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What are the symptoms of dyslexia by age?

Dyslexia is a disorder that interferes with the ability of a individual to learn and employ language skills. Individuals tend to associate dyslexia with reading problems, but with some math problems, as well as with writing and pronouncing terms, people with this condition may also have trouble.

Dyslexia has nothing to do with the intellect or interest in learning that an person has. People with dyslexia may have trouble reading, writing, and spelling though. They may reverse letter forms, for example.

Dyslexia has a range of possible symptoms and not all with the disease can have them all. 15–20 percent of the population show some signs of dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association.

People do not overgrow dyslexia although the symptoms tend to vary according to age. Those with dyslexia will succeed in school and workplace with adequate guidance and support.

Read on to read more about how dyslexia can affect people of different ages.

Babies and preschool

A young child with dyslexia will show signs by age 3
A young child with dyslexia will show signs by age 3

Although most people do not read in preschool, children can experience symptoms of dyslexia at or even earlier than 3 years of age.

All the kids learn to speak at their own speed and in their own way. The early sign of dyslexia may however be a delay in beginning to speak.

Other symptoms of developmental dyslexia include:

  • problems with rhyming
  • not easily recognizing the letters in their name
  • not using the right word for a specific object
  • difficulty with sequences, for example, having problems following directions, telling stories, or reciting the alphabet

Research is under way on the causes of dyslexia. Although researchers have not yet determined exactly what these could be, they believe the condition may be related to how information is processed by the brain.

It also appears dyslexia has a genetic component. Parents who have had difficulty reading and spelling should therefore be paying close attention to the growth of their child.

Elementary school

Dyslexia affects the ability of a person to understand words and to connect them to sounds and context. It usually becomes more apparent in elementary school as a result.

In children aged in primary school, signs of dyslexia may include:

  • confusing letter shapes and sounds
  • making mistakes when reading aloud, such as saying a synonym for the word on the page or skipping prepositions
  • trouble telling left from right
  • problems with spelling
  • difficulty discussing or describing what they have read
  • finding books boring or frustrating
  • having a hard time sounding out new words
  • switching up the sequence of letters in a word

Middle grades

When school work is becoming more difficult in the middle grades, problems with reading and writing can become more evident.

Children with untreated dyslexia are at risk of falling behind their peers even further.

They may have less language learning skills, and their vocabulary may not develop at the same pace as other children. In essay style tests and other assignments for which writing is important, it might be difficult for them to explain what they do know.

Common symptoms of dyslexia that can begin at about the age of 11 include:

  • using words with the right sort of sound but the wrong meaning, for example, using “assimilate” in place of “simulate”
  • poor handwriting
  • low self-esteem due to challenges with academic achievement
  • social isolation

High school and college

One of the most troubling signs of dyslexia for high school or college students is a very slow pace of reading which can make completing assignments on time difficult for them. Particularly challenging can be both the essay and multiple choice assessments.

Students with dyslexia at high school and in college may also:

  • struggle to find the word that they wish to use
  • find it extremely challenging to learn a foreign language
  • be unable to understand wordplay, such as puns
  • have a large listening vocabulary but limited reading or writing word use
  • describe themselves as dumb, or worry about their academic progress, even if they get good grades


The challenges raised by dyslexia can continue in adulthood and the workplace, although at this age they take on different forms. In adults common signs of dyslexia include:

  • trouble understanding the building blocks of spoken communication
  • poor working memory
  • limited ability to process visual information

Adults with dyslexia may also have the following symptoms:

  • difficulty remembering lists and numbers
  • saying “um” and “er” a lot when speaking
  • frequently forgetting names
  • problems with organizing and preparing written work

Seeking help

Some people may find the thought of seeking help daunting for someone with dyslexia. Family members and the people involved themselves may be suspicious of being defined as having a learning disability.

The earlier people get an assessment and diagnosis, however, the better they can start receiving the instruction and help they need to handle their dyslexia.

This assistance should help kids keep up with their peers. It may also put an end to the dyslexia’s negative emotional side effects, such as feeling stupid or lazy with none of these being the case.

The Child Mind Institute notes that multiple reading interventions will help with dyslexia in young people. Techniques that could be helpful to students, parents or carers include:

  • using multiple senses simultaneously to help the individual connect words with sounds
  • showing the person different approaches to help them understand what they are reading
  • strengthening the person’s awareness and ability to work with spoken words
  • finding ways to make reading fun

Other benefits of seeking help include:

  • getting an evaluation
  • working with teachers, schools, and employers to arrange for accommodations and assistance, such as more time to complete tests
  • seeking training from a specialist who has received training in how to help people with dyslexia improve their skills
  • becoming familiar with and starting to use supportive technologies, such as speech-to-text software


Dyslexia is a complex disorder affecting the ability to develop and use language skills, particularly reading and writing skills. It has no relation whatsoever with the intelligence of an human.

Although signs of dyslexia tend to vary by age, the condition can not be outgrowthed. Yet people can learn how to treat dyslexia with guidance and technology.

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