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Parent tales: First signs of a reading disorder

GreatSchools members share stories about the first signs and symptoms of their children's reading issues.

By GreatSchools Staff

Every parent of a child with a reading disorder can recall those moments — the times when it became obvious something was amiss. Maybe the child was reversing letters or failing to recognize rhymes.

Unfortunately, such early signs are rarely seen for what they are: symptoms of a larger reading issue. Instead, the road from when parents first notice a telltale clue to when their child is diagnosed can span years. Looking back, parents may wonder how their child's education might have been different had they been able to understand those early signs like they do now.

GreatSchools parents of children with a learning difficulty took a moment to share their stories in response to the question “What were the first signs or symptoms that your child had an LD?” As you read, you’ll notice that for many parents full diagnosis didn’t come until third grade, even though the signs were there as early as kindergarten or, in some cases, preschool. All agree that early intervention is imperative and that the first step typically begins with a parent noticing something is wrong.

Making sense of mixed-up sounds

My daughter spoke at a very young age and had a large vocabulary but mixed up sounds. For example, "Alabama" was pronounced as "Alavama," and "spaghetti" sounded like "bisketti." She had difficulty learning her colors and how to tie her shoelaces.

She loved books and being read to but had difficulty breaking apart sounds. For example, she could not figure out that if you removed the "k" sound from "cat," it would be "at," or that if you added a "b" sound to "at," it would be "bat." She had trouble understanding that if I said "baseball" and asked her to not say "ball," only "base" would be left.

We had concerns in preschool but were repeatedly told not to worry — that it was just a developmental lag. It wasn't until third grade that we had a definitive diagnosis (because we went outside the school system). This GreatSchools article is a must-read for every parent, "Is It a Reading Disorder or Developmental Lag?"

I also wish I had known about the following websites: Get Ready to Read!,, and Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. by dhfl143

The virtues of early intervention

I have two kids with dyslexia. With the first one, we did not discover his disorder until he was finishing third grade.

Ever since my son was little, he had a speech problem, and only I understood what he said. But when I asked his doctor or other people, they told me that it wasn't unusual, that boys speak later than girls.

When he started first grade, because of behavior issues, we took him to a doctor who [diagnosed him with a] hyperactivity disorder. So we were only treating him for that. By this time his speech had improved, but the way he wrote continued to bother me. He made the letters [correctly], but the stroke was backward or inverted. Also, when we studied spelling, 10 minutes later he would forget the words and mix up the letters.

We live in Nicaragua, so we took him to Costa Rica, where he was diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia. We were finally able to start treating the problem.

With my second boy, it was different. I was more aware of the signs, which were the same at first. He had difficulty pronouncing words, and again only I seemed to understand him. This time we caught everything earlier. He had delayed motor skills and language at age one and a half, as well as a problem with sequencing and numbers. By the end of first grade, we went back to Costa Rica to have him tested.

I can say that children develop so much differently if you can catch dyslexia early. There is far less damage to their self-esteem, and you see better results from the therapy. In both cases the school was not the one to tell me that something was wrong — I trusted my feelings. by Octaviana

Comments from readers

"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:"