Dyslexia Symptoms; Does it Affect My Child?

This article discusses what Dyslexia is, Dyslexia symptoms and the ‘subtypes’ of Dyslexia. Readers will learn how to help individuals with Dyslexia and better understand the importance of early assessment, identification, and intervention to support successful outcomes.

Introduction – Dyslexia Symptoms; Does it affect my child?

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that makes it difficult for a person to read and spell, despite having opportunities to learn and practice these skills. Dyslexia is also sometimes referred to as a Specific Learning Disorder (or SLD). It’s important to note that Dyslexia does not indicate a problem with intelligence; people who are Dyslexic simply process language in a different way. Dyslexia tends to run in families; it’s believed that genes passed from one or both parents to a child can affect the parts of the brain that are involved in language and speech. Dyslexia symptoms are often identified within the first two years of school, usually coinciding with when children begin learning to read. Diagnosing Dyslexia typically involves various assessments and testing. There’s no cure for Dyslexia, however, there are specialised educational methods and approaches that can help a child succeed.

dyslexia symptoms
Dyslexia can be genetic and there is no cure, but identification, diagnosis and early intervention are key to supporting those who suffer

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that makes it challenging for people to process language. According to Dyslexia Australia, Dyslexia is defined as “the capacity to process information differently, enabling innovative thought and perception…. it is characterized by a visual experiential learning style”. The full definition can be viewed on their site here. Dyslexia is a significant difficulty in one area of learning. It’s sometimes referred to as a Specific Learning Disorder (or SLD). Individuals with Dyslexia have trouble decoding words and letters. It’s important to note that Dyslexia does not indicate an issue with intelligence. According to the Raising Children website, individuals with Dyslexia are just as smart as other people, their brains simply process language in a different way. 

Is Dyslexia a form of Autism?

Dyslexia is not a form of Autism. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty with comprehension, interpretation, pronunciations, and spelling of words. Autism (or Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a developmental disorder that affects the way a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment; according to Autism Spectrum Australia, Autism is a lifelong disability that begins when a person is born and stays with them into old age. Autism is often referred to as a spectrum because every Autistic person is different from every other.

dyslexia symptoms

Are there different kinds of Dyslexia?

In short-yes. Although no health organization or institution has created an official list of Dyslexia subtypes, many experts believe that Dyslexia is a spectrum of different cognitive issues. There are four identified, common Dyslexia subtypes, namely:

·         Phonological Dyslexia is difficulty with recognizing individual letter sounds in a word and blending those sounds into a word

·         Surface (or Visual) Dyslexia is the inability to read words that are spelled differently from how they’re pronounced

·         Rapid Automatic Naming Dyslexia is when a person has trouble quickly recognizing letters and numbers

·         Double Deficit Dyslexia is when an individual has both phonological and rapid automatic naming deficit dyslexia

Dyslexia can also be categorized into ‘types’ according to how or where it originated from.

Primary Dyslexia is when Dyslexia results from a genetically inherited condition (for example, if a parent has Dyslexia and their child is subsequently diagnosed with it too). Secondary Dyslexia occurs when issues with brain development happen in the womb, which can result in Dyslexia. Acquired or Traumatic Dyslexia is when a traumatic brain injury or disease affects the part of the brain that’s responsible for language processing. This is the only type of Dyslexia that has a known cause.

What is the most common form of Dyslexia?

In all subtypes of Dyslexia, there is an observed significant phonological deficit (Phonological Dyslexia), in which the individual has trouble recognizing letter sounds and blending those sounds. People with Phonological Dyslexia have trouble matching sounds and breaking down the sounds of language (sounding out words). Regardless of whether or not there are issues with comprehension or speed, Phonological Dyslexia is believed to be the most common type of Dyslexia.       

dyslexia symptoms
Dyslexia symptoms can include difficulty with reading, writing, comprehension and remembering instructions

What are Dyslexia symptoms?

There are a range of symptoms of Dyslexia which can vary from mild to severe. According to Health Direct, some symptoms of Dyslexia in children may be:

·         Below-grade level reading skills (despite doing well in other areas)

·         Difficulty with comprehension

·         Difficulty pronouncing words

·         Poor spelling

·         Difficulty writing in an organised way

·         Problems with grammar and punctuation

·         Difficulty remembering a series of instructions

·         Poor handwriting

·         Difficulty with math (Dyscalculia)

·         Difficulty using the muscles of the face to speak (known as Dyspraxia)

Dyslexia symptoms may not become apparent until a child has been in school for one to two years, typically coinciding with children learning to read. Parents or teachers may notice that a child struggles with reading, has trouble sounding out words and avoids reading aloud and that a child spells the same word differently in the same sentence/paragraph. More information on the signs and symptoms of Dyslexia can be found here.

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Can you be slightly Dyslexic?

Dyslexia can range in severity from mild to severe. Dyslexia is different for everyone who has it. Some individuals have a mild form of Dyslexia that they learn how to manage, while others may have more trouble overcoming the challenges of Dyslexia. As mentioned, the earlier Dyslexia is identified, and intervention begins, the more favourable the outcome. It’s never too late for a person with Dyslexia to get help, but there are higher chances of success with early treatment.

dyslexia symptoms
Reading daily with your child is beneficial for so many reasons, particularly for children who may have dyslexia

How do you test for Dyslexia?

There are a series of specialised tests that can be used to determine if someone has Dyslexia. The Dyslexia-SPELF Foundation details the process of testing for Dyslexia, an often complex and time-consuming process to identify and diagnose the learning disability. The assessment process involves consideration of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to learning, an examination of their educational background, and the level of difficulties the individual is experiencing. Educational psychologists use tests to determine whether or not an individual has Dyslexia. These specialised tests measure phonological processing, reading, spelling, memory, among other cognitive abilities. A number of factors are taken into consideration to diagnose Dyslexia, including:

·         A person’s medical (including family) history, overall development and any educational issues

·         Neurological tests, such as vision, hearing or brain tests to determine and/or rule out if another disorder could be causing issues

·         Home Life; a doctor may ask about the individual’s family, home life, and whether or not there are problems at home

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·         Psychological Testing to determine whether an underlying condition, like anxiety or social problems, could be impacting an individual

·         Academic Testing, such as reading skills, may be assessed by experts to determine the level and quality of the evaluated skills

Once a diagnosis is made, referrals to various supports will be made to help the individual.

Is there a link between Dyslexia and ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often occurs with other disorders, including behaviour problems, learning disorders (like Dyslexia), anxiety, and depression. The combination of ADHD and a learning disorder such as Dyslexia can make it difficult for a child to succeed in school; this underscores the significance of early assessment, identification/diagnosis, and intervention to help a child succeed.

Is Dyslexia a Disability?

Under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act, Dyslexia (and other learning disabilities) are recognised as disabilities. In essence, this means that a child with Dyslexia, or another type of learning disability, has the same rights to education as any other child; the school should make reasonable efforts and adjustments to support a child with Dyslexia in their learning (such as special education courses/lessons, one-on-one instruction or tutoring, etc.).

What causes Dyslexia?

Dyslexia often tends to run in families, although no particular gene has been identified as being responsible for the learning disability. It’s been shown that an individual is more likely to have Dyslexia if a close family member has it or has another learning difficulty. There are some known risk factors for Dyslexia, including a family history of learning disabilities, a premature birth or low birth weight, exposure to nicotine, drugs, alcohol or infection during pregnancy (that could alter brain development in the fetus), or individual differences in the brain that are responsible for reading and/or language processing.

Can Dyslexia be cured?

Dyslexia, or any learning disability for that matter, cannot be cured, as they are not a disease. Individuals with learning disabilities need support and resources to help them succeed in school and later, work. There isn’t a known way to correct the affected part(s) of the brain that result in Dyslexia. Similar to Autism or ASD, Dyslexia is a lifelong problem. However, the earlier a child or individual gets diagnosed and receives help (or early intervention), the greater their chances of success. It’s important to note that it is never too late to get help for an individual with Dyslexia.

What are the treatments for Dyslexia?

Treating Dyslexia involves the use of specialised educational techniques and approaches. The earlier these interventions begin, the better chances of success. Teachers may employ a variety of techniques that incorporate hearing, vision, and touch to help a child improve their reading skills. For example, a child may listen to a recorded book and follow along with the spoken words in a printed format. Tutoring can also be very helpful for children with Dyslexia. Many school boards are required to take steps to ensure children with learning disorders have help; this can be through specialised education courses or lessons, an IEP (or Individual Education Plan), or extra help (ideally) beginning in kindergarten or the first grade. Children with Dyslexia often require extra help or instructions that are tailored to them. Parents can help by addressing any concerns about their child early on (early intervention can dramatically improve success), reading to their child daily, working with their child’s school and education team, and encouraging their child to read each day. Parents can also take steps to ensure that their child feels supported, loved, and encouraged. Parents should limit screen time and provide a clean, organized, and quiet space for their child to read and study at home.

dyslexia symptoms
A child who is diagnosed with dyslexia will benefit from tutoring and will most likely get additional support within the school system

What is Number Dyslexia?

Number Dyslexia, or more formally, Dyscalculia, is a learning difference that causes trouble with making sense of numbers and maths concepts. The main difference between Dyslexia and Dyscalculia is that Dyslexia is a learning disability that mainly causes difficulty with reading, writing, and spelling, although it can also impact maths. Common signs of Dyscalculia include:

·         Trouble learning to count


·         Difficulty with basic maths/computation

·         Trouble recalling math facts

·         Difficulty understanding arithmetic concepts like “greater than” and “less than”

·         Struggles to make sense of graphs and charts

·         Uses fingers to count despite being taught other approaches

·         Trouble remembering phone numbers, game scores, etc. (trouble with working memory)

·         Struggles to apply math skills in everyday life (like making change)

What does Number Dyslexia look like?

Number Dyslexia or Dyscalculia may present in different ways. For example, with an individual with Number Dyslexia, they may not recognize that ‘taking away’ and ‘adding’ a certain number to/from another changes the value or overall size (whether a group of objects has gotten larger or smaller, depending on what math computation occurred). Number Dyslexia can also present itself when an individual has difficulty with multiplication and/or division; individuals that have Number Dyslexia may not recognize that in order to combine items (or values) from several groups, they don’t need to go through the trouble of adding them but can instead multiply them. Similarly, individuals with Number Dyslexia may not realize that division is a simple way to breakdown groups of numbers into subparts.

How do you treat Number Dyslexia?

Similar to Dyslexia, Number Dyslexia is treated through the use of specialised educational techniques and approaches. Teachers will often focus a specialised teaching approach to help children that struggle with Number Dyslexia; this can take the form of using manipulatives (such as blocks or buttons) to better understand the relationships between amounts, teaching lessons that involve matching number symbols to corresponding quantities/values, and prompting the child to practice guessing or estimating values. Parents can help by assisting their child in counting and grouping objects, talking about the relationship between quantities (Sally has more cookies than John), and incorporating opportunities to estimate and talk about time (help your child compare the time it takes to drive to the grocery store versus how long it takes to get to school; identify which trip takes longer). Some children may still struggle with number sense despite the use of these, and other, teaching approaches. In this case, arrangements should be made with the school to help provide the child with additional support, for example, working alongside a special education teacher. Children that have diagnosed Number Dyslexia may be permitted additional time for assignments and tests (this may vary depending on the school board, so it’s best to check with your doctor and school officials).    

dyslexia symptoms
Children with dyslexia can still succeed, as long as they get early intervention

How do I know if my child has Dyslexia?

The only way to know for sure if your child has Dyslexia is to speak with your doctor. If you have concerns about your child, you should always bring it up with your doctor or pediatrician; they will complete an examination/evaluation and testing and will refer you and your child to the appropriate support and resources, or for additional medical testing. You are your child’s best advocate; keep a list of your concerns, ask questions, and seek a second opinion if you feel like the doctor isn’t properly addressing your concerns. ‘Self-diagnosing’ (or a parent diagnosing their child) should be avoided. It’s best to speak with a doctor about any worries you have about your child, as that is the only way to accurately identify Dyslexia.

Dyslexia Symptoms – Summary

This article defined Dyslexia as a common learning disability that affects a person’s ability to read and spell. Individuals with Dyslexia have trouble reading and identifying speech sounds (decoding). There are four common ‘subtypes’ of Dyslexia, including phonological, surface (or visual), rapid automatic naming, double deficit, and number dyslexia. There isn’t one definitive test to diagnose Dyslexia; it’s often a time-consuming process that involves different evaluations and testing. Dyslexia doesn’t have a cure, but rather, targeted treatments, such as specialised educational approaches, are used to help an individual achieve success. Early assessment and identification of Dyslexia symptoms, followed by early intervention, leads to the most favourable outcome, but it’s never too late for a person with Dyslexia to get help.

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