Reading is a skill considered essential for academic and eventually workplace achievement. In addition to their families, young children rely on daycare, preschool, and elementary teachers to build the foundation for reading skills and achievement.
Dyslexia may present numerous barriers to building reading skills over the course of a child’s lifetime. Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Disorder characterized by incorrect pairing of speech sounds with words and letters (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This aforementioned pairing skill is referred to as reading decoding. Dyslexia is purported to effect the language-processing areas of the brain. Neuroimaging studies on infants and toddlers have shown that those diagnosed with the disorder have an alteration of the structure in the parts of the brain commonly used during reading tasks (Ozerno-Palchik & Gaab, 2016).
Notably, 10-15% of children in the United States are estimated to meet criteria for Dyslexia (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). Children who suffer from Dyslexia are prone to develop reading comprehension difficulties as well, further underscoring the importance of a prompt diagnosis. Although public educational systems may provide screening and assessment tools, these tools may not always detect Dyslexia symptoms. Parents, caregivers, and providers can also help recognize when a child is displaying signs and symptoms of Dyslexia.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia
When observing possible symptoms of Dyslexia, it’s important to note that Dyslexia will often impact individuals’ understanding of sound structures, or phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is a skill that facilitates “breaking up” a sentence, group of words, or a single word into smaller sections (words, syllables, and sounds). For example, phonological awareness is used to match names of letters to sounds (D says /d/), mix a series of sounds into a word (/r/ /e/ /d/ into red), break words down into syllables (homework is broken down into home-work), or manipulate sounds (what is the word rat if you take away the r at the beginning?). Signs of Dyslexia may start to show up as early as age three (Gaab, 2017; WebMD, 2019; Medical News Today, 2020). Here are some things to look for by age group:
Children Ages Three to Four
- Can’t seem to find the right word
- Difficulty with the concept of rhyme
- Trouble with pronunciation (ex. babbit for rabbit, or constructions for instructions)
- Delays in speech including production or development
- Trouble with naming letters in general
- Trouble with naming or recognizing letters in their own name
Children Ages Five to Seven
- Uses baby-talk
- Has difficulty pronouncing short words (ex. cat, rat, dog)
- Hard time matching letter names with their sounds. (ex. “What sound does H make?”)
- When reading, may make errors that show a disconnect from what words are in the text
- Has trouble with naming sounds in a word. (ex. “What is the first sound you hear in boy?”)
- Their spelling or writing is hard to interpret
- May be unable to mix sounds together to form a word when prompted (ex. “What word do the sounds /s/ /a/ /t/ make?”)
Children Ages Eight and Up
- Struggles in the areas of spelling
- Demonstrates a slow reading speed
- Needs extra time to answer questions orally when prompted
- Has trouble with handwriting formation
- Complains that reading is hard, expresses a dislike for reading, or gets irritated while reading
- Difficulty with words that are not familiar
- Cannot remember or display understanding for what they have just read
- Has trouble remembering high-frequency words
Teachers, parents, and providers can notice and advocate on behalf of those children with Dyslexia symptoms. Early detection can lead to adequate interventions and support. Observers’ input (e.g., teacher input) can also provide helpful information to psychologists (like Interface Consulting and Psychological Services) during the Dyslexia evaluation and treatment process. If you suspect your child is suffering from this disability, take note of the symptoms observed and ask your child’s teachers and providers to do the same. By collaboratively approaching your child’s diagnostic and treatment process, this will help your child overcome existing challenges.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Specific Learning Disorders. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
Cortiella, C. & Horowitz, H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Gaab, N. (2017). It’s a myth that young children cannot be screened for dyslexia. Baltimore, MD: International Dyslexia Association.
Medical News Today (2020). What are the symptoms of dyslexia by age?
Ozernov-Palchik, O. & Gaab, N. (2016). Tackling the ‘dyslexia paradox’: Reading brain and behavior for early markers of developmental dyslexia. Cognitive Science.
WebMD (2019). What Are the Symptoms of Dyslexia?
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