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Potential Dyslexia Symptoms

Every person is different, so no one will have every symptom, however a person with dyslexia will have many.  Dyslexia symptoms can range from mild to severe and the effects on individuals can vary greatly.  

Professional screeners will look for many different factors when performing an analysis  of an individual.  Testers look for a “constellation” or cluster of symptoms in the following areas:  

Susan Barton Discusses Dyslexia and Its Symptoms

Reading Difficulties
Spelling Difficulties
  • Can read a word on one page, but won't recognize it on the next.

  • Knows phonics, but can't—or won't—sound out an unknown word.

  • Slow, labored, inaccurate reading of single words in isolation.(when there is no story line or pictures to provide clues)

  • Say a word that has the same first and last letters, and the same shape.  (such as house-horse or beach bench)​
  • Insert or leave out letters. (such as could–cold or star–stair)

  • Say a word that has the same letters, but different sequence. 

    (such as who–how, lots–lost, saw–was, or girl–grill)
  • When reading aloud, reads in a slow, choppy cadence, 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, (left-right) confusion is a classic warning sign

    • b–p, n–u, or m–w (up - down) confusion

  • Substitutes similar-looking words, even if it changes the meaning. 

    (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 (such as need for needed, talks for talking, or late for lately)

  • Spelling is far worse than reading.

  • Utilize inventive spelling.

  • Have extreme difficulty with vowel sounds, and often leave them out.

  • With enormous effort, may be able to “memorize” Monday's spelling list long enough to pass Friday's spelling test, but can't spell those very same words two hours later.

  • Continually misspells high frequency sight words 

  • Misspells even when copying something from the board or from a book.

  • Written work shows signs of spelling uncertainty—numerous erasures, cross outs, etc.

Hand Writing Difficulties (Dysgraphia)
  • Unusual pencil grip, often with the thumb on top of the fingers.

  • Young children will often put their head down on the desk to watch the tip of the pencil as they write.

  • The pencil is gripped so tightly that the hand cramps. Will frequently put the pencil down and shake out his/her hand.

  • Writing is a slow, labored, non-automatic chore.

  • Writes letters with unusual starting and ending points.

  • Has great difficulty getting letters to “sit” on the horizontal lines.

  • Copying off of the board is slow, painful, and tedious. 

  • Unusual spatial organization of the page. Words may be widely spaced or tightly pushed together. Margins are often ignored.

  • 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 have difficulty remembering how to form capital cursive letters.

Challenges with Written Work
  • Avoids writing whenever possible.

  • Writes everything as one very long sentence.

  • Does not understand that a sentence has to start with a capital letter and end with punctuation.

  • Is confused about what is a complete sentence versus a fragment.

  • Misspells many words—even though they often use only very simple one-syllable words that they are “sure” they know how to spell.

  • Takes an unusually long time to write, due to dysgraphia.

  • Has nearly illegible handwriting, due to dysgraphia.

  • Uses 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.

  • Does not notice their errors when “proofreading.” They will read back what they wanted to say, not what is actually on the page.

Directionality Issues
  • Left–Right confusion.

  • Often starts math problems on the wrong side, or want to carry a number the wrong way.

  • Up–Down confusion.

  • Confusion about directionality words:

    • First–last, before–after, next–previous, over–under, yesterday–tomorrow (directionality in time)

  • North, South, East, West confusion.

  • Often have difficulty reading or understanding maps.

  • Telling time on a clock.

Issues with Sequencing Tasks
  • Learning tasks that has a series of steps which must be completed in a specific order can be difficult.

  • These tasks are usually challenging for people with dyslexia:

    • Tying shoelaces

    • Printing letters

    • Doing long division

    • Touch typing

  • Inability to memorize lists, especially those without obvious meaning

  • Challenges with Multiplication tables.

  • Difficulty with Days of the week or months of the year in order.

  • Difficulty with Science facts

  • Difficulty with History facts

Inability to Memorize Facts
Math Challenges
  • 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.

    • Memorizing addition and subtraction facts.

    • 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 is almost impossible.

    • Doing math rapidly.

    • They often excel at higher levels of math, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus

Organizational Difficulties
  • Extremely Messy Bedrooms

  • Difficulty managing school materials

  • Messy backpacks

  • Difficulty keeping track of homework

  • Difficulty managing calendars, notebooks and agendas. 

Reading / Spelling
written work
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