Signs of dyslexia (Early Years)

The following indicators may suggest that a child has a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia. Many young children will display these behaviours and make these mistakes. It is the severity of the behaviour and the length of time it persists which give vital clues to identifying a difficulty such as dyslexia.


  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
  • Difficulty paying attention, sitting still, listening to stories
  • Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in letters or words
  • Difficulty learning to sing or recite the alphabet
  • A history of slow speech development
  • Muddles words e.g. cubumber, flutterby
  • Difficulty keeping simple rhythm
  • Finds it hard to carry out two or more instructions at one time, (e.g. put the toys in the box, then put it on the shelf) but is fine if tasks are presented in smaller units
  • Forgets names of friends, teacher, colours etc.
  • Poor auditory discrimination
  • Difficulty cutting, sticking and crayoning in comparison with their peer group
  • Difficulty in dressing, e.g. finds shoelaces and buttons difficult
  • Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball
  • Often trips, bumps into things, and falls over
  • Difficulty hopping or skipping
  • Obvious ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days for no apparent reason.
  • Writing
    • Writing does not reflect oral ability.
    • Has good ideas but cannot get them down on paper.
    • Is reluctant to write. 
    • Confuses similar looking letters and words, e.g. b/d, m/w ‘was’ for ‘saw’.
    • Letter reversals and incorrectly formed letters.
    • Untidy handwriting often with several attempts at words and many crossings out.
    • Poor pencil grip and/or writes slowly.
    • Poorly set out work on the page, e.g does not stay by the margin.
    • Inappropriate spelling for age and general ability, e.g. often spelling the same word differently in one piece of writing, letter omissions/additions/transpositions, bizarre spellings.
    • Writing often does not make sense.


    • Has difficulty in reading text aloud or silently.
    • Reading achievement is below expectation for age group.
    • Confuses letter sequences in words, e.g. says ‘tired’ for ‘tried’.
    • Finds it difficult to blend letters together.
    • Finds it hard to identify syllables in words.
    • Unable to consistently identify familiar words.
    • Little expression or intonation when reading.
    • Poor comprehension of what they have read.
    • Listening comprehension is better than reading comprehension.
    • Finds it hard to identify the most important points from a passage.
    • Reading lacks fluency and sounds stilted.
    • Misses out words when reading, or adds in extra words.


      • Confusion with place value e.g. units, tens, hundreds.
      • Confuses maths symbols, e.g + and x signs.
      • Finds maths word problems hard.
      • Unable to remember sequences by rote such as times tables and number sequences. 


    • Difficulty in learning to tell the time – analogue and digital.
    • Poor time management. 
    • Poor planning and organisational skills.
    • Difficulty with the concepts – yesterday, today, tomorrow
    • Difficulty in remembering what day or month it is.
    • Unable to remember the months of the year or names of the seasons.
    • Difficulty in remembering own telephone number or birthday.

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