As parents, we are our child’s number one advocate and are often the first to notice when they are having issues. This is particularly true in the area of reading development. Often parents may begin to notice warning signs in their children as early as preschool, yet they are often told by teachers and educational specialist to wait and see. Yet, as I have stated before, this approach is ineffective for the majority of kids with reading difficulties. Early identification means early intervention which leads to better outcomes and remediation for your child.
However, many parents are not literacy experts and don’t always know what to look for when it comes to red flags for a reading difficulty. In fact, some of you might be wondering what to look for in a preschool student because, well, most three-year-olds are not reading so how can they have a reading difficulty?
I understand your frustration and I want you to be able to effectively advocate for and make decisions about your child. So, I put together a list of some warning signs of dyslexia at various ages. It is very important to note a few things though. First and foremost, many of us may have one or two of these characteristics that does not mean that we all have dyslexia. Usually a child with a significant reading issue like dyslexia will have multiple characteristics that persist over time and make learning difficult. It is also important to note that this list is not exhaustive and if you are concerned about your child, it is important to get them Structured Literacy intervention to help remediate their difficulties.
With that being said, here are a few common characteristics of dyslexia in preschool and kindergarten aged children:
- Late learning to talk and slow to learn new words – if your child was a late talker without an apparent hearing difficulty, this can be an early sign of dyslexia as oral and written language are related.
- Difficulty following directions – if you ask your child to perform directions that are age appropriate and they have difficulty remembering what to do, this can be an early sign of dyslexia. Of course, I think all preschool parents can relate here, it can also just be a sign of being three. However, if you know that your child is not being willfully defiant, it can be a warning sign of language processing issues.
- Avoids letters despite being explicitly taught them – if you have worked on the alphabet with your five-year-old daily yet they only know two letter names, this is a sign that they are at risk for reading difficulties.
- Difficulty rhyming – by age 4 or 5, children should be able to identify and produce rhyming words, if they cannot they may have a reading issue like dyslexia.
- Cannot recall letter sounds – if your child is in kindergarten and does not know letter sounds it can be red flag for reading issues.
As your child gets older, these signs generally persist and are compounded by some of these in grades 1st through 3rd :
- Cannot recall sight words even after practice
- Poor phonics skills
- Inaccurate and slow reading
- Difficulty sequencing – this applies to sequencing events in a story as well as days, months, time, etc. In some cases, your child may even have difficulty with words like before or after saying things like they brushed their teeth “after” they went to bed.
- Poor spelling skills – this is an especially important indicator if they eliminate speech sounds. For example, if the word is bend and they write bed, it suggests they do not have the phonological skills necessary to be successful without structured literacy intervention. Make sure to pay attention to this on writing assignments, not just spelling tests. Many dyslexic children can fool their teachers and parents because they have good visual memory skills so they can memorize spelling words.
As children move into intermediate grades 4th and then into high school, many of these problems will persist and there will be additional signs like:
- Slow , inaccurate, and laborious reading – at this point your child is working so hard to decode words that reading fluency is seriously affected.
- Weak reading comprehension when compared to listening and oral comprehension
- Poor spelling skills and handwriting in written assignments
- Slow at working on literacy skills – homework will often take hours and lead to frustration
- Poor comprehension and vocabulary due to lack of access to grade level text
- Needs intensive intervention to increase reading and spelling skills
It is important to note that in many cases these reading, writing, and language issues exist despite being part of a strong instruction program or being read to by a parent. I have often heard “but my son is in a good school” or “I read to her every night.” Dyslexia and other reading difficulties develop without regard to exposure to literacy.
If you have concerns about your child, start getting them the help and support they need to be successful. You are their number one fan and the person they need in their corner.
Contact us today if you have questions or need more information.Becky Welsch
Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.