Spotting the Signs
Recognising dyslexia in your child is important for early intervention and support. While each child is unique and will display different signs, here are some common indicators to look for:
- Difficulty with reading – Dyslexic children often struggle with decoding words, recognising sight words (common words that children recognise instantly without sounding them out), and reading fluently. They may frequently guess words instead of reading them accurately.
- Difficulty with spelling and writing – Dyslexia can lead to frequent spelling errors and difficulties in expressing thoughts in writing. Dyslexic children may also have poor handwriting.
- Slow reading progress – Children with dyslexia may progress more slowly in reading than their peers, even with consistent effort and practice.
- Reversal of letters and words – Confusion with letters that look similar, particularly b and d, p and g, n and u, m and w, or mixing up similar looking words such as ‘was’ and ‘saw’, ‘tired’ and ‘tried’ are common signs of dyslexia.
- Difficulty with phonological awareness – Phonological awareness means being able to recognise, identify and manipulate the individual sounds in words. For example, counting the number of syllables in a word would be a phonological activity. Dyslexic children often struggle with this skill, which is critical for reading.
- Memory challenges – Dyslexic children may have difficulty remembering sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet.
- Frustration and avoidance – Children with dyslexia may become frustrated with reading and writing tasks, leading to avoidance or a dislike of school.
- Difficulties with working memory – Working memory is the capacity to hold and manipulate information temporarily in your mind while completing a task. Children with dyslexia may experience challenges with this. Examples of everyday tasks that require working memory include; remembering a question long enough to think about it and come up with an answer, or, listening to, following, and remembering directions that contain multiple steps.
- Strong oral communication – Dyslexic children often excel in verbal communication and storytelling. They may have an extensive vocabulary and be able to articulate ideas well when speaking.
When should a child be evaluated?
If you think your child may be dyslexic and would benefit from extra support, start by discussing your concerns with their teacher or the school SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). They may decide to carry out screening tests to find out more about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, which will help the SENCo to decide how best to support your child in the classroom.
The only way dyslexia can be formally diagnosed is by having a Diagnostic Assessment by a certified dyslexia assessor, after which you will receive a detailed report outlining how best to support your child if they do have dyslexia. The assessment looks at how your child learns and checks their reading, writing skills, and spelling. It also identifies if there is a big difference between their overall abilities and reading and writing, and looks at other factors that might be affecting their learning. From this, the assessor will decide if your child needs special help, such as adjustments to how they are taught and how they take tests.
As children develop at different rates, a formal diagnosis isn’t usually considered until a child has had a few years of formal education and is around 7 years old. You can ask the school to arrange this assessment or pay for it yourself.
Supporting Dyslexic Children
- Reading – Reading frequently to/with your child to improve their vocabulary and listening skills, while encouraging them to read in a fun way, in a comfortable environment will help build their confidence.
- Be patient and supportive – Dyslexic children may feel frustrated or anxious about their struggles, so praise their efforts and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small.
- Consistent practice – Encourage your child to practise reading and writing regularly, but keep sessions short and enjoyable to prevent frustration.
- Keep instructions clear – Be precise with your instructions and directions, keeping them simple, chronologically ordered and, wherever possible, predictable. For example, “Get your pen and paper, write your name, and put the pen down.” Using short sentences and accompanying instructions or information with actions may make what you’re saying more memorable.
- Multisensory learning – A mixture of auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learning techniques can be beneficial for children with dyslexia, such as looking in the mirror when speaking, associating gestures with words, and tracing letters while saying the sound. ABC Sand With Me and Playfoam Shape & Learn Alphabet Set are great resources to use to encourage tactile and kinesthetic learning. And Mathlink Cubes Numberblocks can be really helpful for children to learn about numbers and counting.
- Assistive technology – This is hardware, software and handheld devices that are designed to make life easier for people with dyslexia. Examples of these are speech recognition software that allows users to dictate or talk to a computer that will convert this to text, and smartpens that can be used to write text and also track what is being written, recreating the notes in digital form.
- Audiobooks – Providing your child with audiobooks, or an audio system like the Toniebox, will ensure your child has access to age appropriate content and can continue to develop their love for stories.
- Build confidence – Encourage your child to do the activities they feel good at and enjoy doing; sports, music, arts etc. Look for board or card games, like Quirk!, that don’t require much reading, for your child to play with family and friends, keeping the focus on fun while also building their confidence.
- Famous dyslexic people – Help to reinforce the fact that dyslexia does not mean you’re not intelligent. Talk to your child about successful people they may have heard of who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, such as Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cher. It is also widely believed that Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein were also dyslexic. So the sky really is the limit!
This blog was written and donated by our partners at Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide.
The Good Play Guide was founded by child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer in 2012. Created to provide an independent, expert accreditation service for children’s products, The Guide provides a trusted resource for parents and gift-givers to find truly Good Toys.
Amanda has a PhD in Neuropsychology, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and over 20 years’ experience working with children and families. Having worked in children’s industries for many years, Amanda is now widely considered as the UK’s go-to expert on play, toys and child development. She can regularly be seen in the media, including BBC News, Sky News, The Daily Mail and many more, offering advice on news stories and issues surrounding children, families and child development.
Home of the Good Toy Guide and Good App Guide, Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide is an independent, expert organisation, dedicated to ensuring every child can develop the skills they need to thrive during a happy healthy childhood. The team’s mission is to help make the world a more playful place.