Is My Child Dyslexic?

Individuals with dyslexia have trouble with reading, writing, spelling and/or math even though they have the ability and have had opportunities to learn. They often need specialized instruction to effectively progress. 

Common characteristics of dyslexia

Most of us have one or two of these characteristics. That does not mean that everyone has dyslexia. A person with dyslexia usually has several of these characteristics that persist over time and interfere with his or her learning.

Oral language

  • Late learning to talk
  • Difficulty pronouncing words
  • Difficulty acquiring vocabulary or using age appropriate grammar
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Confusion with before/after, right/left, and so on
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet, nursery rhymes, or songs
  • Difficulty understanding concepts and relationships
  • Difficulty with word retrieval or naming problems 


  • Difficulty learning to read
  • Difficulty identifying or generating rhyming words, or counting syllables in words (phonological awareness)
  • Difficulty with hearing and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
  • Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words (phonological processing)
  • Difficulty in learning the sounds of letters (phonics)
  • Difficulty remembering names and shapes of letters, or naming letters rapidly
  • Transposing the order of letters when reading or spelling
  • Misreading or omitting common short words
  • “Stumbles” through longer words
  • Poor reading comprehension during oral or silent reading, often because words are not accurately read
  • Slow, laborious oral reading 

Written language

  • Difficulty putting ideas on paper
  • Many spelling mistakes
  • May do well on weekly spelling tests, but may have many spelling mistakes in daily work
  • Difficulty proofreading 

Other Common Symptoms that Occur with Dyslexia

  • Difficulty naming colors, objects, and letters rapidly, in a sequence
  • Weak memory for lists, directions, or facts
  • Needs to see or hear concepts many times to learn them
  • Distracted by visual or auditory stimuli
  • Downward trend in achievement test scores or school performance
  • Inconsistent school work
  • Teacher says, “If only she would try harder,” or “He’s lazy.”
  • Relatives may have similar problems

Characteristics of Related Learning Disorders


Dysgraphia (Handwriting)

  • Unsure of handedness
  • Poor or slow handwriting
  • Messy and unorganized papers
  • Difficulty copying
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Difficulty remembering the kinesthetic movements to form letters correctly 

Dyscalculia (Math)

  • Difficulty counting accurately
  • May misread numbers
  • Difficulty memorizing and retrieving math facts
  • Difficulty copying math problems and organizing written work
  • Many calculation errors
  • Difficulty retaining math vocabulary and concepts

ADHD—Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Attention)

  • Inattention
  • Variable attention
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity 

Dyspraxia (Motor skills)

  • Difficulty planning and coordinating body movements
  • Difficulty coordinating facial muscles to produce sounds 

Executive Function/Organization

  • Loses papers
  • Poor sense of time
  • Forgets homework
  • Messy desk
  • Overwhelmed by too much input
  • Works slowly 

If your child is having difficulties learning to read and you have noted several of these characteristics in your child, he or she may need to be evaluated for dyslexia or a related disorder.

What kind of instruction does my child need?


Dyslexia and other related learning disorders cannot be cured. Proper instruction promotes reading success and alleviates many difficulties associated with dyslexia. Instruction for individuals with reading and related learning disabilities should be:

  • Intensive – given every day or very frequently for sufficient time.
  • Explicit – component skills for reading, spelling, and writing are explained, directly taught, and modeled by the teacher. Children are discouraged from guessing at words.
  • Systematic and cumulative – has a definite, logical sequence of concept introduction; concepts are ordered from simple to more complex; each new concept builds upon previously introduced concepts, with built in review to aid memory and retrieval.
  • Structured – has step-by-step procedures for introducing, reviewing, and practicing concepts.
  • Multisensory – links listening, speaking, reading, and writing together; involves movement and “hands on” learning.

Suggested Readings


Moats, L. C., & Dakin, K. E. (2007). Basic facts about dyslexia and other reading problems. Baltimore: The International Dyslexia Association.

Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Knopf.

Tridas, E. Q. (Ed.). (2007). From ABC to ADHD: What every parent should know about dyslexia. Baltimore: The International Dyslexia Association.

The International Dyslexia Association thanks Suzanne Carreker for her assistance in the preparation of this fact sheet.

“promoting literacy through research, education and advocacy”™ The International Dyslexia Association · 40 York Road · Fourth Floor · Baltimore · MD · 21204 Tel: 410-296-0232 · Fax: 410-321-5069 · E-mail: · Website: © Copyright 2008, The International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Published by the IDA Information Services Committee. IDA encourages the reproduction and distribution of this fact sheet. 

If portions of the text are cited, appropriate reference must be made. Fact sheets may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale. Fact sheet revised September 2008.