What are the early indicators to help determine if a child should be evaluated for Dyslexia? At what age can the signs first be detected?


Dyslexia is more an auditory than a visual phenomenon it seems, and one of the early indicators is that kids that have a high chance of being dyslexic have trouble learning how to parse words into syllables, at age 5. But 'having trouble' means being worse than other, non-high-risk peers. I have no idea how good in absolute terms they should be, or how the game of parsing words into syllables is introduced though. But perhaps you can look it up more thoroughly based on this info. I heard it at a lecture on dyslexia, from a neuroscience expert.


According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, persistent difficulties with reading, particularly coupled with frustration, are an initial indicator that you should be concerned.

More specifically, there are a variety of warning signs for each age group, and matching three or more of these signs should be cause for concern (emphasis on concern; always rely upon a qualified professional for actual diagnosis):

In Preschool

  • delayed speech
  • mixing up the sounds and syllables in long words
  • chronic ear infections
  • severe reactions to childhood illnesses
  • constant confusion of left versus right
  • late establishing a dominant hand
  • difficulty learning to tie shoes
  • trouble memorizing their address, phone number, or the alphabet
  • can't create words that rhyme
  • a close relative with dyslexia

In Elementary School

  • 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 - "m" for "w," "u" for "n"
    • Transpositions - "felt" for "left"
    • Substitutions - "house" for "home"
  • dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read)
  • letter or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
  • extreme difficulty learning cursive
  • slow, choppy, inaccurate reading:
    • guesses based on shape or context
    • skips or misreads prepositions (at, to, of)
    • ignores suffixes
    • can't sound out unknown words
  • terrible spelling
  • often can't remember sight words (they, were, does) or homonyms (their, they're, and there)
  • difficulty telling time with a clock with hands
  • trouble with math
    • memorizing multiplication tables
    • memorizing a sequence of steps
    • directionality
  • when speaking, difficulty finding the correct word
    • lots of “whatyamacallits” and “thingies”
    • common sayings come out slightly twisted
  • extremely messy bedroom, backpack, and desk
  • dreads going to school
    • complains of stomach aches or headaches
    • may have nightmares about school

In High School

All of the above symptoms plus:

  • limited vocabulary
  • extremely poor written expression
    • large discrepancy between verbal skills and written compositions
  • unable to master a foreign language
  • difficulty reading printed music
  • poor grades in many classes
  • may drop out of high school

In Adults

Education history similar to above, plus:

  • slow reader
  • may have to read a page 2 or 3 times to understand it
  • terrible speller
  • difficulty putting thoughts onto paper
    • dreads writing memos or letters
  • still has difficulty with right versus left
  • often gets lost, even in a familiar city
  • sometimes confuses b and d, especially when tired or sick

Some more resources are here and here and here.

  • 1
    I'm not dyslexic (far from it, in fact), but "left" and "right" continue to be random words to me, with no clear association between them and the concepts of left and right. My sister is the same way. So there's probably an education component to this skill, same as any other. In other words, don't expect a 5-year-old to know left and right if you haven't taught him left and right. – Martha May 2 '12 at 14:23
  • @Martha, additionally, many of the symptoms listed above are also indicators of dysgraphia, a condition that is visual where letter reversals are common. dyslexia and dysgraphia often go together so while it is an indicator it does not automatically result in a diagnosis - even of dysgraphia - most kids are dysgraphic for awhile while learning their letters in the first place anyway. Your ultimate point is completely valid +1 – balanced mama Nov 9 '12 at 12:12

I hope you don't take offense, but isn't this a thing to ask your pediatrician? Mine is great, and continually getting updated training, so I look to her for the most current information about things like this.

More generally, I would be watching out for other language-processing problems that aren't developing as quickly as you expect.

  • No offense taken. However, the intent behind my question was to help parents know when they should initiate that initial conversation with their pediatrician (and not "when do I decide if my child has Dyslexia"). As such, answering by saying "ask your pediatrician when you should ask your pediatrician about Dyslexia" is just not at all helpful. – user420 Apr 23 '12 at 15:02
  • You should ask your pediatrician when you are concerned about it. Seems like a perfectly reasonable answer. – DA01 Apr 23 '12 at 16:12
  • Ah, OK, that wasn't clear to me when I read your question: I wasn't sure if you were trying to self-diagnose, or (as it turns out) just looking for hints to take to a professional. – Will E. Apr 23 '12 at 17:41

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