The Unlikely Signs of Dyslexia You Should Not Ignore
Individuals with dyslexia do not all read or spell words backward. They don’t fit the stereotype, so parents, teachers, and other loved ones don’t recognize their symptoms until struggles at school or work start to emerge. But the fact is that may telltale signs begin appearing long before.
Perhaps the most broadly recognized learning disability, dyslexia is defined as a difficulty with spelling and word recognition. While some individuals with dyslexia do read words backwards, this LD manifests differently in different people; it is complex. Symptoms of dyslexia vary from difficulty breaking down words into syllables to trouble with the accuracy, fluency, and comprehension of the material being read.
Diagnostic tools like the Gray Oral Reading Test can determine if a person has dyslexia. But first parents and teachers must learn the following signs of dyslexia so they can consult a specialist.
- Begins talking later than peers
- Chronic ear infections
- Confusion learning left and right
- Difficulty learning to tie shoes
- Trouble with rhymes
- Messy or illegible handwriting
- Letter/number reversals
- Difficulty with cursive writing
- Slow, choppy, inaccurate reading
- Often says, “You know what I mean,” because of difficulty finding the right word
- Poor reading of non-words (like those in Dr. Seuss books)
- Large discrepancy between verbal skills and written correspondence
- Cannot grasp a foreign language
- Mispronounces expected words (“tornado” instead of “volcano,” or “satisficated” instead of “satisfied”)
- Taking much longer than expected to get through work (even if the result is accurate)
- Poor self esteem
- May have to reread things several times to understand
- Dreads writing letters or even quick emails
- May gravitate to a career that does not rely on reading
- May hate reading or prefer reading nonfiction because it uses a smaller vocabulary
Problems associated with dyslexia at school or at work may leave a child or adult feeling stupid or slow and may lead to social isolation. People with ADHD and dyslexia are a high risk for being bullied, and that can lead to chronic stress — which may manifest in physical ways for children. Social symptoms including:
- Somatic complaints (e.g., headaches, dizziness, or stomachaches)
- Anxiety (refusal to go to school, dropping out)
- Mood disorders
- Learned helplessness
For students with undiagnosed dyslexia, everyday schooling is like being taught in a foreign language. When school administrators require that student to repeat a grade — still in the same foreign language, it can teach a child that no matter what she does, or how hard she tries, she will not succeed. This feeling can lead to mental health problems.
Strictly speaking, dyslexia is not hazardous to the health. But when symptoms are left unidentified and interventions missed, dyslexia can cause psychological, academic, and professional harm. Yet, studies show that, when symptoms are identified early, children exude a strong sense of control and confidence; their scores on self-esteem rating scales mirror those of their non-dyslexic counterparts. Early identification is essential. By age six, you can have a definitive diagnosis, and there is no benefit to waiting.
Accommodations That Help
Specialized, individual instruction can make a difference for students with dyslexia. Many schools use reputable programs such as Wilson, Orton-Gillingham, and Lindamood-Bell. Other accommodations that help include:
- Extra time on tests
- Taped lectures
- Waived foreign language requirement
- Note takers
- Audio texts (Learning Ally, bookshare, etc.)
- Speech recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking, Google voice dictation)
- Not required to read out loud in general class
- Not graded on spelling
- Ability to do rough draft
- Multi-sensory approaches to reading
- Keyboarding early
For more information on dyslexia, see What is Dyslexia?
Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D., is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Specialist Panel.