• Characteristics of Dyslexia

    Characteristics of students with dyslexia change over time depending on the grade level and/or state of reading (as described by Jeanne Chall in her book, The Stages of Reading Development) that the individual has reached. The following are some signs of dyslexia at different grade levels.


    At this stage, children are developing the underlying oral language base necessary for learning to read. Signs that indicate possible difficulties with reading acquisition include:

    • delay in talking
    • difficulty with recognizing and producing rhymes
    • difficulty remembering rote information such as letter names (also phone number and address)
    • difficulty remembering and following directions

    Grades 1-3

    At this stage, children are developing basic word recognition skills both through the use of word attack strategies and contextual cues. Students with dyslexia will show some of the following characteristics:

    • difficulties with learning sound/symbol correspondences
    • confusion of visually similar letters (b/d/p, w/m, h/n, f/t)
    • confusion of auditorily similar letters (d/t, b/p, f/v)
    • difficulties remembering basic sight vocabulary
    • problems with segmenting words into individual sounds and blending sounds to form words
    • reading and spelling errors that involve difficulties with sequencing and monitoring sound/symbol correspondence such as reversals of letters (past/pats), omissions (tip/trip), additions (slip/sip), substitutions (rip/rib), and transpositions (stop/pots)
    • omission of grammatical endings in reading and/or writing (-s, -ed, -ing, etc.)
    • difficulty remembering spelling words over time and applying spelling rules

    Grades 4-8

    At this stage, children progressing normally have mastered basic reading skills and are now expected to learn new information form reading. Many students with dyslexia continue to have significant difficulties with developing word recognition skills and therefore have trouble coping with more advanced reading activities necessary to succeed in the upper elementary grades and beyond.

    • significant difficulty reading and spelling multisyllabic words, often omitting entire syllables as well as making single sound errors
    • lack of awareness of word structure (prefixes, roots, suffixes)
    • frequent misreading of common sight words (where, there, what, then, when, etc.)
    • difficulties with reading comprehension and learning new information from text because of underlying word recognition difficulties
    • if underlying oral language problems exist affecting vocabulary knowledge and grammar, difficulties in comprehension of text will occur
    • significant difficulties in writing related to problems in spelling as well as organizing ideas

    High School, College, and Adult

    Students at this stage are expected to analyze and synthesize information in written form as well as acquire factual information. Although many individuals with dyslexia may have compensated for some of their difficulties with reading, others may continue to have problems with automatic word identification.

    • continued difficulties with word recognition which significantly affect acquisition of knowledge and ability to analyze written material
    • slow rate of reading
    • continued difficulties with spelling and written composition
    • difficulty with note taking in class
    • trouble learning a foreign language

    Clinical Characteristics of Dyslexia

    What is the primary deficit associated with dyslexia?

    • Phonological awareness - awareness that words, both written and spoken, can be broken down into smaller units of sound and that the letters constituting the printed word represent the sounds heard in the spoken word.

    What symptoms are the direct result of this deficit in phonological awareness?

    • Inaccurate and inefficient single word recognition
    • Difficulty sounding out (decoding) unfamiliar words
    • Inaccurate spelling

    What are the consequences?

    • Slow and inaccurate text reading
    • Poor reading comprehension
    • Variable difficulty with the symbol code for reading and writing, including:
      • Alphabet letter names
      • Letter-sound associations
      • Letter forms and direction in writing
    • Difficulty with written expression
    • Limited time spent in reading activities

    What other language-related characteristics may be seen?

    • Difficulty finding the correct spoken word or rapidly retrieving names
    • Difficulty repeating and pronouncing words precisely
    • Difficulty with verbal short-term memory

    What attributes may be either a complication or an asset?

    • Oral language
    • Attention
    • Motor coordination
    • Visual-spatial reasoning
    • Mathematics
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