Signs of Dyslexia

The difficulties noted below are often associated with dyslexia if they are unexpected for the individual’s age, educational level, or cognitive abilities. A qualified diagnostician can test a person to determine if he or she is truly dyslexic.


Pre-School Children:

  • May talk later than most children
  • May have difficulty pronouncing words, e.g., “busgetti” for “spaghetti”, “mawn lower” for “lawn mower”
  • May be slow to add new vocabulary words
  • May be unable to recall the right word
  • May have difficulty with rhyming
  • May have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name
  • May be unable to follow multi-step directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills may develop more slowly than in other children
  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in the correct sequence
  • Often has difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words


Kindergarten to Grade 4 Students:

  • May be slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)
  • Has difficulty spelling phonetically
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors such as:
    • Letter reversals: “d” for “b” as in: “dog” for “bog”
    • Word reversals: “tip” for “pit”
    • Inversions: “rn” for “w”, “u” for “n”
    • Transpositions: “felt” for “left”
    • Substitutions: “house” for “home”
  • May confuse small words: “at” for “to”, “said” for “and”, “does” for “goes”
  • Relies on guessing and context
  • May have difficulty learning new vocabulary
  • May transpose number sequences and confuse arithmetic signs (+ – X / + =)
  • May have trouble remembering facts
  • May be slow to learn new skills; relies heavily on memorizing without understanding
  • May have difficulty planning, organizing and managing time, materials and tasks
  • Often uses an awkward pencil grip (fist, thumb hooked over fingers, etc.)
  • May have poor “fine motor” coordination


Grade 5 to 8 Students:

  • Is usually reading below grade level
  • May reverse letter sequences: “soiled” for “solid”, “left” for “felt”
  • May be slow to discern and to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other reading and spelling strategies
  • May have difficulty spelling; spells same word differently on the same page
  • May avoid reading aloud
  • May have trouble with word problems in math
  • May write with difficulty with illegible handwriting; pencil grip is awkward, fist-like or tight
  • May avoid writing
  • May have difficulty with written composition
  • May have slow or poor recall of facts
  • May have difficulty with comprehension
  • May have trouble with non-literal language (idioms, jokes, proverbs, slang)
  • May have difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time, materials and tasks


High School and College Students:

  • May read very slowly with many inaccuracies
  • Continues to spell incorrectly, frequently spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing
  • May avoid reading and writing tasks
  • May have trouble summarizing and outlining
  • May have trouble answering open-ended questions on tests
  • May have difficulty learning a foreign language
  • May have poor memory skills
  • May work slowly
  • May pay too little attention to details or focus too much on them
  • May misread information
  • May have an inadequate vocabulary
  • May have an inadequate store of knowledge from previous reading
  • May have difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time, materials and tasks



  • May hide reading problems
  • May spell poorly; relies on others to correct spelling
  • Avoids writing; may not be able to write
  • Often very competent in oral language
  • Relies on memory; may have an excellent memory
  • Often has good “people” skills
  • Often is spatially talented; professions include, but are not limited, to engineers, architects, designers, artists and craftspeople, mathematicians, physicists, physicians (esp. surgeons and orthopedists), and dentists
  • May be very good at “reading” people (intuitive)
  • In jobs is often working well below their intellectual capacity
  • May have difficulty with planning, organization and management of time, materials and tasks
  • Often entrepreneurs



  • Basic Facts about Dyslexia: What Every Layperson Ought to Know. ~ Copyright 1993, 2nd ed. 1998. The International Dyslexia Association, Baltimore, MD
  • Learning Disabilities: Information, Strategies, Resources. ~ Copyright 2000. Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities, a collaboration of leading U.S. non-profit learning disabilities organizations. Used with permission


For more information, you may wish to view the website of the International Dyslexia Association: