What Does Dyslexia Look Like?

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Common Characteristics of dyslexia

Some exhibit only a few characteristics, others struggle with almost all of them, and in varying degrees.


  • Delayed speech
  • Confusion of left versus right / late establishing dominant hand
  • Difficulty learning to tie shoes
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Trouble memorizing address, phone #, or the alphabet
  • Can't create words that rhyme
  • A close relative who has dyslexia

Elementary school

  • Weak phonological awareness (the ability to notice, think about, and work with individual sounds in spoken words)
  • Slow, choppy, inaccurate reading
    • Guesses words based on shape or context
    • Skips or misreads small words
    • Ignores suffixes
    • Difficulty with sounding out unknown words
    • Mixing up sounds or syllables in long word
    • Can't remember sight words
    • Comprehension is better when text is read to them
  • Slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read (dysgraphia)
    • Difficulty transitioning from print to cursive
    • Letter or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
  • Pour written expression with large discrepancy between verbal skills and writing
    • Terrible spelling
    • Difficulty with punctuation when writing and ignoring punctuation when reading
  • When speaking, difficulty finding the correct word
    • Describing using lots of "whatyamacallits" and "thingamajigs"
    • Common sayings come out slightly twisted
  • Trouble with math
    • Memorizing multiplication facts
    • Sequencing of steps (ie. long multiplication or division)
    • Directionality (right to left  or  left to right)
    • Telling time with analog clocks
  • Dreads going to school
    • Complains of stomach aches and headaches
    • May drop out of high school

High school and above

Education history similar to above, plus:

  • Slow reader
  • Having to read a page 2 or 3 times to understand it
  • Terrible speller
  • Difficulty putting thoughts onto paper
  • Continued difficulties with right versus left
  • Often gets lost, even in a familiar city