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How can I tell if a child may have Dyslexia?


We've all come across the situation. A child who is struggling with his spelling, his writing, or his reading, or perhaps his numeracy. A child who doesn't progress as quickly as his classmates - or worse, doesn't seem to progress at all.

At first you put it down to slowness, or laziness. You think he will improve in time. But he doesn't.

Then someone mentions dyslexia, and you start to wonder. But you tell yourself that children often get over such early difficulties, and you hope for the best. Yet you still feel uneasy.

So how do you tell if a child may have Dyslexia or if he's just slow or lazy? There are some obvious signs, if you know what to look for. And it vital that you do know, because dyslexic children need special help. If they don't get it, they'll fall further and further behind. They'll become frustrated and lose their self-esteem.

This list gives some hints on identification. It's worth printing off and keeping handy - the chances are there's at least one dyslexic child in each of your classes.

Written Work

Look out for a child who.....

  • has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability
  • produces messy work with many crossings out and words tried several times eg wippe, wype, wiep, wipe
  • is persistently confused by letters which look similar, particularly b/d, p/g, p/q, n/u, m/w,
  • has poor handwriting, with many 'reversals' and badly formed letters
  • spells a word several different ways in one piece of writing
  • makes anagrams of words eg tired for tried, breaded for bearded
  • produces badly set-out written work, doesn't stay close to the margin

Look out for a child who.....

  • makes poor reading progress, especially using look-and-say methods
  • finds it difficult to blend letters together
  • has difficulty in establishing syllable division or knowing the beginnings and endings of words
  • is hesitant and laboured in reading, especially when reading aloud
  • misses out words when reading, or adds extra words
  • fails to recognise familiar words
  • loses the point of a story being read or written
  • has difficulty in picking out the most important points from a passage

Look out for a child who.....

  • shows confusion with number order eg units, tens, hundreds
  • is confused by symbols, such as + and x signs
  • has difficulty remembering anything in a sequential order eg tables, days of the week, the alphabet

Look out for a child who.....

  • has difficulty in learning to tell the time
  • shows poor time keeping and general awareness
  • has poor personal organisation
  • has difficulty in remembering what day of the week it is, his birth date, seasons of the year, month of the year

Look out for a child who.....

  • has poor motor skills, leading to weaknesses in the speed, control and accuracy of the pencil
  • has a limited understanding of non-verbal communication
  • is confused by the difference between left and right
  • has indeterminate hand preference
  • performs unevenly from day to day

Look out for a child who.....

  • employs work avoidance tactics, such as sharpening pencils and looking for books
  • seems to 'dream', does not seem to listen
  • is easily distracted
  • is the class clown, or is disruptive or withdrawn (these are often cries for help)
  • is excessively tired, due to the amount of concentration and effort required
  • If a child has a cluster of these difficulties, he may be dyslexic.

Your next step should be to consult the school's SENCO immediately, and to decide whether the child should be placed on the school's SEN register and given appropriate help.

With acknowledgements to the Department for Education and Employment SEN Division.