Signs of Dyslexia at Different Ages

This article was written by the Understood Team as seen on Understood.org While it was written for an American audience, the information is very relevant to us in the Caribbean.


When most people think about dyslexia, they think about struggles with reading. But dyslexia can also affect speaking, spelling and other skills that involve language.

This checklist can help give you a sense of whether your child might be showing signs of dyslexia. Many kids find out they have dyslexia in grades 3–5. But some find out earlier or later—even in adulthood. Keep in mind that not every child who shows one or more of these signs or who struggles with reading has dyslexia.

If you’re concerned your child might have dyslexia, you can print the checklist and talk with your child’s doctor or teacher about what you’re seeing.

If you’re not sure whether your child is showing certain signs or not, you may want to revisit this checklist after spending some time observing your child’s reading and language skills.

Signs of Dyslexia at Different Ages (View / Download)

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschool

Often mispronounces words, like saying “beddy tear” instead of “teddy bear.”Was considered by his doctor to be a “late talker” (saying very few words by his second birthday) and has trouble saying words accurately (using “baby talk”).Often has trouble naming familiar objects, saying general words like thing and stuffinstead of the names of objects.Has trouble learning a new word, even after you’ve tried to teach it to him many times.Has trouble learning nursery rhymes or song lyrics that rhyme, and has difficulty recognizing and producing rhymes.Has trouble remembering sequences, such as singing the letters of the alphabet or saying the days of the week in the right order.Often tells stories that are hard to follow; has trouble talking about an event in a logical order.Has trouble remembering and following directions with multiple steps.Can’t point out his own name and has trouble writing it.


Signs of Dyslexia in Grades K–2


Has difficulty learning letter names and remembering the sounds they make.Confuses letters that look similar (bd, pq) and letters that have similar sounds (d/t; b/p; f/v).Struggles to read familiar words (like cat or the), especially when there are no pictures or other context clues; often skips over or confuses small words like to and as when reading aloud.Often substitutes words when reading aloud, like saying the word house when the story uses the word home.Doesn’t seem to know how to approach unfamiliar words, such as focusing on the sound of the first letter or looking at the vowels for clues to pronunciation.Has trouble with the vowels in words, such as knowing how vowels combine in words and that they have different sounds depending on how they’re combined.Has trouble hearing the individual sounds in words and/or blending sounds to make a word.Has trouble remembering how words are spelled and applying spelling rules in writing.Omits the end of a word when reading and writing (for example, leaving off the s in cats or the ed in jumped).Has trouble quickly coming up with a list of words (for example, if asked to say the names of 10 colors or 10 fruits) or retrieving the name of something.

Signs of Dyslexia in Grades 3–5

Often confuses or omits small words like for and of when reading aloud.Frequently identifies a word incorrectly, even after having just read the same word correctly earlier in the same text.Has trouble sounding out new words; if a long word comes up when reading, often omits part of it or skips over it.Often can’t recognize common words (sight words) at a glance, such as where and there, and tries to sound them out.Often has trouble explaining what happened in a story or answering questions about key details.Has an easier time answering questions about a text if you read it aloud to him.Frequently makes the same kinds of mistakes, such as reversing letters (writing bots instead of dots) or mixing up the order of letters (writing stop instead of spot).Has trouble with spelling, such as quickly forgetting how to spell many of the words he studies or spelling the same word correctly and incorrectly in the same exercise.Avoids reading whenever possible or gets frustrated or agitated when reading.Takes a very long time to complete reading assignments.Seems to read at a lower academic level than the one at which he speaks; may have a smaller vocabulary than other kids his age because he doesn’t like to read.

Signs of Dyslexia in Teens and Tweens

Often reads slowly, omitting small words and leaving out parts of longer words when reading aloud.Makes lots of spelling errors, sometimes misspelling words in ways that a computer spell-checker doesn’t know how to correct.Often struggles to remember common abbreviations, including ones that are used on social media, such as idk and cul8ter.Has trouble expressing ideas in an organized way or supporting an argument when doing writing assignments.Often seems to be searching for the words he wants to say and ends up using words like stuff or thing rather than a more specific phrase; or substitutes related words, like using the word gate instead of fence.Often doesn’t “get” the joke; has trouble understanding idioms and puns.Has an easier time answering questions about a page of text if it’s read aloud to him.Avoids reading whenever possible or gets frustrated or agitated when reading.Takes a very long time to complete reading assignments.Seems to read at a lower academic level than the one at which he speaks; may have a smaller vocabulary than other kids his age because he doesn’t like to read.

Learn more about dyslexia, including common myths about dyslexia. And get tips on what to do if you think your child could have dyslexia.

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