Dyslexia is commonly thought of as letter reversals (e.g., substituting b/d or p/q) and letter inversions (e.g., substituting b/p or d/q). However, that is not the case for all people. Individuals with dyslexia tend to have a much broader range of symptoms, many of which are not typically associated with the disorder. Symptoms of dyslexia may manifest more as a general language disorder, notably as difficulty with the acquisition and use of language, both spoken and written. Language-based learning difficulties can affect up to 20% of the population, with dyslexia being the most common type. The symptoms below are not an exhaustive list, rather they most commonly occur with dyslexia.
Symptoms of Dyslexia:
General Signs: Typical to most with dyslexia, individuals tend to have difficulty with the alphabetic principle, or the predictable association between sounds and letters (e.g., if you hear a “j” sound at the end of the word it is usually “-ge” or “-dge”, as words don’t usually end in “-j”). Individuals with dyslexia may also have trouble with memorization of letters and numbers, and will have trouble with reading and spelling. Learning foreign languages will likely be challenging, as well.
Preschool-Aged Signs: Most preschool-aged children exhibiting signs of dyslexia will have difficulty with phonemic awareness, or the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in words (e.g., “what is ‘bug’ without the /b/”). Other signs include:
- Trouble reading single words
- Trouble generating rhyming words or identifying which words don’t belong
- Reversing letters and words (e.g., tab/bat)
- Difficulty segmenting words (e.g., “clap the syllables in ‘ice cream’”)
Elementary-Aged Signs: Once children enter elementary school, the demands for reading and writing become greater. Children not previously identified as being at-risk may begin to exhibit signs as school work becomes more challenging. These children often have average or above average IQ, but demonstrate below grade-level reading and writing abilities. Other signs include:
- Trouble sequencing (e.g., steps, alphabet, naming months)
- Continued trouble with rhyming
- Difficulty with word finding (e.g., relying on “stuff,” “things” or other generic words)
- Difficulty with organization and studying
- Trouble with story telling
- Avoidance or dislike of reading
Should an individual demonstrate some of these signs, it is not necessarily indicative of dyslexia. Other reading or language disorders may play a factor. However, if these difficulties persist through childhood and beyond, children may have difficulty with success in school. Phonics-based programs, like Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, explicitly target the relationship between sounds and letters. These programs, rooted in the alphabetic principle, systematically introduce the rule of language to help children who are struggling.