Know These Warning Signs for Dyslexia in Early Childhood

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the world, affecting an estimated 20% of learners. Dyslexia is a genetic, brain-based disorder that involves difficulty identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding).

Despite recent advancements in dyslexia research and awareness, many signs and symptoms of dyslexia are still not widely known to parents and classroom teachers.

At What Age Is Dyslexia Usually Diagnosed?

In the past, many dyslexic learners went years or even decades without a diagnosis. Today, the average age of diagnosis for dyslexic learners is around age 5 to 6, when language and reading instruction begins in school.

Because of dyslexia’s effect on a child’s reading, symptoms tend to come into focus when pre-reading curriculum begins in kindergarten or grade 1. Kids with dyslexia can often be identified when it becomes apparent there is a gap between their proficiency with spoken language and comprehension, and their struggle to learn reading and writing skills.

Researchers agree that direct literacy instruction for children with dyslexia should be implemented as early as possible in the child’s reading journey. Knowing the signs of dyslexia in young learners can help you get support for your dyslexic child as soon as you need it. 

Warning Signs of Dyslexia in Early Childhood

Reading is a skill that requires many prerequisites. Long before a child starts learning to identify the written symbols on a page and string sounds together to form meaning, they must have background knowledge of these symbols, sounds and narratives.

Before they struggle with reading, young children may display other warning signs for dyslexia:

  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Forgets the names of things
  • Mixes up words when speaking (e.g., “aminal” for “animal”)
  • Poor pencil grip
  • Difficulty with sequences (e.g. days of the week, alphabet)
  • Struggles to learn nursery rhymes, songs
  • Difficulty with time concepts (e.g., seasons, months of the year, today vs yesterday)
  • Confused by the difference between left and right, up and down
  • Struggles to pay attention, does not seem to listen
  • Forgets routines, struggles with self-organisation 

Children with dyslexia might show emotional strain from the additional effort required by them to learn. They may seem to have “hard” days. Some situations, especially those involving skills with which they’re struggling, may cause them to become withdrawn or upset.

Kids who get diagnosed early can get the support they need to succeed in school and feel better about learning, and themselves.

Which Reading Skills Should My Child Acquire in Kindergarten?

There is a misconception that kindergarten teachers are teaching reading. While some children may learn to read exceptionally early, like 4 or 5 years of age, the goal of kindergarten is not to teach your child to read fluently.

There are three main components of the kindergarten language and literacy curriculum: oral communication, reading and writing. By the end of the senior kindergarten and beginning of first grade, your child’s educational team endeavours to equip them with the following skills.

Oral Communication

  • communicate needs to peers and adults;
  • listen and respond to others in a variety of contexts;
  • follow simple directions and respond appropriately to familiar questions;
  • describe personal experiences and retell familiar stories, using appropriate vocabulary and basic story structure;
  • ask questions, express feelings, and share ideas;
  • use language to connect new experiences with what they already know;
  • listen and respond orally to language patterns in stories and poems;
  • demonstrate awareness of individual sounds and sound patterns in language;
  • use gestures, tone of voice, and other non-verbal means to communicate more effectively.


  • listen to stories, poems and non-fiction materials for enjoyment and information;
  • respond appropriately to a variety of materials read aloud to them;
  • identify favourite books and retell the stories in their own words;
  • demonstrate understanding of a story by making predictions;
  • make connections between their own experiences and those of storybook characters;
  • demonstrate awareness of some conventions of written materials;
  • identify some features of books and other written materials;
  • recognize that words often consist of beginning, middle and final sounds;
  • identify most of the letters of the alphabet and demonstrate understanding that letters represent sounds and that written words convey meaning;
  • use language patterns and sound patterns to identify words and to predict the next word.


  •  write using a variety of tools and media;
  • write simple messages using a combination of pictures, symbols, letters, phonetic spellings, and familiar words;
  • contribute words or sentences to a class narrative that is written down on a chart by the teacher;
  • print most of the letters of the alphabet, their own name and names of family members, and some short words.

Warning Signs of Dyslexia and Reading Struggles in Kindergarten and Grade One

The average child doesn’t learn to read independently until age seven, typically the time they are in grade two. However, there are usually clear indications well before this age that reading is, or isn’t, progressing on an average reading trajectory.

If your child is consistently struggling with pre-reading skills by the end of kindergarten, a specific learning disability like dyslexia may be present. According to the British Dyslexia Association, common early signs of dyslexia include:

    • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes, rhythms, songs or even the alphabet;
    • Showing no interest in letters or words;
    • A history of slow speech development;
    • Muddling words frequently (e.g. cubumber, flutterby);
    • Forgetting names of friends, teacher, colours etc.;
    • Difficulty following instructions, particularly when they require sequencing multiple tasks or following routines;
    • Poor auditory discrimination;
    • Difficulty identifying letter names and sounds;
    • Appearing not to be paying attention and/or having markedly “good” vs “bad” learning days.

By the time your child enters first grade, various pre-reading skills should be in place — letter and sound awareness, rhyming ability, interest in narrative/stories,a growing vocabulary, and basic letter formation and writing, among others.

If you’re concerned about your child’s reading and/or math abilities as they prepare for grade one, or if your grade one child is struggling with the classroom learning objectives, help is at hand.

🆘 Reach out for a complimentary consultation and discover how a Functional Literacy and Math Assessment can uncover crucial missed skills, and learn more about our 1:1 Grade One Readiness instruction, from the comfort of your own home.

How did you discover your child was struggling with early reading? Share your experience below!

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