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HomeLearning DifficultiesLearning Disabilities & ADHDIdentifying a Learning Disability

Should My Child Be Evaluated for Dyslexia?

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By Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

Clues to Dyslexia in Early Childhood

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" "aaaa" "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.

In addition to the problems of speaking and reading, you should be looking for these indications of strengths in higher-level thinking processes:

  • Curiosity
  • 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

Sally Shaywitz, M.D., is the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at the Yale University School of Medicine. She and her husband are codirectors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Recognized as one of the country’s top doctors, Shaywitz has devoted her career to helping children and adults who are dyslexic.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/22/2009:
"Want some additional information, answers to questions, or support? Please consider joining and posting them at the 'Learning and Attention Difficulties' group found here at GS to receive to receive practical suggestions from parents who have faced similar challenges: http://community.greatschools.org/groups/11554"
06/23/2009:
"'Want some additional information, answers to questions, or support? Please consider joining and posting them at the 'Learning and Attention Difficulties' group found here at GS to receive to receive practical suggestions from parents who have faced similar challenges: http://community.greatschools.org/groups/11554'"
04/20/2009:
"I think this article was helpful and accurate except for the the pre-school years section. My daughter was a very early talker, knew all her letters by 18 months (much earlier than my other children), and could rhyme without any trouble. The only noticeable word that she couldn't pronouce as a baby was 'mule'. It was 'mool'. She breezed through kindergarten and first grade,then started having problems reading in 2nd grade. She was tested through the school system, and diagnosed with a non-specified learning disability. Because I wasn't happy with her progress in reading, I finally had her tested outside of the school system when she was entering the 6th grade. She was diagnosed as a 'gifted-dyslexic'. If you have any doubts or concerns about your child's ability to read, have them tested. I know from experience that the early clues are not the same for every child. "
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