Understanding Dyslexia in Your Child

By The Understood Team
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Kids with dyslexia need different types of help at different times. You may not yet know if your child has dyslexia. But the more you understand about this common learning difference, the better you can support your child. With the right support, kids who struggle with reading can improve skills and feel more confident.

This overview can answer many of your basic questions about dyslexia. It can also lead you to more in-depth information.

If you’re concerned your child has dyslexia, here are steps you can take. And if your child was just diagnosed with dyslexia, learn what you can do next.

Signs of Dyslexia

Signs of dyslexia can look different at different ages. Here are some examples of what you might see:

Preschool

  • Has a hard time learning nursery rhymes or song lyrics that rhyme

  • Struggles to name familiar objects and uses general words like thing and stuff instead

  • Has trouble remembering things in the right order, like singing the letters of the alphabet

Grade School

  • Has trouble sounding out words

  • Often confuses letters that look similar (bdpq) and letters with similar sounds (d/tb/pf/v)

  • Has trouble with spelling

  • Often doesn’t recognize common words

Middle School

  • Reads very slowly

  • Spells the same word correctly and incorrectly in the same assignment

  • Struggles with writing assignments

High School

  • Often skips over small words when reading aloud

  • Seems to be searching for words when speaking, and might substitute words (like saying “gate” instead of “fence”)

  • Often doesn’t “get” the joke

Dive Deeper

Finding Out If Your Child Has Dyslexia

The only way to know for sure if your child has dyslexia is through an evaluation. You can get one for free at school, and the results will show where your child is struggling. That lets you get your child the right support at school. For example, your child might get specialized teaching designed for kids who struggle with reading.

An evaluator will give your child a series of tests for dyslexia. A school evaluation tests other areas, too. This lets you see the full picture of your child’s strengths and challenges. And that helps you and the school use your child’s strengths to make progress.

Evaluations can be done either at school or privately. You might hear different terms depending on who does it.

For example, schools don’t “diagnose” conditions. They “identify” learning disabilities. So, you might hear that your child has a learning disability in reading. But you might also hear the term dyslexia.

Before deciding on an evaluation, though, rule out any medical problems that might be a factor. Your child’s health-care provider can check for vision or hearing problems. (Dyslexia is not a problem with vision.)

A psychologist will look for other things that might be getting in the way of your child’s learning. These may include ADHD or mental health issues. (Read about the connection between dyslexia and anxiety.)

The evaluator may ask you for a family history and have you fill out questionnaires about your child’s strengths and challenges. And your child’s teachers might give information on what they’re seeing in the classroom.

Learn more about the evaluation process.

Dive Deeper

How Professionals Can Help With Dyslexia

There are many types of professionals who can help kids with dyslexia. They include reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, and special education teachers.

There are no medications or medical treatments for dyslexia. But there are specific teaching methods to help kids with dyslexia.

You may have heard about multisensory instruction. This means kids use more than one sense at a time to learn something. (You may have also heard about an approach called Orton–Gillingham, or OG.)

Ask if your child’s school uses multisensory instruction. It can help kids build a number of skills, from sounding out words to reading fluently.

Dive Deeper

How You Can Help Your Child With Dyslexia

From working with the school to working on reading skills, you can help get your child the tools and motivation to thrive at school and in life.

Check out ways to help with reading at home. Here are just some of the things you can do:

It’s key for your child to know that reading skills can improve. Find ways to help your child have a growth mindset when it comes to reading. And learn how to give praise that builds your child’s self-esteem.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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