The Symptoms of Dyslexia Explained

Symptoms of Dyslexia

Wherever you look, you will find a slightly different definition of dyslexia and a different set of related symptoms. It can be very confusing!

I will explain why these patterns are connected to dyslexia in a moment. But first, here is a list that covers most of the “symptoms” you will see linked to dyslexia.

Reading Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Transposes, omits, adds, and substitutes letters, words, and numbers
  • Has good comprehension when read to, but reads with poor comprehension
  • Unable to sound out unfamiliar words by blending sounds together
  • Has normal eye exams but seems to have vision problems while reading
  • Makes reading errors that are not even close to being the correct word
  • Inability to understand the connection between letters and the sounds they represent
  • Has trouble reading simple, common words
  • Very stressed by reading, especially reading out loud
  • Easily confused by word, letter, or number sequences
  • Doesn’t recognize a word that s/he just read
  • Skips a line or re-reads the same line
  • Loses place while reading
  • Different reading methods produce no results

Writing Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Has poor spelling in general
  • Confused with letters that look alike such as band d
  • Use of capital letters instead of lower case
  • Spells a word more than one way in a single piece of writing
  • Uses no punctuation, or punctuates haphazardly
  • Writing is extremely messy or illegible, with poorly formed letters and reversed letters
  • Poorly spaced words
  • Inconsistently spaced words
  • Misaligned lines of writing
  • Doesn’t slow a dominant hand preference until in primary school
  • Holds writing tool in an odd manner
  • Has trouble copying information
  • Cannot outline and write a story

Auditory Processing and Language Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Has trouble following verbal commands
  • Has trouble understanding verbal explanations
  • Has better than average hearing
  • Is easily distracted by noise
  • Has difficulty identifying the number of syllables in a word
  • Has difficulty identifying the first, middle and last sounds of a word
  • Has difficulty understanding non-literal meanings such as figures of speech
  • Has a good vocabulary
  • Likes to talk
  • Has trouble saying rhymes and reciting sequence items such as the days of the week

Motor Skills Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Had difficulty learning to tie shoelaces, fasten buttons, pull zippers etc.
  • Wears/wore shoes on the wrong feet without discomfort
  • Clumsy and prone to accidents
  • Had trouble learning to hop and skip, throw or catch a ball.
  • Confusion with spatial orientation such as right and left, above and below, over and under, etc.

Behavioural Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Independent
  • Impatient
  • Easily frustrated
  • Daydreams
  • Distractible, but able to hyper focus on something of interest
  • Bored by routines and mundane activity
  • Loses track of time
  • Easily disoriented, confused and frustrated due to sensory overload
  • Becomes confused by time and tense such as yesterday and tomorrow
  • Hyperaware of surroundings
  • Curious
  • Persistent
  • Takes risks
  • Socially immature
  • No delay of gratification
  • Has poor working memory, but good long-term memory
  • Appears to be unmotivated
  • Has been labeled as having behavioral problems
  • Becomes emotional or stressed about school
  • Has psychosomatic issues often due to school
  • Often fatigued due to the modifications and work-arounds s/he employs throughout the day to deal with limitations

General Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Sensitive
  • Creative
  • Artistic
  • Imaginative
  • Intuitive
  • Musical
  • Perceptive
  • Observant
  • Ambitious
  • Unique
  • Sees the big picture
  • Has a complex nature
  • Able to multi-task
  • Can be disorganized
  • Needs constant stimulation
  • Demonstrates a high verbal IQ
  • Thinks in images rather than in words
  • Learns best through practical experience or teaching with strong visual emphasis
  • Able to processes multiple thoughts simultaneously
  • Performs at lower than grade level, but does not perform low enough to fail, therefore does not qualify for special services at school
  • Makes “silly” mistakes in schoolwork
  • Has difficulty learning to tell time
  • Can be prone to depression
  • Has social anxiety
  • Can have low self esteem

The Real Causes and Symptoms of Dyslexia

So, what is this mysterious dyslexia phenomenon? What do all these symptoms really relate to? And how can so many, often conflicting, symptoms all relate to a single thing?

Well, in our experience, there are eight very clear reasons for each child not learning to read:

Optilexia – the term we have coined for “whole word sight-reading” and guessing

Eye-Tracking Weakness – difficulty focusing on a word in a sentence

Irlen Syndrome/Contrast Sensitivity – sensitivity to black on white contrast

Stress Spirals – getting frustrated and then cross due to rising stress levels

Short-Term Memory Weakness – struggling to blend due to insufficient memory capacity

Auditory Processing Weakness – struggling to decode and blend due to a weakness in the way the brain interprets sound

Attention Deficit – struggling to focus on the task

Fluency Block – decoding by numbers rather than reading fluently

Once you deal with all of those, most children can read at a good or average level for their age. Their spelling also becomes normalized.

Most of the “symptoms” above can be related to one or more of these eight causes of reading difficulty. So most of them are not symptoms at all, any more than being tall is a symtom of having bruises on your forehead. They are related patterns.

For instance, 80% of struggling readers are sight-readers. Around half of those are bright, visual learners. So it is natural to see a lot graphic and artistic ability. The other half find auditory processing hard and so it is natural to see speech and language weakness. These things are obviously co-related.

When the child gets the right help and learns to read, some of these symptoms will naturally evaporate, others will remain.

Is the child then still dyslexic? That will depend on whether you feel dyslexia is fundamentally about learning to read or is a broader issue covering linguistics and the ability to manipulate words and sentences.