How dyslexia is diagnosed

Child reading
You think your child may be dyslexic, but how can you really be sure when they’re still quite young? Teacher and parent coach Glynis Kozma gives a few pointers for early identification.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia affects at least one person in ten – that is approximately three in every class of thirty children. The sooner dyslexia is identified, the easier it is to overcome the problems.

Childhood dyslexia is often perceived as the inability to read, but this is a narrow interpretation. Dyslexia affects many aspects of behaviour, including short-term memory, organisation, speech and language, and motor skills.

Scientists are still researching the condition, but it is thought to occur when there is an imbalance in functioning between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, at a neurological level. Dyslexics are born with the condition. In non-dyslexics, the right and left sides of the brain work in harmony, but in dyslexics the right side tends to be more dominant. The left hand side of the brain controls language and speech, whereas the right side of the brain controls our more creative processes. This is probably why many great artists, architects and designers are dyslexic.

Like many conditions, dyslexia is hereditary, and it is found more often in men and boys. It is not linked to intelligence – most dyslexics are average or above-average in intelligence.

Symptoms of dyslexia

Children can show dyslexic tendencies at an early age, long before they begin to read or write. Signs include:

  • pronouncing ‘muddled words' long after they should know them
  • difficulty remembering rhymes
  • late speech development
  • trouble learning the names of everyday objects
  • poor coordination
  • confusion with right and left when putting on shoes, or with directions
  • missing out the crawling stage and going straight from shuffling to walking
  • poor concentration
  • finding it impossible to learn times tables
  • reversing letters or numbers
  • writing words back to front (such as ‘was' for ‘saw')
  • finding reading very hard.

Identifying dyslexia: parents' action plan

Before you panic, remember that children do develop at different stages and nearly all children have initial difficulty with something. But if you are worried, early identification is important as a child's self-esteem suffers the longer they are left struggling. Sadly, very few teachers know a lot about dyslexia. Incredibly, it is not a part of their training.

So if you are worried, what next? The best option is to arrange for your child to have a full educational assessment by an educational psychologist. This assessment should include recommendations that the school should implement, such as some one-to-one support, ideally from a specialised teacher, as well as making lessons more dyslexia-friendly. Many parents seek help outside of school, such as a tutor who is trained in dyslexia, too.

There is no ‘cure' for dyslexia, but with the right sort of teaching and support children can achieve academically and have a happy and successful time at school.

Visit our shop to have a look at The Dyslexia Toolkit for Parents, a comprehensive collection of resources that you can use to help your child.

Dyslexia identification: what you need to know

The video below is one of a series of awareness training films from the global charity Made by Dyslexia, designed to help teachers, educators and parents understand dyslexia and gain essential knowledge on how to recognise and support it.