5 Surprising Signs of Dyslexia Every Parent Should Know

Dyslexia Support & Awareness

Millions of people have it. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the world, but many people live with it and go undiagnosed for decades. Estimates suggest dyslexia affects between 5 and 20% of people, but it’s widely misunderstood.

The prevalence of dyslexia and advancements in research mean the world is starting to pay attention. Schools and parents have begun carving a path to help the 1 in 5 children who has dyslexia. Individualized support for dyslexia, along with other learning disabilities, is becoming more normalized.

For teachers, the course of action is clear: structured literacy is the most effective, research-based method to teach reading and writing to children with dyslexia. But the signs and symptoms of dyslexia are still not widely known to parents and classroom teachers, meaning dyslexia may actually be under-diagnosed and even more common than we know.

Surprising Signs of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language difference that involves difficulty identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Dyslexia is not simply reversing letters or confusing “b” for “d.”

What is dyslexia, exactly? Here are the symptoms of dyslexia and some commonly held myths.

If you’ve ever wondered “Does my child have dyslexia?” you’re not alone. Here are some surprising signs of dyslexia to help you determine whether your child might need testing for dyslexia and personalized support to read and write. 

Speech Delay

Children with dyslexia may be delayed in oral language well before they begin struggling with reading and writing. Research has shown that young children with delayed speech may continue having difficulty with language even into adolescence, and on average acquire reading, writing and spelling skills less quickly than peers without a speech delay. If your child is or was delayed in speaking, especially if you have a family history of dyslexia, early intervention to test for dyslexia and implement a literacy strategy can help.

Wondering if your child has a speech delay? Here are the signs it’s time to seek help for your child’s speech.

Exceptional Creativity

Are dyslexic people just innately creative? Not exactly. People with dyslexia learn early to adapt and come up with creative strategies to succeed in a confusing world. A dyslexic child might gravitate toward creative colour coding, diagrams, and mnemonics to solve problems or memorize when faced with a math or language task. Anecdotally, it seems dyslexia is highly prevalent among some of the world’s most successful inventors, artists, musicians and creators. If your child seems to be managing at an age-appropriate level in most areas and is able to solve problems in areas that are not dependent on reading skills, testing for dyslexia may answer your questions.

Confusing Spoken Words

Even into adulthood, people with dyslexia may be more likely to struggle “finding the words” in conversation. They might be more likely to use “um” and other filler language, as well as substituting incorrect words with similar sounds like “volcano” for “tornado” or “motion” for “ocean.” Someone with dyslexia may have well-developed vocabularies and strong listening comprehension skills that make their difficulty learning to read confusing. Often, people with dyslexia have fantastic comprehension of movies, books read aloud, and conversations. If your child can comprehend sophisticated language but struggles to put their thoughts into words themselves, this can be a sign of dyslexia.

Nonsensical Reading Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes while reading, especially children learning the relationship between sounds and lettters, high-frequency words and rules of the complex English language. It’s common, contrary to myth, for children to reverse letters and numbers. It’s also normal to guess words and substitute similar words while reading, particularly if the text is challenging. What may be a sign of dyslexia, however, is consistently substituting completely unrelated words or substituting related words with no phonetic similarity. A young child reading picture books might substitute “puppy” for “dog” in a sentence, aided by the picture but unable to decode the D-O-G. An older child might be unable to decode the letters written and wildly guess a word completely unrelated to the one they are trying to read. These mistakes are part of the reason children with dyslexia also tend to be less comfortable or interested in reading aloud.

Trouble with Fine and Gross Motor Skills

While the assessment and instruction of children with dyslexia is generally agreed upon, the exact nature of the disability is not. In fact, there are four main theories explaining the causes of dyslexia. Traditionally, dyslexia has been understood only as a language deficit. Recent research, however, suggests dyslexia could be part of a brain-based processing difference that might also affect other cerebellum-related tasks. Children with dyslexia seem to be challenged more by gross motor tasks involving balance and posture, which supports the cerebellum theory. It’s also not uncommon for children with dyslexia to exhibit trouble with fine motor skills, such as gripping a pencil and producing written letters. If you feel your child has been a bit behind some motor skill milestones and is also experiencing difficulty with reading, it might be wise to test for dyslexia

Having one or two of these characteristics doesn’t automatically mean your child has dyslexia. If your intuition tells you there’s something more than just “not being interested” in reading, trust your gut. Even if the classroom teacher tells you not to intervene – that your child will catch up — honour your intuition and reach out to someone who understands how reading and writing are learned, and what dyslexia is, and ask some questions. Not to worry! Structured literacy instruction can help your child read and write with confidence so they can follow their dreams.


Tell us below! What was the surprising sign that convinced YOU to have your child tested for dyslexia?


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