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How do you know if your child has dyslexia and needs specific help in learning to read and spell?



It takes very specific skills with professional training and education to diagnose an individual with dyslexia, therefore NOT everyone can identify if your child has dyslexia. If you are planning to see a psychologist or neurologist, ask him/her if s/he knows how to do it. 

Dyslexia literally means difficulty (dys) with words (lex). According to Shaywitz, S., 2003, author of Overcoming Dyslexia,  dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and reading abilities, as well as a problem in reading comprehension. 

Because dyslexia is a specific learning disability that affects learning to read, spell, write, and comprehend the results of the student's reading assessment will tell us if he has signs and symptoms of dyslexia.


But if you want to go deeper into your child's language problem, such as the rate of his processing difficulty, a further evaluation with a neurologist/psychologist who has a background and training with dyslexia is needed.

However, below, and previous pages will give you enough information if your child needs professional help in learning to read, spell, write, and comprehend the correct way.


At seven years old, or by grade two, most children have started learning to read and by grade three, most children can read at their own grade level, so if your child is still struggling to read, he might have dyslexia, and if he cannot get the help that he really needs, his reading level will lag behind and further behind.


He is also falling further and further behind his classmates not just in reading, but also with other skills that require reading such as math problem-solving, sciences, history, etc.  In addition, your child’s spelling and comprehension skills are other clues that he needs specific help in learning to read and spell. His spelling is horrible, or he cannot spell words he has not seen and he has a problem comprehending what he read. Well, it is common sense that if a child cannot read, of course, he cannot comprehend, but if he has a problem comprehending what he read, it means he has not reached the fluency of that concept yet. If it remains unnoticed, it means that your child could have strong memory skills and it will be apparent in his later years, usually in high school where tasks that involve reading and reading comprehension are more demanding and yes, even if he has strong memory skills, the reading assessment will tell us if he has a specific learning difficulty!

Earliest Clues

  • Family history of reading problems. Dyslexia runs in families. If you, your partner, uncles, aunties, cousins, and grandparents have dyslexia, it increases the probability that your child has dyslexia too; and if one of your children is dyslexic, it is likely that your other children have dyslexia as well.

  • Delay in speaking; typically, children say their first word at about one year old or so and say simple two phrases at about 18 months to two years old. Children with dyslexia may begin saying their first words after 15 months and may speak in phrases after their second birthday,  but then again some dyslexic children may not demonstrate a speech delay

  • Difficulties in pronunciation; sometimes referred to as “baby talk,” by five or six years old, most children have little problem saying most simple words correctly. Typical mispronunciations of dyslexic children involve leaving off beginning sounds such as lephant for elephant, and inverting the sounds within a word such as aminal for the animal, bastekball  for basketball


  • Trouble learning and singing common  nursery rhymes such as Jack and Jill, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Hickory, Dickory Dock – familiarity with nursery rhymes is an early indicator of getting ready to read and a strong predictor of early reading success

  • Difficulty learning and remembering the names of letters in  the alphabet, especially learning them in order- sequencing

  • Has trouble recognizing the letters in his own name

  • Continue mispronouncing familiar words; persistent “baby talk” for example, he tends to say ‘spusgetti,’ instead of spaghetti

  • Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like cat, bat, rat, sat- most often dyslexic children are unable to tell which word pair rhymes

  • Tends to avoid or hates playing games with sounds and with rhyming words because dyslexic children have trouble penetrating the sound structure of words

Kindergarten and/or First Grade


  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page - will say “puppy” instead of “dog” and "home" instead of "house" with pictures of a dog and a house on a page and vice versa. This error indicates that your child cannot read but he is guessing words based on what he sees in the pictures. Children cannot learn and will never learn to read and spell by just looking at and figuring out what they see in the pictures. They need to accurately sound out words. Most dyslexic children are insensitive to the awareness at the sound level, thus they need phonics literacy instruction and MUST also learn to connect and pull out sounds for minimal pairs of words

  • Reading words with clusters of letters like bl, cl sl, especially, with r (br, cr, dr) and three-letter words (spl, scr, spr) are very difficult to read and spell, thus a child needs a strategy to pull them out and put them back together.

  • Reading is not an enjoyable or pleasant experience but a struggle

  • Prone to reversal problem 'b' instead of  'd,'  and 'saw instead of was and vice versa



  • Difficulty in spelling, and/or learning to spell words

  • Can't spell words he has not seen/horrible at spelling

  • If he can spell the learned words during the test,  he tends to forget them easily thus a child MUST learn the rules of the language and spelling strategy



  • Awkward pencil grip

  • Very large, misshapen, and uneven size letters

  • Wobbly handwriting


Second  Grade and Up


  • Is very slow in acquiring reading skills

  • Has trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out words

  • Avoids reading out loud

  • Most of the time, he can only read words that he has seen - he's memorizing these words


  • Difficulty in spelling/learning to spell words or horrible in spelling

  • Cannot spell words he has not seen

  • If he can spell the learned words during the test, he tends to forget them easily


Reading Comprehension

  • If the child can "read" mostly words that he has already seen, he is usually having difficulty comprehending what he reads

  • Having trouble solving math problems that involve reading, even if he excels in math

  • Inferential questions are also a struggle for him to answer



  • Having trouble/difficulty with any written tasks

  • Most of the time, his handwriting is awkward and wobbly



  • Searches for specific words and ends up using vague language such as "stuff" or "thing" without naming the object

  • Pauses and uses lots of umm's and ahh's when speaking

  • Confuses words that sound alike such as "satistics" for statistics, "pacific" for specific

  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words

  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions 


Young Adults/Adolescents and Adults


  • A childhood history of reading and spelling difficulties

  • While reading skills have developed over time, reading still requires great effort and is done at a slow pace

  • Rarely read for pleasure especially if it involves longer reading materials

  • Slow reading of most materials - books, manual, subtitles in films

  • Avoids reading aloud



  • Not fluent, not glib, often anxious when speaking

  • Pausing or hesitating often when speaking; using lots of "um's"  and ahh's and imprecise language, for example, "stuff," "thing," instead of the proper name of an object when speaking

  •  Often mispronounces the names of people and places

  • Difficulty remembering names of people and places; confuses names that sound alike

  •  Retrieval difficulties; struggles with retrieving words; has the "it was on the tip of my tongue" moment frequently

  • Expressive language problem; rarely has a fast response in conversations, and/or writing; struggles when put on the spot

  • Spoken vocabulary is smaller than listening vocabulary

  • Earlier oral language difficulties persist



  • Weak spelling skills

  • Cannot spell unfamiliar words

  • Having difficulty spelling the multisyllabic (longer) words


Reading Comprehension

  • Most of the time, he is having difficulty comprehending what he reads

  • Inferential questions are a struggle for him to answer

  • Analyzing the concepts in pages of the book is a nightmare



  • Having trouble/difficulty expressing himself in writing; always needs help in writing i.e, electronically to come up with words/spelling especially with longer and complicated words

  • Expressing himself in writing requires great effort and longer time than necessary even with extra help

  • Most of the time his handwriting is also awkward


School Life

  • Penalized by multiple-choice tests

  • Frequently sacrifices social life for studying

  • Suffers extreme fatigue when reading and writing

  • Performs rote clerical tasks poorly


This format is based on Signs of Dyslexia, Yale Center of Dyslexia and Creativity, 2015



If your child shows any of the above signs and symptoms, your best option is to seek appropriate help from a reading Instructor, or a reading tutor/specialist specializing in the treatment of individuals with dyslexia, and the earlier you act to start his remediation/intervention the better off for you and your child will be - financially, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Waiting for another day, week, month, and/or a year would not solve your child's learning to read difficulties and the more you wait, the more your child will struggle academically and psychologically and the more his self-esteem and self-confidence will be affected.


Do not forget your child has specific learning problems: reading, spelling, and comprehending what he reads and you are not looking for an ordinary or typical tutor.

What happens if he becomes an adult?
Life would be difficult for someone who cannot read because reading is a tool to succeed in life particularly in an industrialized country, and if your child relies on 'google' to express himself in reading and writing, then he would be bound to rely on 'google' to read and write for the rest of!

Do not let your child suffer for another day!

 Your decision today is your CHILD'S tomorrow!

Multisensory Reading Clinic, Reading Specialist- Montreal, Laval, Quebec, Orton-Gillingham Tutor, Dyslexia Specialist, Learning Disability Specialist, ADHD Reading Tutor, Autism Reading Tutor, Special Needs Tutor, Learn to Read Tutor, Intellectual Disability Reading Tutor
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Multisensory Reading Clinic Dyslexia Therapeutic Tutoring     Orton-Gillingham Instruction

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