What Are The Earliest Clues for Dyslexia?
You are concerned that your child isn't progressing at school and you suspect that dyslexia may be the reason why, but the teachers aren't convinced. This post aims to help you look for evidence that your child has dyslexia, from the every earliest clues.
Dyslexia is known to run in families, so if a close relation is dyslexic ( or you suspect that they are) or if an older sibling is dyslexic, then you should be looking out for signs at pre-school. You should also tell your child's school so that they are also on alert for any issues.
You may be really surprised that the earliest clues start with spoken language, because dyslexia is a language problem rather than a reading one.
At pre-school, children begin to play around with rhyme in nursery rhymes and begin to come up with their own rhyming words ( made up words as well as real ones - they are just playing with sound at this point). They can usually identify the letters in their own name too.
If your child can't play around with rhyme at this age, then you should start to have some alarm bells ringing. It is known that a child's knowledge of rhyme is one of the first strategies they use for reading and spelling, so if they don't 'get ' this , it can lead onto difficulties in this area.
Around the ages of 5-7, children begin to understand words as syllables and indeed can start to read simple 1 syllable words such as cat. They will also start to compare words and decide if they rhyme or not; they will also produce a rhyme for simple words such as cat.
Your child should also start to name and know the sounds of letters of the alphabet. They should be able to verbally give you the start sounds of words and identify when words have the same start sound. Finally, they should be able to push sounds that they are given together into words eg c - a - t to make cat.
At the older end of this, your child should also be able to take away a sound from a short word such as take away the 'b' sound from 'bat' to leave you with 'at'.
These may seem fairly unrelated to reading, but we know that children have to be able to break up spoken words into sounds so that they can then understand phonics and decode words ( read words they haven't seen before). All of the children I see and teach have some difficulty in manipulating sounds in spoken words.
I think you can also appreciate that some signs of dyslexia show up before your child gets into reading. It is important to pick up these problems with language early because then your child can receive help with this, meaning that you are not waiting for them to fail first and explore why this is later.
A lot of teachers only start to pick up a problem in the middle of primary school - usually around the age of 8. This is because your child is being expected to start learning from reading - if they are struggling to actually read the words then this becomes very difficult for them to do.
There is the slight anomaly in children who seem to pick up reading, yet they fail the phonics test which is given at Year 1 and then repeated for them in Year 2 . This is because they are the ones who memorise words since they have a strong visual memory. Eventually their reading stalls because they don't have the ability to decode a word, for which you have to be able to pull a word apart. This is also why reading is not a reliable indicator of dyslexia - whilst looking at your child's language skills is.
You should also monitor how well your child recognises common letter patterns - particularly long vowel sound patterns. Dyslexics find it difficult to learn these - particularly at the pace that the school phonic lessons progress through these. This is a slightly later clue, but your child should be making progress with these between the ages of about 6-8.
If you are looking for evidence of dyslexia, then your earliest clues start with spoken language, particularly the ability to play around with and make rhyme; being able to pull words apart into their sounds and then being able to push sounds together to make a word. A slightly later clue, but still during middle primary school is how well they are picking up phonic letter patterns. Most children will master these by the age of 8. If you suspect that your child has dyslexia - don't leave it until your child fails to read - be proactive in seeking help when the earliest clues surface.