Dyslexia can be hard to spot and can remain undiagnosed for years – in fact, one report by Made By Dyslexia suggests as many as 80% of children with it are leaving school undiagnosed.
“Dyslexia is not related to intellectual abilities and so frequently can be missed,” says Dr Jenna Vyas-Lee, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of mental healthcare clinic Kove, who was diagnosed when she was 30 years old.
To mark Dyslexia Awareness Week (2-8th October), Dr Vyas-Lee has walked us through some of the telltale signs of the neurological difference in children.
It’s estimated that one in 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia.
While the therapist notes “there are plenty of people in the world with undiagnosed dyslexia who do just fine”, where the dyslexia is extreme, “it can mean children often grow up feeling not good enough” – and in this instance, diagnosis is important.
“They may have received messages such as ‘you just need to try harder’. There are also many overlapping symptoms with ADHD, and dyslexic people can also struggle with attention and organisation,” she adds.
“They may also need help and interventions to protect their mental health around feelings of low self-esteem.”
Signs of dyslexia in children
One of the biggest telltale signs is that it affects efficient reading, writing and spelling acquisition.
This might look like:
- Reading and writing slowly
- Confusing the order of letters in words
- Confusing letters that look similar (such as “b” and “d”)
- Having poor or inconsistent spelling. For example, they might spell a word several different ways in one piece of writing.
“Underneath these academic symptoms, dyslexic people can struggle to process and remember information they see and hear; making the educational environment challenging and impacting other areas such as organisational skills and concentration,” Dr Vyas-Lee explains.
This might look like:
- Understanding information when told verbally, but struggling with information that’s written down
- Finding it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
- Struggling with planning and organisation
- Struggling with learning to tell the time.
For a more comprehensive list, check out the British Dyslexia Association’s guide to the signs of dyslexia at various ages.
What should I do if I suspect my child has dyslexia?
Your first port of call should be your child’s school, the expert says. Ask their teacher if they’ve noticed anything unusual, look back through school reports and think about if there is any family history of dyslexia.
“School may be able to do the assessment in-house through an allocated specialist teacher or educational psychologist,” she suggests.
But there are also many private providers out there. Her advice is to speak to a few and get a feel for what they offer. “Prices can vary from around £200 to £1500, and this is usually dependent on the types of tests used, the qualification of the assessor, etc,” she explains.
If your child does have dyslexia, they might need extra support in school – but most children can continue going to a mainstream school.
The Dyslexic brain has strengths too
Dr Vyas-Lee is keen to convey that people with dyslexia tend to have strengths that are sometimes overlooked. For example, they can typically excel in other areas such as problem solving, verbal communication and design.
The therapist suggests her late diagnosis didn’t hold her back. In fact, quite the opposite. “I was only diagnosed at 30 years old and overall, I appreciate my late diagnosis; it means I was able to develop skills to compensate ie. how to communicate very effectively,” she says.
“I think my undiagnosed dyslexia has helped me in my career immensely.”