Like other special needs, getting a dyslexia diagnosis is the first step toward getting your child the help they need to cope with dyslexia, which can help them stay on track with their peers and succeed academically and in the workplace. It’s important to identify dyslexia symptoms early.

It can be difficult to figure out whether your child’s reading struggles are normal or if they have a learning disability like dyslexia. 

People with dyslexia have trouble decoding written and printed words. Dyslexia impacts a person’s inability to identify different letters and sounds (phonemes) and put them in the proper order to form words. 

They ultimately struggle to read because they can’t identify written words and sounds.

Symptoms Of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities. The main symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Reading problems
  • Trouble learning
  • Difficulty remembering and naming letters of the alphabet

The symptoms and signs of dyslexia are different at different ages. As children get older, they learn strategies that help them cope with their dyslexia, which can mask some symptoms.

What are the 4 types of dyslexia? The 4 types of dyslexia are phonological dyslexia, surface dyslexia, auditory dyslexia, and mixed dyslexia.

Around Preschool

Some symptoms of dyslexia show up before children are in school. 

Preschool-age dyslexic children often experience:

  • Trouble learning new words
  • Mixing up sounds of familiar words or phrases
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes and identifying words that rhyme
  • Starting to talk later than peers

In Grade School

Many dyslexics are first diagnosed in elementary school around the first grade because that’s often when the symptoms of dyslexia begin to cause significant learning difficulties. 

School-age children with dyslexia often experience:

  • Poor phonological awareness (being able to identify the different parts and speech sounds, or phonics, in words)
  • Difficulty identifying sounds that are the same or different in two similar words
  • Trouble reading to themselves and reading aloud
  • Reading at a much lower reading level than other children in their grade level
  • Taking much longer than their peers to complete assignments that involve reading or writing
  • Poor spelling

Middle And High Schoolers

Middle schoolers and high school students still experience the same symptoms of dyslexia as grade schoolers, particularly if they don’t receive special education services for their learning disorder. 

Here’s what dyslexia symptoms look like for students in middle and high school:

  • Continued poor reading skills
  • Needing much more time to complete reading or writing tasks
  • Impaired reading comprehension
  • Poor self-esteem around academics and intelligence
  • Mispronouncing new names or words
  • Trouble with math problems that involve reading comprehension

Adult Symptoms Of Dyslexia

What are the symptoms of dyslexia in adults? The symptoms of dyslexia in adults are:

  • Poor time management skills caused by poor reading skills
  • Struggling to repeat or summarize something they just read
  • Inability to translate actual knowledge into written form; written work doesn’t reflect the person’s actual knowledge of a subject
  • Avoiding jobs or hobbies that require reading

How do you know if you’re dyslexic? You know if you’re dyslexic by identifying whether you have the main symptoms of dyslexia, including difficulty reading and spelling. Identifying your own symptoms isn’t a substitute for a professional diagnosis.

What causes dyslexia?

Scientists don’t completely understand the exact neurological causes of dyslexia, although structural changes may be related. Doctors have identified some risk factors that increase the odds of developing dyslexia, including:

  • Family history of dyslexia
  • Fetal exposure to chemicals that can harm brain development, including tobacco substances, alcohol, and drugs
  • Brain damage or trauma that could lead to acquired dyslexia (dyslexia caused by direct damage to brain tissue that controls the skills necessary for reading)
  • Low birth weight and/or premature birth
  • Lack of adequate reading material in the home during childhood

In most cases, it’s thought that either genetic or environmental factors lead to changes in the brain that make it difficult for children to identify words and different parts of words. The lack of these critical skills for reading leads to the development of dyslexia.

What is the main cause of dyslexia? The main cause of dyslexia is generally considered a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors early in life. 

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no single test used to diagnose dyslexia. Instead, doctors and psychologists evaluate the patient’s performance at school or work, medical history, and behavior to come to a diagnosis.

To diagnose dyslexia, professionals use:

  • Interviews with the patient, including an in-person evaluation of their reading and language skills
  • An assessment of mental health to rule out learning problems caused by anxiety and other mental health issues
  • Medical tests, including hearing and vision tests, to rule out other potential causes of reading problems
  • Information from a child’s teachers, including details about how they perform in the classroom and what skills or activities they struggle with specifically
  • A detailed medical history, including any family history of academic or reading difficulties
  • Details about the child’s home life, including any difficulties that could contribute to learning disorders
  • Academic and other tests to identify the child’s overall aptitude for learning, which can also help distinguish between dyslexia and other learning disorders

It’s not uncommon for someone to receive a diagnosis of dyslexia along with one or more other diagnoses. The most common co-occurring disorders with dyslexia include:

  • Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia and dyslexia can be diagnosed at the same time. These cases usually involve dyslexic dysgraphia. They can generally trace or copy words but struggle to write on their own.
  • Dyspraxia: Also referred to as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), dyspraxia causes disruption in coordination, balance, and movement skills. It commonly appears with dyslexia.
  • ADHD: Dyslexia may also be diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Patients may struggle to focus on reading tasks, which can exacerbate the symptoms of dyslexia.
  • Dyscalculia: Dyslexia occasionally co-occurs with dyscalculia, a similar learning disability defined by difficulty doing simple math.
  • Behavioral disorders: Children with dyslexia also may have behavioral disorders. These disorders may be related to the low self-esteem children experience if their dyslexia isn’t recognized and treated promptly.

Is it possible to have dyslexia and not know? It is possible to have dyslexia and not know, but most people at least know that they have a tough time reading and doing schoolwork. Rarely, dyslexics aren’t diagnosed as young children and only receive a diagnosis as adults.

Potential Complications

Untreated dyslexia can strongly affect a person’s quality of life. Poor reading and writing skills result in poor academic performance, which harms a child’s self-confidence. Low self-confidence as a child can lead to mental health problems down the road.

Patients with untreated dyslexia are usually less likely to have a high-paying job. Most jobs with high salaries require a college degree and good reading and writing skills that are difficult to achieve with unmanaged dyslexia.

What is a common misconception about dyslexia? A common misconception about dyslexia is that people with dyslexia aren’t intelligent. Dyslexics fall into a full range of intellectual abilities, just like non-dyslexics.

Treatments For Dyslexia

Early detection and treatment for dyslexia are crucial. When children receive early interventions for dyslexia, they can catch up to their peers, and they ultimately aren’t harmed academically by their learning disorder.

Special Education

Special education is the primary treatment for dyslexia. Special education teachers work one-on-one with children to help them learn the skills they need to read and write accurately. An individualized approach to learning reading skills gives the best results.

When a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, a public school will work with the child and parents to create an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. The IEP will include detailed information about treatment plans and any special accommodations the student will receive for their dyslexia.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy can also be a very effective treatment for dyslexia, particularly if the patient is also experiencing anxiety, poor self-esteem, or other emotional problems. Psychological issues can strongly impact academic performance, and therapy can help treat these issues.

Functional Medicine

Typical dyslexia treatment focuses on symptoms and doesn’t address the underlying biology behind dyslexia. The root cause of dyslexia is in the brain, and you need to support brain health and overall health to help your child’s brain work optimally.

Parents of children with dyslexia should use a functional approach to treating their child’s condition in addition to special education and other treatments. For example, eliminating pro-inflammatory foods from your child’s diet can help improve symptoms.

If your child’s school cannot accommodate your child’s special diet, there are ways to simplify making a nutritious lunch for your child that you can send with them to school.

In Summary

Finding out that your child might be or is dyslexic can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are effective treatment options that can help your child get back on track academically.

At the M Center for Pediatric Wellness, we use a functional approach to help keep our patients’ brains and bodies healthy, which helps improve the effectiveness of other therapies like special education. We create individualized plans for each patient to address their needs.

We would love to talk to you about how we can help your child conquer their dyslexia. Click here to set up an appointment with our team.


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  3. Dilnot, J., Hamilton, L., Maughan, B., & Snowling, M. J. (2017). Child and environmental risk factors predicting readiness for learning in children at high risk of dyslexia. Development and Psychopathology, 29(1), 235–244. Abstract: