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Indicators of Dyslexia

A problem learning to read and/or spell should alert parents and teachers that a specific learning disability such as dyslexia may be present. This applies particularly when a child’s progress seems at odds with his or her general level of ability.

Each child with dyslexia has a unique profile of strengths and weaknesses.  Indicators of dyslexia differ at different ages.  The following lists are adapted from the Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia produced by the Department of Education.  They may help parents to identify children who may have a dyslexic difficulty.  A psycho-educational assessment will still be required to make a diagnosis.  What the lists do is help to confirm the suspicions that there is a difficulty present and therefore help in making the decision to obtain an assessment.

When looking at the lists of indicators, remember the following:

  • No child will have all the indicators.
  • Many children will have several of the indicators.
  • Some indicators are more common than others. 
  • The number of indicators observed in a child does not indicate whether the child’s dyslexia is mild, moderate or severe.   

The lists of indicators are grouped as follows:

  • For children age three to five. 
  • For children age five to seven. 
  • For children age seven to twelve. 
  • For young people age twelve plus.


Indicators of possible dyslexia (ages 3-5 Years)

  • Is later than most children in learning to speak.
  • Has difficulty pronouncing some, especially multi-syllabic words.
  • Has difficulty separating spoken words into sounds and blending spoken sounds to make words (i.e. has difficulty with phonological awareness).
  • Experiences auditory discrimination problems.
  • Is prone to spoonerisms (e.g. Fips and chish for fish and chips).
  • Has difficulty with rhyming.
  • Has difficulty maintaining rhythm.
  • Is unable to recall the right word.
  • Is slow to add new vocabulary.
  • Exhibits delays in acquiring emergent literacy skills (e.g. understanding that written language progresses from left to right, discriminating between letters, words and sentences)
  • Experiences problems learning the alphabet.
  • Has trouble learning numbers, days of the week, colours and shapes.
  • Has trouble learning to write and spell his/her own name.
  • Is unable to follow multi-step directions or routines.
  • Is developing fine motor skills more slowly than other children.
  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in correct sequence.


Indicators of possible dyslexia (ages 5-7 Years)

  • Is slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds (alphabetic principal).
  • Has difficulty separating words into sounds, and blending sounds to form words (phonemic awareness).
  • Has difficulty repeating multi-syllabic words (e.g. emeny for enemy, pasghetti for spaghetti).
  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation).
  • Has poor word-attack skills, especially for new words.
  • Confuses small or easy words: at/ to; said/ and; does/ goes.
  • May make constant reading and spelling errors including:
    • Letter reversals (e.g. d for b as in dog for bog)
    • Letter inversions (e.g. m for w)
    • Letter transpositions (e.g. felt and left)
    • Word reversals (e.g. tip for pit)
    • Word substitutions (e.g. house for home.
    • Reads slowly with little expression or fluency (oral reading is slow and laborious).
    • Has more difficulty with function words (e.g. is, to, of) than with content words (e.g. clouds, run, yellow).
    • May be slow to learn new skills, relying heavily on memorising without understanding.
    • Reading comprehension is below expectation due to poor accuracy, fluency and speed.
    • Reading comprehension is better than single word reading.
    • Listening comprehension is better than reading comprehension.
    • Has trouble learning facts.
    • Has difficulty planning or organising.
    • Uses awkward pencil grip.
    • Has slow and poor quality handwriting.
    • Has trouble learning to tell the time on an analogue clock or watch.
    • Has poor fine motor co-ordination


Indicators of possible dyslexia (ages 7-12 Years)

  • Has continued difficulty reading text aloud or silently.
  • Reading achievement is below expectation.
  • Still confuses letter sequences (e.g. soiled for solid; left for felt).
  • Is slow at discerning and learning prefixes, suffixes, root words and other morphemes as part of reading and spelling strategies.
  • Poor reading accuracy, fluency, or speed interferes with reading comprehension.
  • Spelling is inappropriate for age and general ability (e.g. spelling the same word differently on the same page, use of bizarre spelling patterns, frequent letter omissions, additions and transposition).
  • Poor spelling contributes to poor written expression (e.g. may avoid use of unfamiliar words).
  • Use avoidance tactics when asked to read orally or write.
  • Experiences language-related problems in Maths (e.g. when reading word problems and directions, confuses numbers and symbols).
  • Is unable to learn multiplication tables by rote.
  • Still confuses some directional words (e.g. left and right).
  • Has slow or poor recall of facts.
  • Lacks understanding of other people’s body language and facial expressions.
  • Has trouble with non-literal or figurative language (e.g. idioms, proverbs)
  • Forgets to bring in or hand in homework.
  • Has difficulty remembering what day or month it is.
  • Has difficulty remembering his/her own telephone number or birthday.
  • Has poor planning and organisational skills.
  • Has poor time management.
  • Lacks self-confidence and has a poor self-image.



Indicators of possible dyslexia (ages 12 Years+)

  • Is still reading slowly and without fluency, with many inaccuracies.
  • Misreads words (e.g. hysterical for historical) or information.
  • Has difficulty modifying reading rate.
  • Has an inadequate store of knowledge due to lack of reading experience.
  • Continues to experience serious spelling difficulties.
  • Has slow, dysfluent and/or illegible handwriting.
  • Has better oral skills than written skills.
  • Has difficulty planning, sequencing and organising written text.
  • Has difficulty with written syntax or punctuation.
  • Has difficulty skimming, scanning and/or proof reading written text.
  • Has trouble summarising or outlining.
  • Has problems in taking notes and copying from the board.
  • Procrastinates and/or avoids reading and writing tasks.
  • Does not complete assignments or class work or does not hand them in.
  • Is slow in answering questions, especially open-ended ones.
  • Has poor memorisation skills.
  • Still mispronounces or misuses some words.
  • Has problems recalling the names of some words or objects.
  • Has poor planning and organisation skills.
  • Has poor time management skills.
  • Has more difficulty in language-based subjects (e.g. English, Irish, History) than in non-language based subjects (e.g. Mathematics, Technical Graphics).
  • Lacks self-confidence and has poor self-image.

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