Is My Child Dyslexic?

January 14, 2022 | Characteristics, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Therapy, Spelling

Is your child an emerging reader?
Have you ever worried about your child’s reading development?
Have you ever wondered if your child could be dyslexic?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Learning to read is a gradual process that can be broken down into three stages: 1. Letters and Sounds, 2. Phonics and Decoding, 3. Orthographic Mapping (IMSE). Children progress through these stages over the course of a number of years usually beginning in pre-K. Every child progresses at their own rate, but you might find yourself second-guessing your child’s progress at some point along the way.
Here are some things to look for when considering the development of your learner:

  1. Has your child ever been referred to a speech pathologist? Is it hard to understand your four or five-year-old? If so, this is something to pay attention to. When a child has difficulty producing spoken language, it can lead to problems attaching letters and words to the sounds they represent (Shaywitz, 2020). So what does this look like? In kindergarten or earlier, your child might have trouble rhyming or learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week. Later your child may be slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds. If your child is in first grade or beyond, they may have difficulty reading single words (words out of context). Since emerging readers often rely on pictures and context when reading, it can be difficult to tell if they’re actually reading. Assessing a child’s single-word reading can be telling of what they really know. In all, speech delays can lead to later difficulties when learning to read and should be addressed as early as possible.

  2. Is your child’s reading slow and labored? Initially, being a labored reader is developmentally appropriate. Decoding words for an emerging reader takes a lot of mental strength. It requires the child to look at each individual letter, attach that letter to the sound it represents, and then blend the sequence of sounds together to produce the whole word. For example the letters c + a + t are mapped to the sounds /k/ + /a/ + /t/ in order to arrive at “cat.” So… when is labored reading too labored? Has your child ever gotten to the end of a word he or she is sounding out and then not been able to blend all of the sounds together to make the whole word? Or can they make it to the end of a sentence, but then not remember what they just read? If so, it may be an issue with working memory, a cognitive process linked to reading. Our working memory is essential when decoding words. It allows us to hold information in our minds long enough to be able to use it. In reading, it allows us to connect letters with their sounds to form words, and then to keep those words in mind as we read the next words of a sentence or a paragraph. By the time we get to the end of what we’re reading, we can hold everything in mind long enough to derive meaning. If your child has difficulty sounding out words, or cannot remember what they have read, it could be a problem with working memory.

  3. Does your child struggle with spelling? A child’s spelling is a visual recording of their language processing (Moats, 2000). In other words, looking at a child’s spelling can be helpful in gauging what they know about word structure and speech sounds. Just like with reading, there are stages of writing that progress over a number of years, and these stages of both reading and writing are typically closely linked. As your child develops an understanding of letter-sound correspondences, you will likely see this in their spelling. At first, single letters may be used to represent whole words or syllables. Later, as your child’s alphabetic knowledge grows, words become more recognizable because all, or most sounds are represented, even if the word is misspelled. For example, a phonetic speller might spell pakij for package. An important thing to keep in mind is that it is developmentally typical for a child to misspell words while they are still emerging readers and writers. There are many phonics patterns they have yet to learn, and so they are drawing upon their sound-letter knowledge to communicate in writing. It is also important to note that it is developmentally appropriate for all emerging readers and writers to confuse b and d, or p and q, and even write some letters and numbers backward. At this stage, the focus should be more on matching sounds (spoken language) to letters (written language). What to look out for: when your child writes, what do you notice? Do they have viable options for letter-sound correspondences? Are their misspellings due to untaught phonics patterns, or are they completely missing the boat? If you’re unsure, it’s always safe to rely on teachers and specialists.

  4. “I can’t read.” “I don’t like to read.” If these statements sound familiar, they might be worth looking into. If a child is unsuccessful at reading, they will often find it unappealing. Many times it is the result of a breakdown in the information that is being received, or in how it’s being presented. Either way, it’s important to follow up with teachers and/or specialists in order to get to the root of the issue.

    Learning to read is a long process that spans a number of years. As you observe your emerging reader, ask yourself a few questions: Does your child know their letters and the corresponding sounds? When they read, can they link letters to sounds to form words? When they write, are they choosing appropriate letters to represent the sounds in a word? If you notice your child starting to linger in a certain area, it is always best to seek advice immediately. It takes four times as long to remediate a student’s poor reading skills in fourth grade as it does in kindergarten or early first grade (Lyon and Fletcher, 2001). The earlier the issue is addressed, the faster you can get over the hump.