If you or your partner is dyslexic, your child has a greater chance of being dyslexic themselves.
This means you may be more aware of any difficulties they have as babies, compared to parents with no experience of dyslexia.
In pre-school children – between three and four years old – those with dyslexia may constantly jumble up phrases e.g. ‘cobbler’s club’ instead of ‘toddler’s club’, they may substitute words e.g. ‘lampshade’ instead of ‘lamppost’, their speech might develop later than expected and they may have difficulty learning common nursery rhymes.
Other indicators that are not linked to their educational and language skills are if they have difficulty getting dressed properly, if they enjoy being read to but show no interest in learning written words, they may have learnt to walk early but did not crawl – these children are known as ‘bottom shufflers’ – and are often accused of not paying attention.
If you spot these common signs in your child, it may not mean that they have dyslexia. One or two signs could just mean that their development is a little slow and they will soon catch up.
However, if they have at least four or more of the signs they could be dyslexic. The difficulty is deciding how to help your child at this stage.
Experts say it is hard to have your child formally assessed at this stage because their educational abilities will not have developed sufficiently.
Tests for dyslexia are compared against ‘average’ reading and writing abilities, but in such young children these skills tend to vary wildly anyway. It is best to wait until they reach school when any specific difficulties they have will become more apparent.
At this age the Dyslexia Institute says you can help your child by keeping up a running commentary on things you are doing to encourage their speech development, naming their toys and getting them to repeat the names back to you, play ‘Simon says’ to develop language and memory and close your eyes and describe to each other what you hear and name those sounds.
The most important thing is to make the activities fun and remember to praise your child when they have remembered or named something correctly.
Primary School age
Educational indicators of dyslexia at this stage include particular difficulty with reading and spelling, putting letters and figures the wrong way round, difficulty remembering times tables or the alphabet, needing to use fingers to make simple calculations and taking longer to complete any written work.
Other signs might be having difficulty tying shoe laces, telling left from right or the order of days of the week and a lack of self confidence. This might surprise you because they may be a bright child in all other ways.
It is at this stage you should think about getting your child assessed for dyslexia so
The ideal age to have your child assessed is at seven years old – by this time any difficulties they have will be easily identifiable compared to the rest of their class.
Kerry Bennett, spokeswoman for the Dyslexia Institute, says, ‘The longer the problem goes undetected the further they may fall behind – not just with their peers, but also in their own potential. The earlier you do it, the more you will be able to help avoid other problems like lack of confidence.’
See our section on getting your child assessed for more information on how to do this and what it will involve.
Age 12 or over
At this stage, hopefully your child will have been assessed for dyslexia and will be receiving the right tuition for their needs.
But if not, they will still have difficulties reading correctly and problems with spelling, find it hard to plan and write essays, get confused using long words and need to have instructions or telephone numbers repeated. They will also have poor confidence and low self-esteem.
However, dyslexics tend to have areas of great strength. The Dyslexia Association says they are often innovative thinkers, intuitive problem solvers, lateral thinkers – they may be great at puzzles – and excellent troubleshooters.
If your child is feeling negative about their dyslexia, remind them that Noel Gallagher from Oasis, pop legend Robbie Williams and clothes designer Tommy Hilfiger are all dyslexic and it hasn’t stopped them!