General Indicators of Dyslexia

dyslexia_spellingsDyslexic difficulties exist on a range from mild to severe. There is no sharp dividing line between having a learning difficulty such as dyslexia and not having it. Each individual with dyslexia will show a different pattern of strengths and weaknesses that affect their acquisition of literacy skills.

Family history is significant as dyslexia is often inherited and runs in familites. Some individuals with learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature may experience additional co-occurring difficulties [some of which require a medical diagnosis]. It is important to first check that there are no problems with vision and hearing affecting performance.

The following is a guide to some of the potential indicators of dyslexia that may occur at different developmental phases. Appropriately qualified specialist teachers and psychologists can carry out full diagnostic assessments. Screening tests can be carried out by teachers in schools, or privately, before referrals are made for more in-depth assessment by a suitably qualified practitioner.


    • Delayed speech development;
    • Poor expressive language in naming familiar things like ‘table’ or ‘chair’;
    • Poor rhyming skills;
    • difficulty in clapping a simple rhythm;
    • Enjoys being read to, but has little interest in/difficulty learning letters or words;
    • Continuing difficulties in getting dressed and putting shoes on the correct feet;
    • Problems with catching, kicking or throwing a ball or with hopping or skipping;
    • Signs of not paying attention.

Early School Years:

    • Poor sound awareness;
    • Has trouble learning nursery rhymes or songs;
    • Difficulty with sequences such as days of the week or the alphabet;
    • Difficulty with phonics and learning the letter to sound rules;
    • Lacks skills to read unknown words;
    • Bizarre spelling due to confusion of similar letters like p and q, w and m;
    • Difficulty in copying letters/words;
    • Difficulties carrying out three instructions in sequence;
    • Poor sense of direction and confuses left and right;
    • Difficulty tying shoe laces and dressing;
    • A discrepancy between receptive and expressive language;
    • Short-term memory limitations, for instance, finding it hard to remember classroom instructions, times tables, etc.

Middle School Years:

    • Appears verbally bright and able, often artistic and creative, but written work doesn’t reflect this;
    • Slow, hesitant, laboured reading;
    • Reluctant and nervous with reduced accuracy when reading aloud;
    • Poor skills for reading new/unknown words;
    • Often reads a word, then fails to recognise it further down the page;
    • Loses place in text; may skip or re-read lines;
    • Difficulties in saying multi-syllable words;
    • Efforts so concentrated on reading words, that the meaning may be lost;
    • Letters and numbers persistently written the wrong way round, e.g. 12 for 21, b for d, no for on;
    • Confusion of similar letters resulting in bizarre spelling;
    • Confusion between upper and lower case letters, and concepts of letter name and sound;
    • Phonetic or non-phonetic spelling;
    • Spells the same word several different ways in a piece of writing;
    • Has heavy and laborious handwriting; pen/pencil control and writing is not cursive (joined);
    • Difficulty copying information from the board (vertical plane) onto paper (horizontal plane);
    • Poor concentration and attention skills;
    • Difficulty with mental arithmetic or learning times tables;
    • Confusion with maths symbols + – x, maths vocabulary, time, sequence;
    • Confuses left and right;
    • Needs more time than other students to complete homework or classwork;
    • Disorganised and often forgets to bring correct equipment;
    • Experiences frustration, stress and low self-esteem for learning;
    • Has good and bad days;
    • Extra efforts result in excessive tiredness after a day at school.

Adolescence and Adulthood:

    • Poor reading fluency;
    • Misreading which may affect comprehension;
    • Only reads when necessary and never for pleasure;
    • Slow speed of writing;
    • Poor organisation and expression in written work;
    • Finds it difficult to listen and take notes simultaneously;
    • Difficulty with planning and writing essays, letters or reports;
    • Difficulty reading and understanding new terminology;
    • Quality of work is erratic;
    • Difficulty in revising for examinations;
    • Difficulty remembering times tables and formulae;
    • Need to have instructions repeated;
    • Poor written communication to convey knowledge and understanding in examinations;
    • memory difficulties which affect the marshalling of facts effectively in exams;
    • Difficulties increase under time constraints;
    • Effort put in does not reflect performance or results;
    • Forgets names and factual information, even when familiar;
    • Forgetful of things such as a personal PIN or telephone number;
    • Difficulty in meeting deadlines;
    • Poor personal organisation (finances/household, arrives at lessons with the wrong books, forgets appointments);
    • Difficulty with filling in forms or writing cheques;
    • Develops work avoidance tactics to disguise difficulties and/or worries about being promoted/taking professional qualifications;
    • Obvious good or bad days, for no apparent reason.