Signs of possible dyslexia in the early years include:
- Seemingly bright in many ways but slow to acquire spelling/reading/writing.
- Late speech and language development
- Pronunciation problems
- Grammatical errors in speech
- Word finding problems
- Difficulty learning nursery rhymes and unable to give rhymes
- History of hearing problems e.g. earache and glue ear
- Allergies e.g. hay fever, asthma
- Confusing letters and numbers that are similar m/w, 6/9, etc.
- Difficulty learning tables and number bonds
- Difficulty learning to tell the time and learning the language of time such as “ten past two”
- Clumsiness in small actions such as handwriting or drawing, or in large actions such as learning to ride a bike or throwing and catching balls
- Difficulties in learning letter formation and confusing upper and lowercase letters
- Difficulties in learning spellings with omission of letters and syllables or using the correct letters but in the wrong order
- Poor attention or concentration for activities involving the reading, writing, listening
- Problems remembering more than one instruction at a time
- Difficulty learning sequences such as the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year
- Difficulty learning the letter sound links
- Difficulty detecting alliteration or giving the words which start the same sound
- Difficulties learning a sequence of activities such as tying shoelaces or doing up buttons
- Talents in creative areas such as playing with Lego
At secondary level, earlier difficulties may persist and new problems may emerge in coping with the increased demands of the curriculum. Students may show a variety of the following features:
- Inaccuracies, for example when reading examination questions
- Poor speed of reading
- Poor skimming and scanning
- Difficulty in getting the main idea
- Reading silently may be easier for comprehension than reading aloud
- Difficulties coping with heavier reading demands
- Persistent spelling difficulties
- Difficulties in copying from the board
- Difficulty organising and structuring written work
- Choosing simple vocabulary that is easier to spell
- Difficulty in spotting errors and proofreading
- Problems with legibility and speed of handwriting
- Difficulty with punctuation
- Problems with note-taking, unable to listen and write at the same time
- Difficulty in following more than one instruction at a time
- Difficulty with concentration and attention
- Verbally may be good, thus a discrepancy between oral and written skills exists
- Word retrieval problems
- Difficulty in acquisition of topic words
- Slow to answer questions
- Unable to cope with a fast pace of verbal input, particularly if the sentence is complex
- More easily distracted by environmental noise
- Poor organisational skills, e.g. problems with having the right equipment and materials, time keeping and meeting deadlines
- Problems coping with more homework and lengthier assignments; often unsure of the precise requirements of homework set
- Difficulty in satisfying the demands of a number of teachers
- Difficulties with memory
- More easily tired than peers because of failure to achieve automaticity with many everyday activities
- More prone to examination stress
- Difficulty with studying foreign languages
- Often better at practical subjects where less reading and writing is involved
- Low self-esteem, leading possibly to behaviour problems and truancy
Strategies to help your child
One of the main things students with dyslexia tend to struggle with is phonemic awareness, which is the ability to discern the sounds and the sequence of sounds within a word. Phonemic awareness is a critical reading skill, and research has found that early success in phonemic awareness is the single biggest predictor of students’ future reading outcomes.
The good news is that there are simple activities you can do with your child to improve their phonemic awareness:
Phoneme isolation – improving your child’s ability to recognise the phonemes within words. Typically, the first phoneme in a syllable is the easiest to identify, then the last, then the middle one.
- What is the first sound in ‘cup’? /k/
- What is the last sound in ‘sip’? /p/
- What is the middle sound in ‘hen’? /e/
Phoneme blending – improving your child’s ability to blend sounds together. In the earliest stages of reading, a child’s blending of sounds can sound staggered. For example ‘maatuh’ for ‘mat’.
Have you child practise combining phonemes in a word together in one continuous sound
Be aware of ‘stop’ consonants, particularly unvoiced sounds like /p/, /k/, /t/. These should be said:
- /cuuup/ instead of /cuuupuh/
- /kiiiick/ instead of /kickuh/
Start with CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) and then move onto CVCC and CCVC words
Phoneme segmentation – improving your child’s ability to discern the number of phonemes within a word.
- Listen to the sounds in ‘up’ (2 phonemes)
- Listen to the sounds in ‘cup’ (3 phonemes)
- Move onto asking how many sounds they can identify in the above examples.
Phoneme manipulation – improving your child’s ability to manipulate phonemes within words. This is the most sophisticated phonemic awareness skill and the one you may find your child struggles with the most.
- ‘Up’ – what word would I get if I removed the /k/ sound from ‘cup’?
- Mend – what word is left if I remove the final sound from ‘mend’?
- Blend – what word is left I remove the /l/ sound from ‘blend’?
Making their best effort, taking risks and thinking about what they’re learning are the things you want to praise in your child more than simply getting the right answer. And no matter what answer they give, ask them how they got there, then praise the process itself.
“It’s not that I’m so smart,” Albert Einstein once said, “It’s just that I stay with problems longer.” How telling that one of the greatest geniuses of all time explained his success like this, giving credit not to his superior intellect, but to his tremendous persistence.