Though often overlooked and ignored in schools, dyslexia of some form is, according to some studies and estimates, a sad reality for up to one in five children. If we check the stats for those in special education, though, that number reaches three out of five. To accommodate these pupils, we need to take special care and reinvent our approach to education, class material, homework, and all-around pedagogy. But what are the most common signs of dyslexia, and how can we notice them?
Overview of Dyslexia
Before we go looking for signs, let’s see what dyslexia even is. The answer is not as straightforward as it might first appear since the literature varies, especially in terms of terminology, but we’ll try and give you a general overview of it as it is understood by the general public.
In short, dyslexia is a type of learning disability that entails all sorts of problems with understanding, spelling, and sounding out words. While these and similar issues are often linked with disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it is important to stress that they are not synonymous and only tend to co-occur.
Further, it is important to realize that dyslexic children are not necessarily impaired in any other way. Most of them have perfectly fine motor skills, they are cognitively on par with their peers, and their desire for education is in no way diminished. Dyslexia is, thus, first and foremost, a reading difficulty.
Symptoms of Dyslexia
How does dyslexia manifest itself, then? Like most similar disorders, dyslexia is on a spectrum, so diagnosing will never be homogenous. However, there are several common symptoms that, while not necessarily universal either, are very likely to indicate dyslexia.
Late talking or difficulty learning new words
While late talking is usually not a symptom of any underlying problem, it can point to potential reading difficulties. The problem boils down to impaired phonological awareness and the inability to analyze words as amalgamations of intrinsically linked sound components. Other symptoms unrelated to speech, such as poor motor skills, might indicate other problems that go beyond reading disorders.
While some dyslexic children can recognize sounds, they often have issues arranging them properly. For example, they might switch syllables around or display a tendency for metathesis, that is, sound reversals when spelling or talking (e.g., writing bread as beard).
Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
Another telltale sign of dyslexia is difficulty with learning nursery rhymes. Since nursery rhymes are typically formulaic and mnemonic, any inability to memorize or recognize them can be an indicator of a learning disability.
Slow progress in school
If your child is in school and cannot keep up with the reading pace of his or her peers, professional assistance will certainly be needed, as engaging with the written word is the most common sign of dyslexia.
Primary school pupils with dyslexia typically cannot spell properly. In addition, they might have trouble telling letters apart in general, seeing them as blurred or formless.
Difficulty learning foreign languages
Older children, such as high school grade level students, can also show signs of dyslexia. One of the most easily recognizable ones is difficulty following along in their foreign language classes. Of course, it is important not to mistake one’s inborn distaste for learning foreign languages for learning disorders.
Low self-esteem when faced with language tasks
Young children will often display a lack of confidence when given language tasks. Those can include spelling and reading, but they often include simpler tasks like memorizing the letters of the alphabet, days of the week, or months.
Troubles with literary works
Engaging with literary works can be challenging for many children of school age, but for those with dyslexia, it might pose an even bigger problem. For example, they might have trouble understanding even the more familiar words or summarizing the story.
Troubles with math
Languages and literature are not the only two things that trouble dyslexic children. Math, for example, is another common obstacle, even as early as first grade. However, having trouble with math can point to other disorders, too, such as dyscalculia.
Having a hard time recalling names
Forgetting names happens to all of us, but once it starts recurring and impeding social interaction, it might be a sign of dyslexia.
Tools to help overcome dyslexia
Dealing with reading problems such as dyslexia is hard, but with the help of some assistive technology, even those children with the more severe diagnosis can interact with text and lead productive lives, both in and outside the classroom. We recommend text to speech (TTS) apps.
Speechify is a TTS tool designed first and foremost as a reading assistant for those suffering from dyslexia, so it is the most versatile tool available if you are looking for something you can use both for school and leisure, no matter the reading level your child is at.
For example, Speechify supports dozens of languages, so it’s a great foreign language learning tool. In addition, you can use it to import and narrate e-books if there are no audiobook versions on Audible, so those literary troubles we mentioned will be a thing of the past.
Actually, everything is an audiobook with Speechify. Thanks to its advanced optical character recognition software, you can use it to scan images and turn printed material into audio files. Sounds good? Try it yourself.
NaturalReader is a good Speechify alternative. It’s very accessible and works on all major platforms, but it also features a web client, so you can use it anywhere as long as you have a device with a stable internet connection.
NaturalReader is great for elementary school students reading unfamiliar words as well as foreign language learners looking to get some extra audio input.
If you’re looking for something more professional that will accommodate more children and help them work in unison, you might wanna check out Voicely.
This app is great and features some really realistic-sounding voices as well as a bunch of tunable settings that will help you make your audio files as authentic as you want them to be, with all the pauses, emphases, and other minute details that make human voices recognizable.