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Frewen College

Frewen College

Early Indicators of Dyslexia

Is my child Dyslexic ....

...... or just a little slow learning to read?

That’s the dilemma facing many concerned parents. It is not helped by confusing statements from the media, and by a serious shortage of early years teachers in mainstream schools trained to recognise dyslexia.


There is a strong genetic element to dyslexia, and it is very probable that at least one parent or grandparent is dyslexic, although possibly never identified as such. So, much of the following may be familiar to you. However, if you have not experienced dyslexia before, it can be quite difficult to identify. It affects everyone slightly differently, and ranges in its impact from mild to very profound. Many dyslexics also have other difficulties such as Dyspraxia, Speech and Language Difficulties, Asperger’s Syndrome, or ADHD, also to varying degrees. Many dyslexics develop coping mechanisms that can mask some aspects of their difficulties. All these things can make dyslexia even harder to diagnose, and make it more problematic to select the best educational solution.  

One very important point to remember is that dyslexics come from right across the intelligence spectrum, and many have considerable strengths. This can further complicate identification, but makes it important to do so if dyslexic children are to achieve their full potential.

The earlier dyslexia can be identified, and appropriate remediation provided, the better the outcome. Although commonly regarded as a difficulty with reading or writing, there are many other symptoms which can help parents to spot dyslexia much earlier. No child is likely to display all the following symptoms, but if you recognise even three or four as being typical of your child, you should seriously consider assessment by an Educational Psychologist.

Many of these indicators are present across a range of Specific Learning Difficulties, most of which we can also help with at Frewen College, and an Educational Psychologist's report will help us to ensure an appropriate level of support for your child's various difficulties. 

So what are the tell-tale signs?

Pre-school signs 

There is a strong genetic element to dyslexia. If there is any family history of dyslexia or reading difficulties you should be on the alert for other warning signs

Problems with speech, for example 

  • Being slow to start talking.
  • When they do talk, having trouble pronouncing M’s and N’s, R’s and L’s.
  • Reversing or mixing up sounds in multi-syllable words (favourites include aminal for animal, hekalopter for helicopter, bisgetti for spaghetti, or famously for President Bush, nucular for nuclear!).
  • Stuttering or other speech problems.
  • Problems with phonemic awareness, that is, differentiating between individual sounds within a word, e.g. cat versus mat.
  • Substituting similar words, mixing up phrases.

Physical symptoms 

  • Trouble with tying shoe laces and getting dressed.       
  • Slow to establish a dominant hand, i.e. right or left handed.
  • A lot of ear infections.
  • May have walked early but did not crawl.
  • Co-ordination problems (excessive tripping, falling over, bumping into things, difficulty catching or kicking a ball).
  • Difficulty clapping a simple rhythm.

Organisational problems 

  • Difficulty with ‘sequencing’, e.g. ‘do this, then do that’, or undertaking any task that involves a sequence of actions, such as handwriting.
  • Extremely untidy bedroom.
  • Often forgetting or losing belongings.

Other developmental problems 

  • Difficulty identifying ‘directional’ opposites such as over/ under, right/ left, before/ after.
  • Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in trying to read the words.
  • Cannot identify simple rhymes.
  • Difficulty learning the names of letters or sounds, or learning the alphabet.
  • Trouble with telling the time by a clock with hands.

Reading and spelling 

Once a dyslexic child does start to learn to read and write, they make types of mistake that are very specific, and readily identified by a professional. These include:
  • Cannot or will not sound out the phonemes, or sounds, in an unknown word.
  • Has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability.
  • Handwriting may be poor, with badly formed letters, many crossings out, or unusually slow.
  • May read a word on one page but not recognise it on the next.
  • May spell the same word in different ways in the same piece of work.
  • Can tire very quickly if reading out loud.
  • Can be hesitant and laboured when reading aloud.
  • Leaves out, repeats or adds extra words, or misses or repeats a line.
  • Can struggle with isolated words, where there is no context to help them.
  • Reading mistakes will often follow similar patterns, e.g. substituting words with the same first and last letters, the same letters in a different order, or the same shape.
  • May fail to recognise words that have previously been OK.
  • Reading comprehension is often much lower than listening comprehension, due to the effort required to read.
  • The problems with directionality will often show through in individual letters, i.e. n/u; p/b/d; m/w
  • Spelling is often much worse than reading, and can include very frequently used words (e.g. does, because, they, there, where).

 If you think a number of the above indicators are familiar and would like to talk to an educational psychologist, we would be happy to send you a list of those we have worked closely with in the past.


  • British Dyslexia Association (BDA)
  • Crested
  • Independent Schools Association
  • The Good Schools Guide
  • Elklan's 'Communication Friendly Schools
  • Boarding Schools Association