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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference. It affects the organization in the brain that controls the ability to process the way language is heard, spoken, read, or spelled. Dyslexia can also manifest in difficulties with working memory, attention, and organization.

Dyslexia can be genetic, and ranges on a continuum of mild to severe. It is important to keep in mind that people with dyslexia are not lacking in motivation or intelligence. In fact, they are typically average to above average in intelligence. Furthermore, dyslexia is fairly common. Diagnosis needs to be made by competent psychologists who understand the processing deficits that are linked with the struggles associated with dyslexia.

Characteristics of Dyslexia in Various Areas Related to Reading Instruction

Difficulty with Oral Language

  • late learning to talk
  • difficulty pronouncing words
  • trouble acquiring vocabulary and grammar
  • trouble following directions
  • confusion with concepts
  • difficulty learning the alphabet and rhyming

Reading Challenges

  • trouble learning letters and sounds – poor phonological awareness
  • trouble with reversals and order of letters
  • omits or misreads little words
  • trouble decoding longer words
  • difficulty with oral or silent reading
  • slow reading rate

Difficulty with Written Language

  • trouble putting ideas on paper
  • uncertainty with concepts of right or left
  • handwriting struggles
  • difficulty with organizing written language
  • trouble copying
  • spelling errors
  • trouble applying rules in daily work
  • poor proofreading ability

Other Characteristics of Dyslexia

  • poor sense of time
  • downward trend in test scores
  • inconsistent school work
  • “lazy” syndrome
  • appears inattentive only during academic tasks
  • difficulty putting thoughts into words or finding the right word
  • difficulty with foreign language

In 2014, The Schenck School established the Dyslexia Resource Trust (“DRT”) as a means to broaden the reach and impact of the School and its support of the dyslexic community. DRT facilitates teacher training, supports students and parents, and offers public education about dyslexia. To learn more, click here.

Common Signs and Challenges of Dyslexia

Signs of Dyslexia in Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers

  • May talk later than most children
  • May have difficulty pronouncing words such as busgetti for spaghetti, mawn lower for lawn mower, etc.
  • May be slow to add new vocabulary words
  • May be unable to recall the right word
  • May have difficulty with rhyming
  • May have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name
  • May have trouble interacting with peers
  • May be unable to follow multi-step directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills may develop more slowly than in other children
  • May have difficulty telling and/or retelling a story in the correct sequence
  • Often has difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words

Signs of Dyslexia in Kindergarten through Fourth Grade

  • Has difficulty decoding single words (reading single words in isolation)
  • May be slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • May confuse small words: at – to, said-and, does-goes.
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including:
    - letter reversals – d for b as in dog for bog
    - word reversals – tip for pit
    - inversions – m and w for u and n
    - transpositions – felt and left
    - substitutions – house and home
  • May transpose number sequences and confuse arithmetic signs
  • May have trouble remembering facts
  • May be slow to learn new skills; relies heavily on memorizing without understanding
  • May be impulsive and prone to accidents
  • May have difficulty planning
  • Often uses an awkward pencil grip (fist, thumb hooked over fingers, etc.)
  • May have trouble learning to tell time
  • May have poor fine motor coordination

Signs of Dyslexia in Children in Fifth - Sixth Grade

  • Is usually reading below grade level
  • May reverse letter sequences – soiled for solid, left for felt
  • May be slow to discern and to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other reading and spelling strategies
  • May have difficulty spelling; spells the same word differently on the same page
  • May avoid reading aloud
  • May have trouble with word problems in math
  • May write with difficulty with illegible handwriting; pencil grip is awkward, fist-like or tight
  • May avoid writing
  • May have slow or poor recall of facts
  • May have difficulty with comprehension
  • May have trouble with non-literal language (idioms, jokes, proverbs, slang)
  • May forget to hand in homework or to bring in homework
  • May have difficulty with planning and time management

Signs of Dyslexia in Teenagers (High School and College Graduates but younger students also)

  • May read very slowly with many inaccuracies
  • Continues to spell incorrectly, frequently spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing
  • May procrastinate reading and writing tasks
  • May avoid writing
  • May have trouble summarizing and outlining
  • May have trouble answering open-ended questions on tests
  • May not adjust well to new setting or to change
  • May have difficulties with foreign languages
  • May work slowly
  • May have poor grasp of abstract concepts
  • May pay too little attention to details or focus too much on them
    May misread information
  • May not complete assignments; may complete them and not hand them in
  • May have an inadequate vocabulary
  • May have an inadequate store of knowledge from previous reading
  • May have difficulty with planning and time management

Signs of Dyslexia in Adults

  • May hide their reading problems; many subterfuges
  • May spell poorly; relies on others
  • Avoids writing; may not be able to write
  • Often very competent in oral language
  • Often has good “people” skills
  • Often is spatially talented: engineers, architects, designers, artists, and craftspeople, mathematicians, physicists, physicians, especially surgeons, dentists
  • May be very good at “reading” people (intuitive)
  • In jobs is often working well below their intellectual capacity
  • May have difficulty with planning and organization
  • May have difficulty with time; often too early, late, or forgets appointments.
  • Relies on digital watches; cannot tell time
  • Often entrepreneurs; may have lost one or more businesses they started