7 Signs Most Doctors Miss that Reveal Your Young Child Has Dyslexia

Guest Post by Dr. Eugenia Krimmel

Dr. Krimmel is a mother of a son who was diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD. Dr. Krimmel has also taught in classrooms for over 23  years.

What are the signs that my child, a struggling reader, has dyslexia? According to both education and medical researchers, there are characteristics of dyslexics at preschool age. One researcher, Priscilla Vail, wrote a concise book called About Dyslexia: Unraveling the Myths that shows dyslexia through ages and stages of life. Reading this book helped me as a parent of a dyslexic to understand the signs that I missed in my son’s early school years.

The early signs of dyslexia can be overlooked because doctors and teachers claim the child will “outgrow” the struggles and develop reading skills in their own unique time. However, dyslexia researchers have discovered that early reading interventions give all children, especially dyslexics, the best chance at academic success. As a medical doctor, Sally Shaywitz, studies brain images of dyslexic and non-dyslexic readers in her book, Overcoming Dyslexia. She points out that speaking and reading are both problematic for dyslexics, but because humans are wired for listening and speaking, we often find very intelligent people who struggle to make sense of written symbols. Knowing that dyslexics show differences in both reading and speaking, we can look for the signs of it in children as young as 4 years old.

Signs to look for in your young child are:

  1. Trouble with concepts of time. Although this may be developmental to a degree, time concepts are expressed in unusual ways. For example, when my son was 5 or 6 or even 9, he would talk about anything in the past as “when I was 4”. That could have been last week or years ago. A 10-year-old neighbor boy has been saying “It is 11 hundred of the clock” since he was three.
  2. Unable to follow 2 or 3-step directions. Sequencing processes into first, second, then, next… do not register with dyslexics frequently.
  3. Reversal of syllables and phonemes (letter sounds) within a word. The cute words all children make up as they learn the language can indicate dyslexia. For example, “flutter-bye for butterfly, magaruffin for ragamuffin, or bamhurger for hamburger” can be a sign.
  4. Unable to recognize or produce rhymes. I used to play the rhyming game in the car as we drove to preschool each morning. I would say “cat” and my dyslexic son would say “tiger” and when I asked if those words rhymed he said he did not know.
  5. Cannot sequence rote memory concepts such as days of the week, months of the year, alphabet, and numbers. My son will say, “ I’ll give three reasons to buy that thing, Mom, one- you like it, three – it is not expensive, and two – it is pretty”. In preschool he, like many dyslexics, could not tell you what letter went after “a”.
  6. Trouble recognizing letters in words or even in their names. As they are first being exposed to the alphabet in any formal way in preschool, it is all new to them, but most children will recognize their name’s letters by age 4, and possibly more letters than that. A dyslexic may only know the letters in his/her name or none at all.
  7. Handwriting is new to children in this young age, but the way they hold their pencil may indicate dyslexia. One researcher noted a young dyslexic held a pencil like an ice pick. My son gripped all pencils at the very tip in order to control it better, but he could not write well because his fingers got in the way.

If you see these difficulties in your child, early interventions, strategies, and reading programs that include the Orton-Gillingham method will better address the needs of your dyslexic reader. Research shows that good readers use both left and right sides of the brain when reading; the left for decoding, and the right for comprehension, word association, etc. Dyslexics use primarily the right brain when reading and do not pull the necessary skill sets from the left to complete the reading task. The Orton-Gillingham method develops the left brain functions through intensive rote memory activities, rules, and multi-sensory means like word marking.

Your active, cute, brilliant child may have the gift of dyslexia if all or most of these signs appear. He or she will struggle to read, but with programs designed to meet his or her needs, reading will be less of a mystery and their other talents will emerge to the delight of all.

A reading program like Reading Horizons that includes the word markings to indicate syllable stress, long or short vowels, and silent letters effectively train the dyslexic mind for faster decoding. This leads to comprehension because often times the dyslexic have a large auditory vocabulary.


About Angela Stevens

Angela is the Marketing Manager at Reading Horizons. She has been with the company since September 2009 and through her time with the company has gained a passion for literacy. When she is not promoting literacy she enjoys reading, boating, playing cards, and trying anything new that presents itself.

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10 Responses

  1. Robin says:

    For my child and all the severe dyslexics I know, the Lindamood bell Phonemic Sequencing methodology (LiPS) is extrememly effective for decoding. I have know kids that needed LiPS before they could succeed in Orton Gillingham.

  2. Bob Rose says:

    If dyslexia is truly a “neurobiological” condition, then it should be incurable, and symptoms should persist after remediation.

    But many tutors claim they can teach any “dyslexic” to read, and fMRI scans on “dyslexics” return to “normal” after these children learn to read.

    Time should tell if this is a real condition or not.

  3. Jen Clementi says:

    As a reading disability that is neurobiological in origin, it won’t be cured, but students with dyslexia can learn to read. The deficits they exhibit, in phonological awareness (rhyming, manipulation of sounds within words etc) and rapid naming (how quickly the student can place a name to a symbol such as letters or numbers) will always remain deficits, but with direct, explicit and systematic instruction in a phonics based program such as Wilson, these students read successfully and give the appearance of being “cured.” As a reading specialist, I found a little girl to be dyslexic in March of her first grade year. Sadly, she had already given up hope to learn to read, as did her mother. With intensive instruction with a research based program, that student reached grade level by March of her second grade year – we were all in tears at her annual IEP meeting! Her mother thanked me for “curing” her and asked how to stop her IEP. This would have been a huge mistake. I explained to the team that while she is currently on grade level, if she doesn’t continue to receive services as she had been, she would struggle to keep up that pace. Through the next few years that student will need to learn to read in a way that not all kids need, she will in turn learn the structure of language and why letter combinations make the sounds they do and how to attack words with more syllable types. While many children are able to pick this up with some instruction in the classroom and exposure and repetition, students with dyslexia cannot. They need to know the rules and armed with such they will succeed.

  4. Ellen says:

    Bob, I don’t think there is any doubt this condition is “real”. Just like with stroke patients, many can actually change the way the brain processes…and become successful readers. Some may need support their whole life-even after reading “on grade level.”.
    I think the definition of “dyslexia” is too misunderstood. Some kids have problems learning different things…as a special Ed teacher , I could get all kids to grade level in reading, (the kids were defined as learning disabled-”normal IQ; not mentally handicapped, I.e. low IQ).
    Some kids needed continuous support or extra time, others probably needed special instruction to get started, but then were ok (cured).
    I never was as successful in math or writing, though some learned to write well and always struggled with spelling
    My point is that specially designed instruction can help kids learn to read, early intervention is crucial, and it’s the teaching methods that need to be refined in order to help these kids be successful in all areas.
    (And in order to manage the debate on the IQ issue, I had great succession raising the IQ of students who had limited experiences outside of school that provided them with the background knowledge and thinking models that are expected in schools-I.e. kids from generational poverty and refugees from war torn countries).

  5. The most common misperception among people outside the industry is that dyslexia or any number of other learning disabilities is that it is a “disease”–dyslexics are not diseased, and the remedial supports they receive help them access knowledge by using different parts of the brain.
    Another early warning sign or symptom has to do with the actual production of the sounds of language. Individuals with phonological processing disorders are often very difficult to understand when speaking, and it is not limited to saying things like “pasgetti” for “spaghetti”. As a result of constantly hearing “what did you say?” these kids often become very quiet.

  6. brandi says:

    I want to thank all of you for the words of wisdom. I just found out a year ago that my son is dyslexic. I have struggled with how to cope with it but as a started reading this post, I have learner more about it and somethings that will not only help him but me too. So I thank you again.

  7. Christine McNulty says:

    Try teaching reading and writing through Latin. Unlike most living languages, Latin is phonically regular. It is a dead language because, like Classical Greek, it was a literary tool, primarily. Spoken languages cannot be phonically regular; they change with use. You don’t have to understand Latin to use it to teach decoding skills and writing. Once these are automatised, you can move easily to teaching reading and writing in a spoken language. Dyslexia is the product of bad teaching; it is not the same as mental deficiency. Mona McNee (Step up and Read) taught her Downs Syndrome son to read fluently. For more information, you can contact me at

  8. Mandi J. says:

    I have been wondering about my 4 year son, adopted internationally last year. He has challenges with things both in pronunciation and memory and multistep instruction processing and letters in general that could all be developmental or something more. This article was very helpful in ruling out many things and enlightening me on others. Thank you.

  9. Lewis says:

    I was diagnosed some 4 years ago at the age of 33. I never realised i had a real problem and just accepted my flaws, working around them, subsituting certain words in order to write or say things correctly. Some copping mechanisms are created bt the individual, however ceratain ones, such as reading and writting may have to be demonstrated.
    For me, personally i tend to predict what i’m reading. At school i had to read fast, faster then i could possibly understand what i was reading. On some of the longer words i would only read the first half of a word and predict the rest. I also get what i call visual stutters, where some words can take a few seconds to sink in. These are often very familiar words, it’s just my brain saying “i’ll teach you to take me for granted”
    A problem with the one size fits all method of teaching is that for some they will look and feel great. For some of us though, we will realise that we don’t appear to look to great and maybe give up and frow it away, accept it, or for some lucky ones, demand a replacement.

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