According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15 percent of Americans have major troubles with reading. A large portion of this population copes with a learning disability known as dyslexia.

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia can take many forms; however, the primary characteristic in those coping with the disorder is a difficulty reading. Other symptoms may include trouble writing, spelling, and in severe cases, speaking.

Depending on the severity of the individual case, dyslexia can manifest itself in a variety of ways. The following warning signs were provided by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD):

Warning Signs for Young Children

Trouble with:

  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, and blending sounds into speech
  • Pronouncing words, for example saying "mawn lower" instead of "lawn mower"
  • Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words
  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week or similar common word sequences
  • Rhyming

Warning Signs for School-Aged Children

Trouble with:

  • Mastering the rules of spelling
  • Remembering facts and numbers
  • Handwriting or with gripping a pencil
  • Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relying heavily on memorization
  • Reading and spelling, such as reversing letters (d,b) or moving letters around (left, felt)
  • Following a sequence of directions
  • Trouble with word problems in math

Warning Signs in Teenagers

Trouble with:

  • Reading at the expected level
  • Understanding non-literal language, such as idioms, jokes, or proverbs
  • Reading aloud
  • Organizing and managing time
  • Trouble summarizing a story
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Memorizing

Diagnosing Dyslexia

While there is no one test to diagnose dyslexia, your child's doctor may order any of the following:

Hearing and Vision Tests. Typically hearing and vision tests are performed before other tests in order to diagnose or rule out other conditions that may affect reading.

Psychological Tests. Anxiety, depression, or other emotional issues could affect your child's academic performance. Some doctors may choose to perform psychological testing in order to determine emotional variables.

Language Tests. According to Boston's Children's Hospital, doctors will perform a variety of language tests to diagnose dyslexia. These may include "word recognition, decoding and encoding skills, phonological processing, and reading comprehension."

Treatment Options for Dyslexia

Because dyslexia affects different people in different ways, treatment options are often unique to the individual patient. Still, early detection is key. If dyslexia goes undiagnosed, your child will not receive the resources he needs, and this may result in prolonged difficulty with reading and writing.

Once diagnosed, a reading specialist is typically assigned to your child. According to the Mayo Clinic, this specialist will help your child learn to recognize the smallest sounds that make up words; understand that letters and strings of letters represent these sounds; comprehend what he is reading; read aloud; and build a vocabulary.

Furthermore, the reading specialist may provide your child with practical skills and techniques to cope with everyday tasks like writing notes in class and reading labels on the lunch line in the cafeteria.

What You Can Do to Help

If you suspect your child may be showing signs of being dyslexic, the first step is to take him to the pediatrician for further testing. In addition, you may consider the following steps to help your child succeed in the classroom:

  • Read aloud regularly to your child
  • Practice with your child the reading and writing skills put in place by his teachers and/or reading specialist
  • Coordinate with your child's school; make them aware of his needs and advocate for classroom accommodations to help him become successful

Rafael Pajaro, MD, reviewed this article.




Boston Children's Hospital
Dyslexia - Tests and Diagnosis

Mayo Clinic

National Center for Learning Disabilities
What is Dyslexia