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What signs should you look for if you think your child might be dyslexic?

By Liza Ellis

Dyslexia is a neurological disorder that primarily affects reading and writing skills. It is the most common learning disability, and is characterised by difficulty with phonemic awareness, phonology, and word decoding.

People with dyslexia often have difficulty identifying individual sounds in words, and they may have trouble learning how to read and spell. It can often run in families, so it’s important to be on the lookout for the signs of dyslexia in your child if it already exists in your close relations. With early intervention and proper accommodations, people with dyslexia can learn to read and write, but getting the right support makes a big difference.

Below, we list some of the things you should look out for. If you think your child may have dyslexia, seek professional support so that they can help guide you.

Early years

Dyslexia can be hard to pick up in very young children, as many children learn to read and write at different paces. Additionally, the style of nursery or preschool you choose may mean that your child isn’t reading or writing in an individual setting that often, making it difficult for caregivers to pick up any issues.

Looking out for more visual signs can help diagnose children at this age. Things like difficulty learning nursery rhymes or the alphabet, finding it hard to follow instructions, poor auditory discrimination and a general lack of interest in words are all things to be aware of.

Tired school girl sitting at table holding paper
Tired school girl sitting at table holding paper

Primary school

Primary school can often be a good time to spot dyslexia, as children tend to have the same teacher for all subjects – dyslexia doesn’t just affect reading and writing, but numeracy too. It’s also a time where parents often help out with homework, meaning that they also have a better awareness of their child’s abilities.

Parents and teachers should be on the lookout for children who show a good verbal ability to learn and explain themselves, but then struggle to put that into writing. You may also see issues with handwriting and spelling across the board – children with dyslexia may take several tries to get writing right, and as a result they will have a lot of crossed out words in their work. They will often also use several different spellings for the same word within a piece of work, or jumble up the letters in words.


Teens with dyslexia may demonstrate a raised level of ability in another area of skill – so whilst they might struggle with reading, they might be very sporty or thrive in art class. This can be a key sign to spot that a slightly older child is struggling, especially as they become more independent and may not be as willing to talk about what they’re finding hard at school. Additionally, the same signs that we mentioned for children in primary school still apply, if you do see any of their school work.

Going through exams is part of life for teenagers, but dyslexia can make things harder for them, leading to anger and frustration. If your child does get diagnosed with dyslexia, make sure to speak to the school ahead of the exam season to ensure that they get the extra help when it comes to practical aspects like extra time, but also read up on how you can help them keep on top of their studies at home.   

How to help

If you think your child might be dyslexic, look out for the signs that we’ve discussed. If you notice any of these, it is important to talk to their teacher or doctor. They can administer a series of tests to determine if your child is indeed dyslexic – early diagnosis will help your child get the support they need to succeed.

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