Indicators of dyslexia

The following indicators of dyslexia are taken from the British Dyslexia Association’s website

Signs of dyslexia (Early Years)

The following indicators may suggest that your child has a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia. Many young children will display these behaviours and make these mistakes. It is the severity of the behaviour and the length of time it persists which give vital clues to identifying a difficulty such as dyslexia.


  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
  • Difficulty paying attention, sitting still, listening to stories
  • Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in letters or words
  • Difficulty learning to sing or recite the alphabet
  • A history of slow speech development
  • Muddles words e.g. cubumber, flutterby
  • Difficulty keeping simple rhythm
  • Finds it hard to carry out two or more instructions at one time, (e.g. put the toys in the box, then put it on the shelf) but is fine if tasks are presented in smaller units
  • Forgets names of friends, teacher, colours etc.
  • Poor auditory discrimination
  • Difficulty cutting, sticking and crayoning in comparison with their peer group
  • Difficulty in dressing, e.g. finds shoelaces and buttons difficult
  • Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball
  • Often trips, bumps into things, and falls over
  • Difficulty hopping or skipping
  • Obvious ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days for no apparent reason

Signs of dyslexia (Primary school age)

General signs to look for are:

  • Speed of processing: slow spoken and/or written language
  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Forgetting words

Written work

  • Poor standard of written work compared with oral ability
  • Produces messy work with many crossings out and words tried several times, e.g. wippe, wype, wiep, wipe
  • Confused by letters which look similar, particularly b/d, p/g, p/q, n/u, m/w
  • Poor pencil grip and poor handwriting with many ‘reversals’ and badly formed letters
  • Spells a word several different ways in one piece of writing
  • Makes anagrams of words, e.g. tired for tried, bread for beard
  • Produces phonetic and bizarre spelling: not age/ability appropriate


  • Slow reading progress
  • Finds it difficult to blend letters together
  • Has difficulty in establishing syllable division or knowing the beginnings and endings of words
  • Unusual pronunciation of words
  • No expression in reading, and poor comprehension
  • Hesitant and laboured reading, especially when reading aloud
  • Misses out words when reading, or adds extra words
  • Fails to recognise familiar words
  • Loses the point of a story being read or written
  • Has difficulty in picking out the most important points from a passage


  • Confusion with place value e.g. units, tens, hundreds
  • Confused by symbols such as + and x signs
  • Difficulty remembering anything in a sequential order, e.g. tables, days of the week, the alphabet


  • Has difficulty learning to tell the time
  • Poor time keeping
  • Poor personal organisation
  • Difficulty remembering what day of the week it is, their birth date, seasons of the year, months of the year
  • Difficulty with concepts – yesterday, today, tomorrow


  • Poor motor skills, leading to weaknesses in speed, control and accuracy of the pencil
  • Limited understanding of non verbal communication
  • Confused by the difference between left and right, up and down, east and west
  • Indeterminate hand preference
  • Performs unevenly from day to day


  • Uses work avoidance tactics, such as sharpening pencils and looking for books
  • Seems ‘dreamy’, does not seem to listen
  • Easily distracted
  • Is the class clown or is disruptive or withdrawn
  • Is excessively tired due to amount of concentration and effort required

A cluster of these indicators alongside areas of ability may suggest dyslexia and further investigation may be required.

Signs of dyslexia (Secondary school age)

Dyslexia is a combination of abilities as well as difficulties. It is the disparity between them that is often the give-away clue. A dyslexic learner, despite certain areas of difficulty, may be orally very able and knowledgeable, creative, artistic, or sporting. Alongside these abilities will be a cluster of difficulties – these will be different for every person.Dyslexia can only be diagnosed through a Diagnostic Assessment. However, there are indicators which can help you to identify a young person who may be dyslexic.

Written work

  • Has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability
  • Has poor handwriting with badly formed letters or has neat handwriting, but writes very slowly
  • Produces badly set out or messy written work, with spellings crossed out several times
  • Spells the same word differently in one piece of work
  • Has difficulty with punctuation and/or grammar
  • Confuses upper and lower case letters
  • Writes a great deal but ‘loses the thread’
  • Writes very little, but to the point
  • Has difficulty taking notes in lessons
  • Has difficulty with organisation of homework
  • Finds tasks difficult to complete on time
  • Appears to know more than they can commit to paper


  • Is hesitant and laboured, especially when reading aloud
  • Omits, repeats or adds extra words
  • Reads at a reasonable rate, but has a low level of comprehension
  • Fails to recognise familiar words
  • Misses a line or repeats the same line twice
  • Loses their place easily/uses a finger or marker to keep the place
  • Has difficulty in pin-pointing the main idea in a passage
  • Has difficulty using dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias


  • Has difficulty remembering tables and/or basic number sets
  • Finds sequencing problematic
  • Confuses signs such as x for +
  • Can think at a high level in mathematics, but needs a calculator for simple calculations
  • Misreads questions that include words
  • Finds mental arithmetic at speed very difficult
  • Finds memorising formulae difficult

Other areas

  • Confuses direction – left/right
  • Has difficulty in learning foreign languages
  • Has indeterminate hand preference
  • Has difficulty in finding the name for an object
  • Has clear difficulties processing information at speed
  • Misunderstands complicated questions
  • Finds holding a list of instructions in memory difficult, although can perform all tasks when told individually


  • Is disorganised or forgetful e.g. over sports equipment, lessons, homework, appointments
  • Is immature and/or clumsy
  • Has difficulty relating to others; is unable to ‘read’ body language
  • Is often in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Is excessively tired, due to the amount of concentration and effort required

A cluster of these indicators alongside areas of ability may point to possible dyslexia and further investigation is recommended.