Does My Upper Elementary Aged Child Have Dyslexia?

Does My Upper Elementary Aged Child Have Dyslexia?

Starting in about third or fourth grade, parents tend to get very suspicious about their child showing signs of dyslexia. This is because up until the end of second grade, children can use compensatory strategies and “hide” their reading struggles from parents and teachers. Especially if your child goes to a school that uses balanced literacy (and most do), your child has been taught disastrous reading strategies like “look at the picture for clues to what the word might be” or “take a guess”. That goes against what science tells us about how the brain learns to read.

However, by the time your child gets to grade three, they are expected to read texts with less pictures, and more multisyllabic words that must be sounded out. If your child does not have that foundational knowledge of decoding, they are likely to struggle.

As a reading practitioner, knowing the possible signs of dyslexia is a prerequisite. While only a psychologist or neurologist can diagnose dyslexia, all of the stakeholders in a child’s life can and should be aware of what to look for.

Sally Shaywitz calls them clues to dyslexia and signs of strengths in higher-level thinking processes.

The fellow that trained me in Orton-Gillingham called them red flags (and green flags).

In any case, there are some general things we can pay attention to if we know what to look for.

If any of these apply to you or your child, consider getting outside assistance from a professional or contact us.

Red Flags: Signs of Dyslexia in an Upper Elementary Child

Speaking Problems

  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words- leaves out parts of words or confuses the parts; for example aluminum comes out as amulium
  • Speech that is not fluent- pausing or hesitating often when speaking; lots of um’s during speech
  • The use of imprecise language, such as vague references to stuff or things instead of the proper names of objects
  • Not being able to find the exact word, such as confusing words that sound alike: saying tornado instead of volcano, substituting lotion for ocean, or humanity for humidity
  • The need for time to summon an oral response or the inability to come up with a verbal response quickly when questioned
  • Difficulty in remembering isolated pieces of verbal information- trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists, difficulty with rote memory; remembers concepts better than facts

Reading Problems

  • Very slow progress in acquiring reading skills
  • The lack of a strategy to read new words
  • Trouble reading unknown (new and unfamiliar) words that must be sounded out; making wild stabs or guesses at reading a word; failure to systematically sound out words
  • The inability to read small function words such as that, in, on
  • Stumbling on reading multisyllabic words, or failure to come close to sounding out the full word
  • Omitting parts of words when reading; failure to decode parts within a word, for example, reading convertible as conible
  • A fear of reading out loud; avoidance of oral reading
  • Oral reading full of substitutions, omissions, and mispronunciations
  • Choppy and labored oral reading; reading that is not smooth or fluent
  • Oral reading that lack inflection and sounds like the reading of a foreign language
  • A reliance on context to discern the meaning of what is read
  • A better ability to understand words in context than to read isolated single words
  • Disproportionately poor performance on multiple-choice tests
  • The inability to finish tests on time
  • The substitution of words with the same meaning for words in the texts, such as car for automobile
  • Disastrous spelling, with words not resembling true spelling; strange spellings that may be missed by spell-check
  • Trouble reading math word problems
  • Reading that is very slow and tiring
  • Homework that never seems to end; parents who are often recruited as readers
  • Messy handwriting despite what may be an excellent facility and word processing- nimble fingers
  • Extreme difficulty learning foreign languages
  • Trouble reading anything but memorized words
  • A lack of enjoyment in reading;
  • The avoidance of reading books or even a sentence
  • Reading accuracy that improves over time, but continues to lack fluency and is laborious
  • Lowered self-esteem, with pain that is not always visible to others
  • A history of reading, spelling, and foreign- language problems in some other family members

Other Clues

  • Difficulty memorizing multiplication tables, impacting math calculations and carrying out basic math operations such as multiplication and division
  • Good understanding of math concepts but a tendency to solve problems mentally without showing on paper how they arrived at the answer
  • Problems with directionality, often getting lost within a building or while walking and later, driving to a destination
  • difficulty in proofing what they have written
  • Poor spelling that overshadows great ideas and imagination

Green Flags: Signs of Strengths In an Upper Elementary Child Who Has Dyslexia:

  • Excellent thinking skills, conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction
  • Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization
  • Ability to get the “big picture”
  • A high level of understanding of what is read to them
  • The ability to read and understand at a high level overlearned (that is, highly practiced) words in a special area of interest: for example, if the hobby is restoring cars, the child may be drawn to and be able to read auto mechanic magazines
  • A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary
  • Excellence in areas not depending on reading- math, computers, visual arts- or excellence in more conceptual (versus factoid-driven) subjects like philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience, creative writing
  • Often, exceptionally empathetic

Sources: Sally Shaywitz Overcoming Dyslexia