Dyslexia warning signs
DISCLAIMER: No two people with dyslexia are exactly alike because dyslexia ranges from mild to moderate to severe to profound. Some people with dyslexia also have AD/HD.
Therefore, someone with dyslexia may not have every single symptom listed below. But they will have many of them. Professional testers look for a "constellation" or cluster of symptoms in the following areas.
If someone struggles with spelling, is a slow reader who has a difficult time sounding out unknown words, and has difficulty getting their great thoughts down on paper in acceptable form, AND that person has 3 or more of these classic warning signs, it is worth getting that person tested for dyslexia.
These problems are unexpected when compared to the person's proven abilities in other areas.
Pre-school and kindergarten warning signs:
If three or more of these warning signs exist, especially if there is dyslexia or AD/HD in the family tree, the child should be tested for dyslexia when the child completes kindergarten. Also, phonemic awareness games and other reading readiness activities should be done daily during the preschool years.
- Delayed speech
- Mixing up sounds in multi-syllabic words (ex: aminal for animal, bisghetti for spaghetti, hekalopter for helicopter, hangaberg for hamburger, mazageen for magazine, etc.)
- Early stuttering or cluttering (leaving off the ends of words)
- Lots of ear infections
- Can't master tying shoes
- Confusion over left versus right, over versus under, before versus after, and other directionality words and concepts
- Late to establish a dominant hand?
- Inability to correctly complete phonemic awareness task
- Despite listening to stories that contain lots of rhyming words, such as Dr. Seuss, cannot tell you words that rhyme with cat or seat by the age of four-and-a-half
- Difficulty learning the names of the letters or sounds in the alphabet; difficulty writing the alphabet in order
- Trouble correctly articulating R's and L's as well as M's and N's. They often have "immature" speech. They may still be saying "wed and gween" instead of "red and green" in second or third grade.
Reading and Spelling
People with dyslexia do not make random reading errors. They make very specific types of errors. Their spelling reflects the same types of errors. Watch for these errors:
- Can read a word on one page, but won't recognize it on the next page.
- Slow, labored, inaccurate reading of single words in isolation (when there is no story line or pictures to provide clues)
- When they misread, they often say a word that has the same first and last letters, and the same shape, such as form-from or trial-trail.
- They may insert or leave out letters, such as could-cold or star-stair.
- They may say a word that has the same letters, but in a different sequence, such as who-how, lots-lost, saw-was, or girl-grill.
- When reading aloud, reads in a slow, choppy cadence (not in smooth phrases), and often ignores punctuation
- Becomes visibly tired after reading for only a short time
- Reading comprehension may be low due to spending so much energy trying to figure out the words. Listening comprehension is usually significantly higher than reading comprehension.
- Directionality confusion shows up when reading and when writing
- b-d confusion is a classic warning sign. One points to the left, the other points to the right, and they are left-right confused.
- b-p, n-u, or m-w confusion. One points up, the other points down. That's also directionality confusion.
- Substitutes similar-looking words, even if it changes the meaning of the sentence, such as sunrise for surprise, house for horse, while for white, wanting for walking
- When reading a story or a sentence, substitutes a word that means the same thing but doesn't look at all similar, such as trip for journey, fast for speed, or cry for weep
- Misreads, omits, or even adds small function words, such as an, a, from, the, to, were, are, of
- Omits or changes suffixes, saying need for needed, talks for talking, or late for lately.
- Their spelling is typically worsethan their reading. They have extreme difficulty with vowel sounds, and often leave them out.
- With enormous effort, they may be able to "memorize" Monday's spelling list long enough to pass Friday's spelling test, but they can't spell those very same words two hours later when writing those words in sentences.
- Continually misspells high frequency sight words (nonphonetic but very common words) such as they, what, where, does and because despite extensive practice.
- Misspells even when copying something from the board or from a book.
- Written work shows signs of spelling uncertainty--numerous erasures, cross outs, etc.
- Unusual pencil grip, often with the thumb on top of the fingers (a "fist grip")
- The pencil is gripped so tightly that the child's hand cramps. The child will frequently put the pencil down and shake out his/her hand.
- Writing is a slow, labored, non-automatic chore.
- Child writes letters with unusual starting and ending points.
- Child has great difficulty getting letters to "sit" on the horizontal lines.
- Copying off of the board is slow, painful, and tedious. Child frequently loses his/her place when copying, misspells when copying, and doesn't always match capitalization or punctuation when copying even though the child can read what was on the board.
- Unusual spatial organization of the page. Words may be widely spaced or tightly pushed together. Margins are often ignored.
- Child has an unusually difficult time learning cursive writing, and shows chronic confusion about similarly-formed cursive letters such as f and b, m and n, w and u. They will also difficulty remembering how to form capital cursive letters.
- Avoid writing whenever possible
- Write everything as one very long sentence
- Do not understand that a sentence has to start with a capital letter and end with punctuation
- Confused about what is a complete sentence versus a fragment
- Misspell many words even though they often use only very simple one-syllable words that they are "sure" they know how to spell
- Do not notice errors when "proofreading”. Will read back what they wanted to say, not what is actually on the page.
- Even adults have to use whatever tricks their mother or teacher taught them to tell left from right. It never becomes rapid and automatic.
- A common saying in household with dyslexic people are, "It's on the left. The other left."
- That's why they are b-d confused. One points to the left and one point to the right.
- They will often start math problems on the wrong side, or want to carry a number the wrong way.
- Some children with dyslexia are also up-down confused. They confuse b-p or d-q, n-u, and m-w.
- Confusion about directionality words:
- First-last, before-after, next-previous, over-under
- Yesterday-tomorrow (directionality in time)
Math and Other Memorization Tasks
- Long division: to successfully complete a long division problem, you must do a series of five steps, in exactly the right sequence, over and over again. They will often know how to do every step in the sequence, but if they get the steps out of sequence, they'll end up with the wrong answer.
- Touch typing: learning to touch type is an essential skill for people with dysgraphia. But it is usually more difficult (and requires much more effort) for a dyslexic child to learn to type.
- Days of the week or months of the year in order
- Science facts: water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, etc.
- History facts: dates, names, and places. Dyslexic students do well in history classes that emphasize why some event happened, and the consequences of that event, rather than rote memorization of dates and names.
- Telling time on a clock with hands
- People with dyslexia have extreme difficulty telling time on a clock with hands:
- They may be able to tell whole hours and half hours (5:00, 5:30, etc.) but not smaller chunks, such as 5:12.
- Concepts such as before and after on a clock are confusing.
- Memorizing multiplication tables
- Remembering the sequence of steps in long division
- Reading word problems
- Copying an answer from one spot to a different spot
- Starting a math problem on the wrong side
- Showing their work
- They often "see" math in their head, so showing their work in almost impossible.
- Doing math rapidly
- They often excel at higher levels of math, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus if they have a teacher who works around the math problems caused by their dyslexia.
Also known as a visual-motor integration problem, people with dyslexia often have poor, nearly illegible handwriting.
Signs of dysgraphia include:
- Take an unusually long time to write
- Have nearly illegible handwriting
- Use space poorly on the page; odd spacing between words, may ignore margins, sentences tightly packed into one section of the page instead of being evenly spread out
- Printing letters: the reason they form letters with such unusual beginning and ending points is that they can't remember the sequence of pencil strokes necessary to form that letter. So they start somewhere and then keep going until the letter looks approximately right.
Quality of Written Work
People with dyslexia usually have an "impoverished written product”. That means there is a huge difference between their ability to tell you something and their ability to write it down.
Most dyslexic children and adults have significant directionality confusion.
North, South, East, West confusion:
- Often have difficulty reading or understanding maps.
- Adults with dyslexia get lost a lot when driving around, even in cities where they've lived for many years
Sequencing steps in a task
Learning any task that has a series of steps, which must be completed in a specific order, can be difficult. That's because you must memorize the sequence of steps, and often, there is no logic in the sequence. These tasks are usually challenging for people with dyslexia:
Rote memory of non-meaningful facts
Memorizing non-meaningful facts (facts that are not personally interesting and personally relevant) is extremely difficult for most dyslexic children and adults. In school, this leads to difficulty learning:
Extremely messy bedrooms
People with dyslexia have an extremely difficult time organizing their belongings. They tend to pile things rather than to organize them and put them away. So they have extremely messy bedrooms, lockers, desks, backpacks, purses, offices, and garages.
Math Difficulties (Dyscalculia)
People with dyslexia are often gifted in math. Their three-dimensional visualization skills help them "see" math concepts more quickly and clearly than non-dyslexic people. Unfortunately, difficulties in directionality, rote memorization, reading and sequencing can make the following math tasks so difficult that their math gifts are never discovered.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Hyperactive or Inattentive)
Attention Deficit Disorder is a completely separate condition than dyslexia. However, research has shown that at least 40% of people with dyslexia also have AD/HD. For additional assistance with ADHD, visit Islands Counseling for a program specifically designed for these issues.
Light Sensitivity (Scotopic Sensitivity)
A small percentage (3% to 8%) of people with dyslexia also have light sensitivity (sometimes called scotopic sensitivity). These people have a hard time seeing small black print on white paper. The print seems to shimmer or move; some see the rivers of white more strongly than the black words. These people tend to dislike florescent lighting, and often "shade" the page with their hand or head when they read. Go to: http://www.irleninstitute.com to see if the different colors make a difference and to see how a child with dyslexia frequently views the words on a page.
Colored plastic overlays and/or colored lenses can eliminate the harsh black print against white paper contrast, and may make letters stand still for the first time in someone's life. However, the plastic overlays or colored lenses will not "cure" dyslexia, nor will they teach a dyslexic person how to read.
If your child struggles with ADHD, we have help for you. Beginning in March, 2017, we will offer an 8 week course available for PARENTS OR STUDENTS OVER 10. This will eliminate many of the struggles which accompany ADHD - HYPERACTIVE or INATTENTIVE TYPE.