Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the United States, impacting 20 percent of the country’s population. If a child is not diagnosed by the second grade, there is a significant chance he or she will remain undiagnosed until they reach adulthood. By educating yourself on the red flags of this learning disability, you can avoid misconceptions as well as delayed identification of this disability. Early identification of any disorder correlates with improved outcome and prognosis.
Preschool-Aged Red Flags for Dyslexia:
Difficulties with phonemic awareness or the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in words are beginning signs that your child may have dyslexia. Examples of phonemic awareness skills are:
- Segmenting syllables (e.g., “how many syllables do you hear in butterfly?”)
- Rhyming (e.g., “which word rhymes with mat; star or hat”?)
- Phoneme isolation (e.g., “in the word sun, is the /s/ at the beginning, middle or end of the word?”)
- Sound deletion (e.g., “say cup without the /k/.”)
Other signs include:
- Trouble reading single words
- Trouble generating rhyming words or identifying which words don’t belong
- Reversing letters and words (e.g., tab/bat)
- Difficulty identifying sounds at the beginning or end of a word (e.g., “what word begins with /t/; toad or boat?”)
Elementary-Aged Red Flags for Dyslexia:
Once children enter elementary school, the expectations for reading and writing abilities increase significantly. Children not previously identified as being at-risk may begin to exhibit signs as school work becomes more challenging. These children often have average or above average IQ, but demonstrate below grade-level reading and writing abilities.
Red flags include:
- Trouble sequencing (e.g., steps, alphabet, naming months)
- Continued trouble with rhyming
- Difficulty with word finding (e.g., relying on “stuff,” “things” or other generic words)
- Difficulty with organization and studying
- Trouble with story telling
- Avoidance or dislike of reading
Should an individual demonstrate some of these signs, it is not necessarily indicative of dyslexia. Other reading or language disorders may play a factor. However, if these difficulties persist through childhood, it may negatively impact that child’s academic success.
Through early identification, children with dyslexia can begin treatment in phonics-based programs, such as Orton-Gillingham or Wilson. These programs are unique in that the relationships between sounds and letters are explicitly and systematically taught. With consistent treatment, children with dyslexia can learn to compensate for their disorder, as well as begin to enjoy reading and writing.