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How do I tell if my child has dyslexia?

Updated: Feb 17

Does my child have dyslexia? Many parents find themselves asking this question if they have a child struggling at school. Sometimes it is their classroom teacher who first suggests their child may have dyslexia. So how do parents tell if this is the case and what is the process to diagnose dyslexia?


What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder with impairment in reading. It is the most common form of learning disability and estimates suggest between 5-10% of individuals have it. Children with dyslexia have difficulty reading fluently and sounding out words. They typically read slowly and make frequent errors. This in turn effects how well they understand or comprehend what they are reading. Dyslexia can impact other skills as well including spelling, writing and mathematics.

The International Dyslexia Association (2002) defines it as “a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”.

What are the signs of dyslexia?

In early primary school, years Kindergarten to grade 2, children can present with some of the following characteristics:

  • Delayed speech and language development

  • Limited spoken vocabulary

  • Difficulties with rhyme, syllables, blending and segmenting sounds in words

  • Difficulty identifying letter names

  • Poor understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds

  • Poor word recognition

  • Inability to read nonsense or made up words

  • Difficulty understanding reading material such as books

  • Difficulties following instructions or remembering information

In the later years of primary school, grade 3 and above, children can present with some of the following:

  • Difficulty with literacy related tasks such as spelling, reading and writing

  • Avoidance of reading tasks and/or limited interest in reading

  • Slow and effortful reading

  • Confusing words when reading, particularly when visually similar

  • Difficulties with working memory

  • Difficulty manipulating sounds and isolating sounds in words

  • Poor reading comprehension

  • Difficulty decoding or sounding out words, particularly if unfamiliar to them

In the secondary or high school years, adolescents can present with some, but not all, of the following characteristics:

  • Poor reading fluency

  • Spelling difficulties

  • Limited reading comprehension and needing to re-read material

  • Poor writing fluency and slow speed of writing

  • Trouble structuring writing content such as essays

  • Disorganisation and planning difficulties

  • Working memory issues become more noticeable as academic demands increase

  • General lack of interest in reading and writing tasks

* Source: Auspeld: Understanding Learning Difficulties (2019)

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

A psychologist is able to identify if your child has dyslexia. They will undertake a learning disability assessment and there are guidelines they use when making a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

As part of the assessment process, the psychologist will undertake a clinical review of the child’s developmental, medical, educational, and family history. They will also examine reports and assessments from the child’s school in addition to teacher observations and input. Response to intervention also has to be evaluated and this may include looking at what tutoring or literacy support a child has previously received.

Specific tests are then administered in a one on one setting with the child. An intellectual, or IQ test, is essential to identify areas of cognitive strength and weakness. An assessment of phonological processing is important to see if there are any processing weaknesses, as is quite common with children with learning disorders. Other tests may include a standardised measure of reading, writing and spelling.

Where can I get an assessment for dyslexia?

Butterfly Psychology for Kids offers comprehensive educational and psychological assessments to diagnose Dyslexia. Assessments used include the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V), Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP-2) and Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III).

Obtaining a diagnosis can help you and your child better understand why they are struggling at school. It can also inform what intervention and supports are required so that your child can get the help they need.

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1 Comment

Rohan Gunton
Rohan Gunton
Apr 25, 2021

😀 Great article Vanessa

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