Signs of Dyslexia in Young and Elementary School Children

Updated on June 27, 2019
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a disability advocate with many years of experience working in the disability community. She is also a freelance writer.

As a disability advocate and writer who covers disability issues, I have observed that learning disabilities can be difficult to detect in children. Many students struggle with reading, writing, and math at one time or another. When elementary school students struggle in these areas continually over time, however, they may have a learning disability such as dyslexia.

A Definition of Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language-processing disability. Children with dyslexia have symptoms that persist consistently for more than six months, such as having difficulties in reading, writing, and processing and expressing language. Dyslexia may also affect children physically and impede the development of their social skills.


Early signs

Young children with dyslexia tend to be unusually early or late in reaching milestones such as crawling, walking, and talking. They have trouble communicating and relating socially to their peers. Concepts such as the days of the week, the alphabet, colors, shapes, and numbers are difficult for children with dyslexia to grasp. It is also difficult to name people and objects.

They are slow to understand the connection between sounds and letters. Young children will be slow to develop fine motor skills such as holding a pencil correctly, using zippers and buttons, or brushing their teeth.

Dyslexia Symptoms in Elementary School Children

Language Problems
Reading and writing problems
Struggle to understand instructions
Has an unusual pencil grip – could be fistlike, awkward, or tight
Finds letters, words, numbers, sequences, and verbal explanations confusing
Problems in fluently reading age-appropriate material
Is unable to repeat a phrase that has just been said in the proper order
Has difficulty understanding content read silently or aloud
Has difficulty putting thoughts into words, has a tendency to speak in incomplete sentences
Lack of interest and confidence in their reading ability
Mispronounces some words and stutters when stressed
Learning and remembering new words is challenging
Is stuck in details when trying to stay on topic and state a point
Tends to guess unfamiliar words rather than analyzing them correctly
Struggles to speak with correct grammar, a varied vocabulary, and accurate words
Listening and taking notes is challenging
Has difficulty in pronouncing words correctly
Has problems reading and writing words and letters in the right order, and Problems remembering printed words
Frequently stops while speaking or using filler words such as “um”
Difficulty comprehending word problems in math
Has problems in understand rhyming such as in nursery rhymes
Confuses small words such as “to” and “at”
Has difficulty using new words correctly
Spelling rules are hard to master - spelling is inconsistent and phonetic
Struggles to tell the differences between similar words
Words are not consistently spelt correctly
Difficulty understanding idioms, humor, and puns
Problems with proofreading and correcting their work
Has slow or poor memory and recall of facts
Older children struggle to fully develop ideas through writing
Not understanding non-verbal communication cues such as body language, tone of voice, and mood
Older children tend to express ideas in a disorganized way
Struggles to express their feelings
Older children have problems with organizing writing assignments

Physical, Academic, Social/ Emotional and Other Challenges

Physical Complaints

  • Complains of physical problems when they read such as headaches, dizziness, or stomach aches
  • Complains of seeing or feeling non-existent movement when copying, reading, or writing
  • Seems to have vision problems, yet eye exams do not identify what is wrong
  • Is uncoordinated and clumsy in team sports or playing ball
  • Difficulty with fine and or gross motor tasks
  • Prone to motion sickness
  • Prone to ear infections
  • Low or high pain tolerance

Academic problems

  • Has difficulty telling time or managing a schedule
  • Has difficulty with tasks that depend on memorization
  • Has problems remembering facts and numbers
  • Struggles to understand spatial concepts and direction
  • Is not consistent in doing daily tasks
  • Struggles to learn new games or puzzles

Social, emotional, and other challenges

  • Trouble developing and keeping friendships
  • Difficulty keeping a positive social status and fitting into a peer group
  • Struggles to feel confident about getting to know people and their ability to get along with their peers
  • May confuse spatial concepts such as left and right – could be ambidextrous
  • Struggles to count objects and deal with money
  • May be very disorganized or compulsively orderly
  • Extreme behavior such as being too quiet, a troublemaker, or a class clown

The video below shows how dyslexia affects an elementary school child's ability to function in a school environment and the impact it has on academic performance.

Problems Caused by Undiagnosed Dyslexia

When learning disabilities are not caught early, children will suffer when trying to learn at school. Many children with learning disabilities are average or above average intelligence, but they are unable to spell, read, or write at their grade level. It takes twice or three times as long for them to complete their homework. Unfortunately, school administrators may decide that the children are not “bad enough” or “behind enough” to get the specialized help that they need.

For example, children with dyslexia can do well on oral tests, but not so well on written tests. They learn best through:

  • hands-on experience, observation
  • experimentation
  • demonstrations
  • visual aids

Children with dyslexia may be talented in the performing arts such as story-telling, drama, music, sports, sales, designing, engineering, or building things.


Parents, caregivers, and teachers may blame the children for their poor academic performance and label them as careless, immature, lazy, stupid, hyper, or having a behavioral problem. The children may be told that they were not trying hard enough and often seem to be lost in daydreams and lose track of time.

As a result, children with learning disabilities:

  • Have poor self-esteem
  • Think that they are stupid
  • Try to hide and cover up weaknesses
  • Become frustrated and emotional when dealing with reading or tests in school
  • May become victims of bullying

ADHD and Dyslexia

About one-third of children with learning disabilities also have attention deficit disorder (ADHD), which has symptoms such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and impulsiveness.


Taking action

When parents see these symptoms, they should write them down and share the information with a medical professional. Once children have been diagnosed, parents and caregivers can work with school administrators and teachers to ensure that these children's educational needs are met.


Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities Association of America
Learning Disorders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Language-Based Learning Disabilities (Reading, Spelling, and Writing), American Speech-language-Hearing Association
Dyslexia Symptoms, WebMD

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Carola Finch


Submit a Comment
  • roob profile image


    4 years ago from United States

    interesting some of those symptoms are pretty specific!

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    There is a type of learning disability called dyscalculia which is difficulty with math. It is considered a separate type of learning disability than dyslexia.

  • C McNairy Wight 1 profile image

    Carol McNairy Wight 

    4 years ago from Provo, Utah

    Can a person be dyslexic in only one area? I excelled in language arts and am a writer, artist, and musician now. But math and numbers were impossible for me- and still are. I do reverse number sequences. I remember as a child stopping to go over the numbers to be sure I got it right.I never did learn the times tables. I often wish my teachers had just let me soar with the attributes I had , rather than stressing math so much. It didn't help any, anyway.

    Do you think one can have just one area of dyslexia?

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for sharing, no body. There is more awareness of learning disabilities these days, but nearly enough.

  • no body profile image

    Robert E Smith 

    5 years ago from Rochester, New York

    I have never been diagnosed with dyslexia or adhd but I have known about my learning disabilities all my life. My mom and dad never really thought anything was wrong except I didn't work hard enough. I was convinced had I had complete quiet at home I would have done better, but we lived in a small mobile home and there was no such thing as quiet or "my own space." I would watch my brother listen to music in front of the television with his homework in front of him and carry on a conversation with two or three people at the same time. I was messed up in a room with a closed door and just faint voices in the air. I struggled all through school and never got over barely passing grades when I really worked hard. I have always known I was ambidextrous. It was one of the only things I could do that others could not, write with both hands and eat with both hands. So much of your article is me. I keep plugging away at things that challenge me. I write, I keep playing music, I am trying my hand at learning a different language. It takes very much repetition to learn something and then I forget it if I am not rehearsing it every so often. Thank you for this article. I really appreciate it. I will have to watch the video when I have more time. Voted up and interesting and useful. Bob.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 years ago from The Caribbean

    Before all this information was available, children with dyslexia were written off as no-good. Thank you for sharing the symptoms so parents can recognize them and get help as early as possible. Good article, Voted Up!

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks, mylindaelliott. Many people do not realize that about a third of children with learning disorders also have ADHD.

  • mylindaelliott profile image


    5 years ago from Louisiana

    Good article, lots of useful information. People tell me their child only has ADHD all the time. I wonder if they realize it is a co-occurring disorder.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)