Signs of Dyslexia at Different Ages

By The Understood Team
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Many people know that dyslexia is a challenge with reading. But in fact, it’s more than that. Dyslexia is a challenge with language. That can make it hard to recognize all of the signs. For instance, why would trouble with rhyming be a sign of trouble with reading?

Dyslexia can also cause trouble with spelling, speaking, and writing. So signs can show up in a few areas, not just in reading. Not all kids with dyslexia struggle with the same reading skills. Some have a hard time with early skills like sounding out words (decoding). Some can read words and sentences, but they have trouble understanding what they read.

If you think your child might have dyslexia, look over this list of symptoms. Take notes on what you’re seeing at home so you can discuss it with your child’s teacher or doctor. From there you can talk about how to help your child improve reading.

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschool

  • Mispronounces words, like saying “beddy tear” instead of “teddy bear”

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

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

  • Has trouble remembering sequences, like singing the letters of the alphabet

  • Tells stories that are hard to follow; has trouble talking about an event in a logical order

  • Has difficulty remembering and following directions with multiple steps

Signs of Dyslexia in Grades K–2

  • Has trouble learning letter names and remembering the sounds they make

  • Often confuses letters that look similar (b, d, p, q) and letters with similar sounds (d/t; b/p; f/v)

  • Struggles to read familiar words (like cat or the), especially if there aren’t pictures

  • Substitutes words when reading aloud, like saying house when the story says home

  • Has trouble hearing the individual sounds in words and blending sounds to make a word

  • Has trouble remembering how words are spelled and applying spelling rules in writing

Signs of Dyslexia in Grades 3–5

  • Confuses or skips small words like for and of when reading aloud

  • Has trouble sounding out new words and quickly recognizing common ones

  • Struggles to explain what happened in a story or answer questions about key details

  • Frequently makes the same kinds of mistakes, like reversing letters

  • Has poor spelling; may spell the same word correctly and incorrectly in the same exercise

  • Avoids reading whenever possible or gets frustrated or upset when reading

Signs of Dyslexia in Teens and Tweens

  • Reads slowly, leaving out small words and parts of longer words when reading aloud

  • Struggles to remember common abbreviations, including ones on social media

  • Often seems to be searching for words; may use substitutes like gate instead of fence

  • Often doesn’t “get” the joke; has trouble understanding idioms and puns

  • Has an easier time answering questions about a page of text if it’s read aloud

  • Takes a very long time to complete reading assignments

Having these challenges can be tough on kids. Some think they’re not smart because they’re struggling when most kids aren’t. But trouble with reading doesn’t mean kids aren’t smart. That’s just one of the many myths about dyslexia.

Kids who struggle often feel like they’re the only ones. Let your child know that dyslexia is a very common learning difference, and that many kids need extra help learning to read. The good news is that there are successful ways to teach struggling readers, and skills can improve.

If you think your child has dyslexia, here are next steps to take.

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

Margie B. Gillis, EdD 

is the founder and president of Literacy How, which provides professional development for teachers on research-based reading practices in the classroom.

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