Common Signs of Dyslexia and How We Treat Them at AASL

By AASLSeptember 26, 2019

Statistics show that up to 15-20% of the population as a whole may have symptoms of dyslexia and that 90% of all learning disabilities are rooted in dyslexia. These numbers boil down to the truth that dyslexia, often referred to as a “hidden disability,” affects more individuals than one may realize.

What is dyslexia, you might ask? Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability in which people of all ages often experience difficulties with oral and written language skills particularly reading, writing, and pronouncing the sounds in words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives, often impacting a person differently during various life stages. Many strides are being made in research on dyslexia. We pride ourselves in staying on the cutting edge of dyslexia therapy and we’re honored to empower our students with dyslexia to tackle this learning difference head on to achieve success in all settings, becoming the happiest and most successful versions of themselves!

If you’re concerned that your child may have dyslexia, here are some common signs of the disorder in early childhood and the approaches we use to promote and expedite progress in our therapy sessions. We strive to teach in the way we know these amazing students learn best!

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschool

The following difficulties may be an indication of dyslexia in pre-school aged children. While a formal diagnosis is most often made once the school-age years begin (i.e. age 7/8) by an educational or neuro-psychologist, recognizing any difficulties with learning early on can allow for support that much earlier with foundational language and pre-reading skills. If you’re noticing any of these signs, you can always seek support from a speech-language pathologist to look closer at what may be going on.

  • May have a hard time following multi-step instructions or routines
  • Began to speak later than most children or has not progressed as quickly as others in speech development
  • May have difficulty pronouncing words and may switch letters, for example, saying “aminals” instead of “animals”
  • May be slow to learn and use new vocabulary words
  • May have a hard time rhyming words
  • May be slow to master the alphabet, days of week, numbers, shapes, colors, and may be slow learning how to spell or write his or her name
  • May have difficulty recalling the correct words when speaking
  • Fine motor skills could develop more slowly than in other kids
  • May tell or re-tell stories out of sequence and may have trouble remembering stories in the correct plot sequence
  • Often has difficulty blending sounds together to make words

Common signs: Kindergarten through fourth grade

In kindergarten through fourth grade, it can be a bit easier to pick out signs of dyslexia, since children tend to be challenged more in school than they are at daycare or at home. Here are some signs of dyslexia in elementary school.

  • May take longer than other children to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Finds it difficult to read single words in isolation
  • May confuse and switch small words – (i.e. confuse at with to, from with for, the with a, etc.)
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors, including the following:
    • Reversing letters – d for b as in, dog for bog
    • Reversing words – tip for pit
    • Inverting letters – m and wu and n
    • Transposing words with letters in the incorrect order – felt and left
    • Substituting a visually similar word instead of the correct one – Writes/reads “rack” when he is supposed to write/read “race
  • May transpose number sequences and confuse mathematical signs (e.g. writing + instead of x or – instead of /)
  • Facts and vocabulary words may be tough to remember
  • May rely heavily on memorizing without understanding and may struggle or be slow to learn new skills
  • May be prone to accidents and may act impulsively  
  • Planning may be difficult and managing time may be hard as well
  • Grips pencils in an awkward way (holding with the fist, or wrapping the thumb over the fingers) when drawing or writing
  • May have difficulty learning to tell time on an analog or digital clock
  • Fine motor coordination may be poor or lagging behind other children’s coordination

If your child is showing signs of dyslexia, the first step is to have him or her tested. If he or she has dyslexia, there are plenty of methods we use here at AASL that are individually tailored to each client’s specific needs.

Dyslexia Treatment Methods Used at AASL

Explicit and Multi-Sensory

Explicit instruction is the direct teaching of concepts which includes plenty of student-teacher interactive learning to ensure that concepts are understood and learned effectively. Multisensory instruction is a way of teaching that engages more than one sense. The engagement of multiple senses helps children process the information they learn to remember it more easily. For kids who have trouble with reading, it’s important to use sight, hearing, movement, and touch which can enhance memory and increase learning.

Here are a few of many possible examples of multisensory techniques that we can use in therapy to help your child:

  • Pulling in visuals/background stories to learn reading concepts/rules as often as possible
  • Not just hearing sounds but focusing on how they are made and how they feel on our mouth too to give insight into sounds/letters
  • Writing in sand or shaving cream – This helps children feel the motion of forming the letter shapes
  • Textured letters – Using textured material to make letters helps children feel the shapes of the letters and better distinguish them from the background
  • Tile or magnetic letters – Great for building words

Systematic and Cumulative Reading Instruction

Systematic and cumulative reading instruction enables children to progress in their reading in a way that follows natural language progression. They will start learning sounds, then progress to words, then to sentences and, finally, to stories. Reading rules are taught in a sequential, developmental order. As students progress through more and more challenging concepts and stages of language development, each new skill or concept builds on the previous concept they learned. This is where the cumulative nature of our techniques come into play.

Intensive Reading Instruction

Intensive reading instruction includes time for explicit and direct instruction in each of the components of reading and language development. For instance, in a one-hour session, a certain block of time would be dedicated to vocabulary, drill with new rules, sight words, fluency, comprehension, and any other areas the child is struggling with. This would be paired with frequent sessions to ensure the child is having repeated exposure to learned concepts to keep his/her progress moving forward. Intensive and frequent sessions are key to learning and building upon more basic concepts to progress to advanced concepts.

A “Decoding” Focus with a Balanced Reading Diet

At AASL, we place a large emphasis on decoding while at the same time believe in having a well-rounded reading diet. We work through teaching early-developing concepts to later-developing concepts systematically. We expose kids to the application of reading patterns and sight words early on in not just words but also within short sentences and appropriately leveled books. Concepts can’t only be taught in isolation, they must be integrated functionally and taught in context. We focus on teaching the following skills below:

  • Phonemic/Phonological awareness – Learning the sounds that create words, rather than the letters that make up words
  • Phonics – The relationship between letters and the sounds they make, as well as complex sounds that letter combinations create
  • Decoding – Applying developmental reading concepts and patterns quickly and accurately within syllables and words
  • Vocabulary – Learning new words (either through learning their definitions or using context cues) and adding to sight word vocabularies, too
  • Fluency – Learning how to read both out loud and silently, and also to read quickly and easily enough without sacrificing comprehension. A reader must read with appropriate pace (rate) and accuracy to be a proficient/fluent reader
  • Reading comprehension – The ability to understand what is being read out loud or silently


Last but not least, at AASL, we use evidence-based approaches to literacy training. Our therapists are specially trained in a variety of evidence based multi-sensory reading methodologies, which are backed by science and are proven effective. Some of the approaches we use are:

  • Orton-Gillingham Approach – A multi-sensory approach to teaching the connection between sounds and letters and progressing from basic concepts to advanced rules and patterns
  • The Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program – Is a comprehensive multisensory program that uses explicit, systematic instruction to develop phonological awareness, decoding, spelling, and reading skills in children. The goal of LiPS is to develop reading and spelling fluency.
  • Seeing Stars – This program teaches symbol imagery for phonological and orthographic processing in reading and spelling. (Orthographic processing is the ability to see and recognize letters and storing/recalling written forms.)
  • Lively Letters Program – A research-based program that has been clinically proven to dramatically improve letter/sound associations, phonemic awareness, and phonics skills for reading and spelling

Call us today~ we would be happy to answer any questions you may have about your child’s development. While dyslexia isn’t something that goes away but rather it is lifelong, we do know that early intervention and accommodations can allow individuals with dyslexia to be highly successful students and adults. We pride ourselves in our methods of instruction and support and welcome the opportunity to support your child on their reading journey!


DISCLAIMER: Information published about one particular disorder does not necessarily apply to every individual who has the disorder discussed in this article. Treatments and therapies are highly individual and must be customized to the needs of each person to be effective. Do not make changes to your/your child’s treatment plan as a result of what you read in this article (or any content published by AASL) without consulting your/your child’s physicians and therapists. This content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of All About Speech and Language or its therapists. To understand the opinions and recommendations of your/your child’s AASL therapist, schedule an appointment with your therapist to discuss your concerns.

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