Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia

The following are symptoms of dyslexia. A person does not have to have all symptoms to be dyslexic and likewise a person having one or two of these symptoms isn’t necessarily dyslexic.

I have ordered the symptoms into ages to help you relate to difficulties you may have experienced when you were younger. However symptoms encountered by 7 year olds may also be symptoms encountered by adults with dyslexia.



  • Delayed speech – not saying any words by the time they are one and not really talking until they are two and a half or older.
  • Problems with pronunciation and mixing up sounds in multi- syllabic words such as aminal for animal, mazageen for magazine.
  • Problems with rhyming words (this is one of the biggest indicators) and learning rhymes.
  • Difficulty with learning shapes, colours and how to write their own name.
  • Difficulty with retelling a story in the right order of events.
  • Lots of ear or throat infections
  • Forgets names of common words or people
  • Finds it difficult to throw, catch or kick a ball.

Primary School

  • Reads below their expected level.
  • Doesn’t like reading books.
  • Tries to avoid reading aloud in class.
  • When reading aloud reads very slowly and often ignores punctuation.
  • Often has difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words.
  • Can read a word on one page but doesn’t recognise it on the next.
  • When they misread a word it will often be one that looks visually similar, with the same letters such as ‘form’ and ‘from’ or change the sequence of letters in a word such as ‘who’ for ‘how’.
  • Problems with reading a single word in isolation, where there are no picture clues or storyline to assist.
  • When reading will often lose their place on a line or skip lines.
  • When reading a sentence or a story will often substitute word that make sense but doesn’t look at all similar, for example ‘car’ for ‘bus’ or ‘ship’ for ‘boat’
  • Often misreads or omits small words, for example: and, the, as, of, from.
  • Spelling ability is normally far worse than their reading ability.
  • Spelling attempts can be bizarre.
  • Regularly confuses certain letters when writing, such as‘d’ and ‘b’ or ‘u’ and ‘n’ which is a classic symptom and relates to the whole problem that many dyslexics have with left and right.
  • When writing ‘b’ or ‘d’ they will often use an upper case ‘B’ or ‘D’.
  • Regularly writes words backwards, such as writing ‘pot’ instead of ‘top.’ Or transpose, for example ‘left’ for ‘felt’.
  • Problems with grammar, such as learning prefixes or suffixes.
  • Can learn words for spelling tests at school and achieve 10 out of 10. But a day later they misspell the same words in their free writing.
  • Find copying from the board very difficult and will frequently lose their place and misspell words.
  • Work is often very messy with many crossings out.
  • Has poor pencil grip with a tendency to grab the pencil.
  • Writes slowly and handwriting poor.
  • Forms letters from the wrong place and often has trouble making the letters sit on the line.
  • There is usually a vast difference between a child’s verbal ability and the quality of their written work.
  • Most of the writing lacks even the basic forms of punctuation.
  • They normally can’t self-correct their work when proof-reading.
  • Has trouble learning colours, days of the week, months of the year and how to write his/her name, their birth date.
  • Has problems with sequences like multiplication tables, today/tomorrow.
  • Have trouble retaining facts .
  • Has extreme difficulty in telling the time. They may manage o’clock and half past but anything else becomes too difficult for them.
  • They will write some numbers backwards, for example 41 for 14.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Unable to follow multi-step directions or routines. For example if you ask them to go upstairs, get undressed, have a wash and bring down a book, they will probably forget one of your directions (and not necessarily to wash!).
  • Most dyslexics have significant problems in directionality, telling left from right.

High School/Adult

The dyslexic teenager or adult will have many of the symptoms described above. In addition:

  • Oral ability is very obviously better than written ability
  • Slow and stilted at reading
  • Doesn’t like reading books, particularly fiction
  • Poor speller and often uses a number of different spellings for the same word in one piece of writing.
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Problems memorising facts and therefore would find it difficult to memorise history facts concerning dates, names and places and science facts concerning figures such as the speed of light being 186,000 miles per second
  • Can find touch typing difficult
  • Has difficulty remembering homework tasks
  • Dyslexic people experience extreme difficulty organising themselves and their belongings therefore they will often have messy school bags, bedrooms, desks, offices, garages
  • May have difficulty with planning, organising and managing time, materials or tasks.
  • Is forgetful or disorganised
  • Difficulty with time – forgets appointments, late for meetings, wrong venue
  • Cannot remember a full list of instructions
  • Forgets telephone numbers or dials incorrectly
  • Often find it difficult to find the right word when talking
  • Often misreads information
  • Finds it hard to complete assignments on time
  • Often loses information such as addresses, phone numbers, times of meetings
  • Although they find some areas of maths difficult, like multiplication tables, long division, time they often excel at higher maths levels like geometry and algebra.
  • Loses their place easily when reading
  • Inaccurate self image – “I must be thick/lazy/careless” etc.

Strengths of people who are dyslexic

Dyslexic people have a unique brain function which makes reading, spelling and writing difficult. However they often have strengths or are gifted in other areas controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain. These talents show particularly in creative areas and design. Therefore artistic skills, athletic, musical, cooking and mechanical ability, imagination and creative thinking are often areas in which dyslexics excel.

Links with other Conditions- Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, (ADD or ADHD).

ADD is a totally separate and different condition to dyslexia. However research has shown that approximately 40% of people who are dyslexic also have ADD (or ADHD)

Light Sensitivity

A small amount of people who are dyslexic also have a sensitivity to light, this is sometimes called scotopic sensitivity. This condition makes it very difficult for them to read black print on white paper as the print seems to move about. This can be remedied by using different coloured paper as a background or using coloured plastic overlays, which makes the print stay still.

When to seek Help

If 6 or more of these warning signs exist, especially if there is a history of dyslexia or ADD/ADHD in the family, you or your child should be assessed for dyslexia.
NB A child with no learning difficulties can often exhibit a number of these symptoms up to the age of 6 years.


  1. Avatar Clara Cook   •  

    Regarding Signs & Symptoms of Dyslexia – Primary School, the dot point noting that a student with dyslexia may write some numbers backwards. I have noticed that my son will do this but mostly with ‘teen’ numbers. I thought it could be because he hears the end part of the number first eg four-teen, seven-teen etc so he starts to write the 4 or 7 then realises that the number is a teen and needs prompting to remember the 1 goes before the 4 or 7. I guess I need to prompt with “it’s a teen so we need to start with the 1 then add the second number” – just a thought 🙂

    • Avatar Rebecca Armistead   •  

      I’ve found that to be a very common misconception in young children. If it only relates to the teen numbers, sometimes linking it to ‘friendly 10’ might help. All of the ‘teen’ numbers are friends of ten because they are 10+__=teen. To be a good friend they show that they are 10+___ by using the 1 from 10. I’ve had success with some children explaining it this way. 🙂

  2. Avatar Cherry   •  

    At last, somneoe comes up with the “right” answer!

  3. Avatar KIRSTYmarie78   •  

    my daughter is 13 and has most of the symptoms listed above its actually an amazing read, she also has a slight pernament hearing loss in right ear she used to wear hearing aid at school to help with background noise ect,she is quite a good reader as mentioned by her teachers,and she enjoys reading,but spelling is terrible ,like in the problems listed above she has suffered up untill this year with infection in her ears and throat,she was tested for glandular fever ,had throat swabbed with results coming back all clear , but you could pyshically see on her neck her glands poking out ,the smell on her breath you get wen you get tonsilitis, this caused her to have have quite a bit of time off school her attendance dropped .she doesnt write very well or wright alot in her books,she was told out rightly at school SHE HASNT GOT DYSLEXIA BECAUSE SHE CAN READ WELL!!!!!

  4. Avatar Liz   •  

    Hi Kirsty, a child can still have dyslexia and be a competent reader. This is because they read the word as a collection of symbols and memorise the group of symbols as opposed to breaking the word down into the sounds and the syllables. This is a compensatory technique lots of older children and adults have used to get by. The fact that her hearing has been compromised over the years may well have impacted on her phonic skills and you can check this by getting her to try reading nonsense words. Google Nonsense Word List to find one. Generally they cannot sound out words they have never seen before. Her glands being up definitely indicates an infection of some type going on and the bad breath indicates her health is compromised in some way. Time to see a new doctor I suggest, if you haven’t already. Maybe you should try her on my program to get her spelling and phonics up to speed. I have quite a few children with hearing impairments using it. You can watch a web class about it here Kind regards Liz Dunoon and let us know if you have any more questions at Kind regards Liz D

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