Clues to Dyslexia in Early Childhood
By: Sally E. Shaywitz
The specific signs of dyslexia, both weaknesses and strengths, in any one individual will vary according to the age and educational level of that person. The five-year-old who can't quite learn his letters becomes the six-year-old who can't match sounds to letters and the fourteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud and the twenty-four-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly. The threads persist throughout a person's life.
The earliest clues involve mostly spoken language. The very first clue to a language (and reading) problem may be delayed language. Once the child begins to speak, look for the following problems:
The preschool years
- Trouble learning common nursery rhymes such as "Jack and Jill" and "Humpty Dumpty"
- A lack of appreciation of rhymes
- Mispronounced words; persistent baby talk
- Difficulty in learning (and remembering) names of letters
- Failure to know the letters in his own name
Kindergarten and first grade
- Failure to understand that words come apart; for example, that batboy can be pulled apart into bat and boy, and later on, that the word bat can be broken down still further and sounded out as: "b" "aaa" "t"
- Inability to learn to associate letters with sounds, such as being unable to connect the letter b with the "b" sound
- Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters; for example, the word big is read as goat
- The inability to read common one-syllable words or to sound out even the simplest of words, such as mat, cat, hop, nap
- Complaints about how hard reading is, or running and hiding when it is time to read
- A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
- A great imagination
- The ability to figure things out
- Eager embrace of new ideas
- Getting the gist of things
- A good understanding of new concepts
- Surprising maturity
- A large vocabulary for the age group
- Enjoyment in solving puzzles
- Talent at building models
- Excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him
Many of these indicate strengths in higher-level thinking processes.
Excerpted and adapted from: Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level