on the page

  • Having a history of parents or siblings with reading problems

  • Complaining about how hard reading is

  • Not wanting to go to school

  • Showing problems with speaking and pronunciation

  • Having trouble sounding out basic words like “cat” or “map”

  • Not associating letters with sounds (for example, that “p” sounds like “paa”)

  • Having trouble learning letter names and remembering the sounds they make

  • Often confusing letters that look similar (like b, d, p, and q) or sound similar (like f and v, b and p, or d and t)​

  • Substituting words when reading aloud, like saying house when the story says home

  • Trouble remembering how words are spelled and applying spelling rules in writing


Second through eighth grade

Many teachers are not trained to recognize dyslexia. Children who are intelligent and participate fully in class often slip through the cracks because they are good at hiding their reading trouble. By the time your child reaches middle school, they may have fallen behind in reading, writing, and spelling so it is important to catch their reading struggles early.

Signs of dyslexia in grade school-middle school:

  • Confusing or skipping small words like for and of when reading aloud

  • Having trouble sounding out new words

  • Having trouble quickly recognizing common words (also called sight words)

  • Struggling to explain what happened in a story or answer questions about key details

  • Frequently making the same kinds of mistakes, like reversing letters

  • Having poor spelling, like spelling the same word correctly and incorrectly in the same exercise

  • Avoiding reading whenever possible or getting frustrated or upset when reading

  • ​Being very slow in learning to read

  • Reading slowly and awkwardly

  • Disliking or avoiding reading out loud

  • Using vague and inexact vocabulary, like “stuff” and “things”

  • Hesitating while finding words and answering questions

  • Using a lot of “umms” in conversation

  • Mispronouncing words that are long, unknown, or complicated

  • Confusing words that sound alike

  • Having trouble remembering details, such as names and dates

  • Having messy handwriting

  • Reading slowly or leaving out small words and parts of longer words when reading aloud

  • Struggling to remember common abbreviations, including ones on social media

  • Often searching for words or using substitutes like gate instead of fence

  • Often not “getting” the joke or having trouble understanding idioms and puns

  • Taking a very long time to complete reading assignments

  • Having an easier time answering questions about a page of text if it’s read aloud

Young adulthood: High school and college years

High school and college involve a new set of challenges for students with dyslexia. They face far more rigorous academic challenges when quick reading comprehension is essential. High school and college students are assigned more reading material. They must also learn to work with several different teachers, all with different expectations.  Without treatment, some people’s childhood dyslexia continues into young adulthood. Others will improve naturally as their higher learning functions develop.

In addition to the signs already seen in childhood, dyslexia signs in young adulthood can include:

  • Requiring a great mental effort for reading

  • Reading slowly

  • Rarely reading for pleasure

  • Avoiding reading out loud in any situation

  • Pausing and hesitating often while speaking

  • Using a lot of “umms”

  • Using vague and imprecise language

  • Pronouncing names and places wrong frequently

  • Having difficulty remembering names

  • Confusing like-sounding names

  • Missing quick responses in conversation

  • Having a limited spoken vocabulary

  • Having difficulty with multiple-choice tests

  • Considering themselves stupid despite good grades

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