Early Signs of Dyslexia in Young Children

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that can cause difficulties with reading, writing and spelling. It is quite common, affecting approximately 1 in 10 people in the United States. Although the cause of dyslexia is unknown, it is considered to be a genetic condition that can be passed from parents to children.

While the signs of dyslexia aren’t always easy to identify, especially in young children who have yet to start school, the following are eight indicators to keep an eye out for.

1. Delayed Speech

Compared to other children of the same age, kids with dyslexia may experience delayed speech development. This is often one of the first signs of the disorder. In some cases, Dyslexia Victoria says that the child does “not start speaking until as late as three or four years of age.”

In other cases, however, the source notes that dyslexic children can “start talking very early, at about one year of age, and even in full grammatically correct sentences.” This is often most noticeable in “their use of language and pictures, but not necessarily letters and numbers.”

2. Trouble Calling Things by the Right Name

According to Understood.org, dyslexia “affects the way the brain processes language.” This can make it challenging for a child to associate the correct words with objects and symbols.

As a result, they may not be able to easily recall the correct word to describe something. The source says this may lead them to use “general words like ‘thing’ and ‘stuff’ instead of the names of objects.”

3. Struggles with Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are typically quite fun for young children to learn and repeat, but those with dyslexia may struggle to recite them. Additionally, they may have difficulty recognizing rhyming patterns. For example, WebMD says they may “not be able to think of words that rhyme with the word ‘boy,’ such as ‘joy’ or ‘toy.’”

These difficulties are the result of them having difficulty breaking words down into individual sounds, such as buh and at when pronouncing the word ‘bat.’

4. Trouble Remembering Sequences

A child with dyslexia may also have trouble understanding and remembering sequences, such as the order of the alphabet, days of the week, or counting to 10. Dyslexia Victoria says this is because “they see the ‘big picture’ easily but not the individual parts.”

The child may also struggle to learn the names of colors, shapes, how to spell, and how to write his or her name, which the source says is because they “think primarily in images and not necessarily letters and numbers.”

5. Slow Development of Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills may be slow to develop in children with dyslexia. For example, WebMD says they “may take longer than others of the same age to learn how to hold a pencil in the writing position, use buttons and zippers, and brush his or her teeth.”

As they reach school age, weak fine motor skills—along with challenges memorizing sequences—can lead to difficulties with writing, which is known as dysgraphia. According to Dyslexia-Reading-Well.com, some signs to watch for include “poor pencil grip and moving the wrist or arm (gross motor skill) instead of the fingers (fine motor skill).”

6. Mix Up Sounds and Letters

When pronouncing long words, children with dyslexia may mix up the sounds of the syllables. For example, the NHS says they may say “hecilopter” instead of “helicopter”, or “beddy tear” instead of “teddy bear.”

They may also mix up the order of letters while reading or writing. WebMD indicates these errors can include: letter reversals such as “d” for “b”; word reversals such as “tip” for “pit”; inversions such as “m” and “w” and “u” and “n”; transpositions such as “felt” and “left”; and substitutions such as “house” and “home.”

7. Poor Reading Ability

Children with dyslexia have difficulty with phonemic awareness, which Dyslexia Victoria defines as “the ability to hear individual sounds in a word.” As a result, they are often slow to learn the sounds associated with each letter, causing them to have trouble sounding out new words.

WebMD says they may also struggle to read single words that are not part of a sentence, especially if they are small words such as “at” and “to,” or “does” and “goes.”

8. Other Symptoms

Recurring ear infections are also common among young children with dyslexia. While the infection themselves are not often the cause of the disorder, they can contribute to a child’s issues with phonemic awareness and language difficulties. Dyslexia Victoria adds that they may also be “sensitive to foods, additives, and chemical products.”

Additionally, the source says that dyslexic children may be late in establishing a dominant hand. They may be as old as 7 to 9 years of age when this happens, and even still many will alternate between hands for tasks such as “eating, printing, throwing a ball or drawing with a crayon.”


Rachel Despres