Symptoms of Dyslexia Across Age Groups: 101 Best Guide

Dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disorder 1whose early symptoms can be observed in children as young as 3 or even younger. The symptoms of dyslexia also become very prevalent and evident over time.  Dyslexia is carried through genes and can be further developed and affected by some environmental risk factors. 2

1. Causes of Developing Dyslexia

children studying in classroom
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Several reasons cause Dyslexia; here are a few common causes of the same.

  • A family history of learning difficulties or disabilities, such as dyslexia, is hereditary in nature.

  • Exposure to nicotine (through smoking or other ways), drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy affects the developing brain of the fetus.

  • Due to premature birth. 

  • Reliance on one specific region of the brain for processing, which happens due to improper brain development

2. Symptoms of Dyslexia 

What are the Symptoms of Dyslexia?

Symptoms of dyslexia 3though easily identifiable can be ignored in the early stages in children, as symptoms of dyslexia can be mistaken for early stages of learning difficulty that any child usually faces. Hence, the symptoms go unnoticed until the child reaches a stage where good learning ought to have developed but hasn’t been developed thus far.

The symptoms also vary in different stages and age groups; thus, careful attention to age must be paid to identifying or treating dyslexia. Here are some symptoms of dyslexia that vary across ages:

3. Symptoms of Dyslexia for Children Under 5

3.1. Mixing up Letters or Numbers

Symptoms of Dyslexia
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A child may mix similar-looking letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ while pronouncing or reading words. Or even confused between numbers such as 7, 5, and 9. For example, A child may say, “I was living on the board” instead of “I was diving in the board.”This was initially assumed to be a visual processing difficulty, but it has been proved to be a phonological deficiency through varied research.

3.2. Difficulty Learning New Vocabulary

Children might find it hard to learn new words. This can be easily neglected as children as young as 5 or under often have difficulty learning a new word as they are in the early stages of learning. So parents often neglect it by assuming it will be treated with time.

3.3. Difficulty Pronouncing Certain Alphabetic Sounds

The child might not be able to produce sounds such as ‘fa,’ ‘swo’, etc. This, too, can be mistaken as an early stage of learning. 

Therefore, it becomes hard to diagnose children with dyslexia as there are high chances of misdiagnosis during this stage.

4. Symptoms of Dyslexia in Children Aged 5-13

In addition to the previously mentioned symptoms of dyslexia, one might find these too. 

4.1. Difficulty Using Tools

Children at this stage might find it hard to adapt to basic skills such as using a pencil or pen or perhaps even sharpening.

4.2. Lower Recall Rates

educational doodles yellow background
Image by Chen from Pixabay

This is a very prevalent symptom of dyslexia.4 Children might find it hard to recall simple facts or math formulas even after a short period of time. 

4.3. Trouble Locating Direction

A child with dyslexia may find it hard to follow directions. It might often get confused with left and right. Furthermore, the child might also find it hard to retrace a path or even follow a sequence of directions.

5. General Symptoms of Dyslexia

5.1. Slower Reading Speed

classroom storytime teacher reading
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The person finds it challenging to put letters and words together. This also makes the person conscious of making mistakes; hence hesitance dives in, thereby hindering the reading process.

5.2. Confusing Letters or Mirror Writing

As mentioned earlier in the article, confusing similar-looking letters is a common trouble. However, one might also end up mirror writing the letters or numbers, such as writing ‘q’ for ‘p’. This is, however rarely found in people with dyslexia.

5.3. Low Recall Rates

A person might not remember letters, words, signs, and symbols that they learned just a few hours ago. They also don’t hold the visual memory of the word they just saw.

5.4. Extremely Slow Written Output

It might be hard for people with dyslexia to write as well. They still hold the ability to write, but much slower as they find it hard to put letters together or even decipher what they have written. Furthermore, they might also find it hard to copy a portion of words, like decoding and mirror writing all come in the way of their standard functioning. 

6. Diagnosis of Dyslexia

To be diagnosed with Dyslexia or any other mental disorder, a person must first meet a particular set of criteria. For dyslexia, a person must have at least one of the following symptoms for at least six months despite receiving constant help to rectify it. 

  • Difficulty reading

  • Trouble with spellings

  • Trouble understanding the meaning of what is read or written

  • Trouble deciphering and understanding facts, numbers, and, or calculations

  • Difficulties with written language expressions such as punctuation or other grammar in general

  • Inability to understand math concepts

According to DSM-5, there are a few other criteria that one can potentially meet that confirm the presence of Dyslexia in someone.

6.1. Low Academic Performance

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A child performing much lesser than other children in a similar age group. Every age has its own milestone of development.  A child delaying or unable to achieve that milestone must also be considered while analyzing the symptoms of the child.

6.2. Understanding the Child’s Environment

One must also be careful enough to understand the child’s environment. One must analyze whether or not the child’s underperformance in academics is due to other potential underlying disorders or difficulties such as visual or audial problems, other neurological conditions, and inappropriate educational institutes.

6.3. When Is a Child said To have Dyslexia?

children classroom learning activity
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If a child doesn’t meet the criteria for any other similar disorders, only then will the psychiatrist or expert diagnose a child or an individual, for that matter, with the disorder of dyslexia. 

6.4. Knowledge about Dyslexia Symptoms will Help

Any symptoms that disrupt the normal functioning of life must be given immediate attention. The symptoms of dyslexia might be confusing to the layperson. However, knowing about them will help us perform preliminary analyses that will help us reach medical advice much earlier than one without any knowledge of the symptoms of dyslexia will.

6.5. The Extent of Dyslexia

colorful alphabet letters unsplash
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The symptoms of dyslexia could be mild, severe, or moderate. If the symptoms are mild, then early intervention and adequate, appropriate help can help the child manage to learn. 

6.6. Dyslexia Can Be Co-Morbid With Other Mental Disorders

Also, note that Dyslexia can potentially be co-morbid with other mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. All of these can and should be treated to ease their functioning. 

7. Intelligence and Dyslexia

Individuals with dyslexia are still intelligent. They could also be exceptional in specific art forms or other skills. They are individuals who experience similar emotions as any of us would. They only hold problems in learning, but again this also doesn’t mean that people with dyslexia can never learn at all. They might know a lot of things but might become anxious in written tests, due to which they might end up underperforming.

Symptoms of Dyslexia
Johnhain. Pixabay. Copyright 2022.

Therefore,  as individuals on the privileged side of health, we need to put in efforts to make them feel included in social settings and help them live a better life. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) under federal law, individuals with specific learning disorders5 are eligible for special learning educational services. Several schools and institutes have already been established to help students with learning disorders learn. These service places understand the sensitivity and vulnerability of their students and provide the individuals with the right learning environment. 

8. Treatment for Dyslexia

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There is no one established way through which people with dyslexia can be treated. Identifying symptoms of dyslexia at an early stage and treating it earlier might help individuals enhance skills that can compromise the lack of ability they currently hold. 

Dyslexia is a disorder that cannot be cured or prevented but can only be managed. Special instructions, training, and supervision from experts can help people with dyslexia improve their symptoms. Most training given to people with dyslexia or other learning disorders, for that matter, emphasizes phonological awareness, fluency, decoding, and comprehension.  

Furthermore, there are no specific medications approved by the FDA for people with learning disorders. Nevertheless, individuals can be treated for other co-morbid disorders such as anxiety and depression.  

9. Conclusion

Dyslexia is a complex neurological condition that affects an individual’s ability to read, write, and spell, despite having average or above-average intelligence and receiving adequate instruction. The symptoms of dyslexia can vary from person to person.

Though dyslexia, a hereditary neurological learning disorder has no cure, one can still develop sufficient skills to cope with the disorder. This can be done if the symptoms of dyslexia are identified at the earliest and immediate professional medical intervention is provided. Furthermore, since the symptoms of dyslexia can be misunderstood for early learning milestones in a child, one must always involve a professional medical expert for better investigation.

It’s crucial to identify dyslexia early in a child’s development to provide appropriate interventions and support. Early intervention can significantly improve reading and academic outcomes for individuals with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but with the right support and strategies, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms effectively and achieve success in academics and other areas of life.

 It’s important to note that individuals with dyslexia often have unique strengths and talents, such as creativity, problem-solving abilities, and out-of-the-box thinking. These strengths should be recognized and nurtured.


1. Do dyslexic individuals always reverse letters and numbers?

A. While letter and number reversals are common misconceptions associated with dyslexia, they are not a defining characteristic. Dyslexia involves a broader range of difficulties related to reading and language processing.

2. Is dyslexia a lifelong condition?

A. Yes, dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but with appropriate support and interventions, individuals with dyslexia can learn to manage their symptoms effectively and achieve success in various areas of life.

3. Can adults have dyslexia too?

A. Absolutely. Dyslexia is not limited to children and can persist into adulthood. In fact, many adults may not have been diagnosed during childhood and only discover their dyslexia later in life.

Read more

  1. Duane, Drake D. “Neurobiological correlates of learning disorders.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 28.3 (1989): 314-318. ↩︎
  2. Brown, Rebecca C., Alan H. Lockwood, and Babasaheb R. Sonawane. “Neurodegenerative diseases: an overview of environmental risk factors.” Environmental health perspectives 113.9 (2005): 1250-1256. ↩︎
  3. Novita, Shally. “Secondary symptoms of dyslexia: A comparison of self-esteem and anxiety profiles of children with and without dyslexia.” European journal of special needs education 31.2 (2016): 279-288. ↩︎
  4. Wajuihian, S. O., and K. S. Naidoo. “Dyslexia: an overview.” African Vision and Eye Health 70.2 (2011): 89-98. ↩︎
  5. Moll, Kristina, et al. “Specific learning disorder: Prevalence and gender differences.” PLoS one 9.7 (2014): e103537. ↩︎

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R Shishma Jeevitha

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