Watch out for these red flags to help identify dyslexia

We need to be aware at every grade level to understand when intervention is needed

Children cannot grow out of dyslexia. Rather, the dyslexia will only have more severe consequences over time with lack of intervention. It is critical to keep an eye out for all possible red flags at every grade level to understand when intervention is needed. In their recent edWebinar, Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Ed.D., and Tracy Block-Zaretsky, co-founders of the Dyslexia Training Institute, reviewed the potential warning signs of dyslexia.

There is no definitive list of symptoms for dyslexia, Sandman-Hurley explained. Every individual is completely different, so educators must figure out each student’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, depending on the severity of the symptoms, it’s possible that they could show up at different ages, which is why it’s critical to watch for these red flags throughout all grade levels. There is also a misconception that students cannot be screened for dyslexia until as late as second or third grade. In fact, early screening, if possible, is key.

Preschool- and kindergarten-level red flags
These may include:

  • difficulty learning nursery rhymes or recognizing rhyming patterns
  • lack of interest in learning to read
  • difficulty remembering the names of letters in the student’s own name or learning to spell or write their own name
  • difficulty reciting the alphabet
  • misreading or omitting smaller words
  • stumbling through longer words

Educators should keep in mind that letter reversal, as well as playing with sounds and making up words are still normal at these young ages (for the latter, it’s when they’re not doing this that could be a problem). There are also some comorbid conditions that could indicate dyslexia, such as rapid naming deficit, dysgraphia, and executive function or auditory-processing deficit.

Elementary-level red flags
These may include:

  • reversing letters or the order of letters (after first grade)
  • spelling phonetically
  • having accurate beginning and ending sounds but misspelling the word
  • not using words in writing that they would use in oral language
  • disorganized writing, such as a lack of grammar, punctuation, or capitalization. These students may also have dysgraphia.

Educators must identify needs and provide appropriate accommodations, which become even more important as the grade levels progress. Block-Zaretsky noted, “Accommodations do not replace remediation—we need to still do remediation. Remediation does not replace accommodations; some students may need accommodations throughout school, even after they’re had effective instruction.” Accommodations level the playing field, but do not provide an advantage.

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