Of the various conditions that can affect a person’s ability to read, write, and spell, dyslexia is by far the most common. Accounting for around three-quarters of people who exhibit some sort of reading difficulty, it is estimated that as many as 17% of the population might have a variant of the condition.
Here are 10 of the most common symptoms that accompany dyslexia. Please note: these are all symptoms of the condition as it presents itself in older teens and adults. While younger children may demonstrate some of these symptoms, there are often many other factors that can account for them during a person’s school years. If you have concerns about your child’s learning, it is best if you consult their teachers, or a relevant councillor at school.
1. Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
Perhaps the symptom most commonly associated with dyslexia, difficulty with reading is also possibly the most difficult to pin down. After all, many people without the condition also have problems reading, for any number of reasons. Specific to people with dyslexia, it’s not that the piece they are being asked to read is too challenging for them in terms of its content. If it were read out to them, they would have no problem understanding the piece. The issue is the text itself. Dyslexics have problems with the physical act of reading, of associating certain groups of characters with specific words. This is key to diagnosing the position, and this disconnect is often responsible for the other symptoms listed below.
2. Slow reading and writing
Related to the above symptom, when someone with dyslexia has to read or write, they often find it a chore. They struggle to make sense of individual words in a given sentence and, subsequently, the sentence itself becomes ever more of a challenge, and so on down the page. This can cause intense frustration and occasional embarrassment if it is in a group environment.
3. Problems spelling
This makes a certain amount of sense. If you have difficulties reading a word written down, then it stands to reason that you would have similar problems spelling out a word. There is a little more to it than that. Many dyslexics have difficulties grasping the various rules of spelling that are drummed into us throughout our school days because they don’t associate them with the written word.
4. Avoiding activities that involve reading
Like many of us who find certain day-to-day tasks difficult to accomplish, many people with dyslexia actively avoid situations in which they are expected to read or write. This can be as simple as asking someone to summarise the content of the previous meeting rather than reading the minutes, or as serious as avoiding jobs where reading and writing are prerequisites.
5. Mispronouncing words
We all mispronounce words from time to time, particularly if we’ve only ever seen it written down, or if it’s an unfamiliar word. Because language follows certain rules in terms of spelling and sound, we can usually take a pretty good stab at it and be reasonably sure of getting it right. For the dyslexic, those rules are almost impossible to decipher or, rather, those rules don’t seem to apply to their own experience of the written word, making mistake in pronunciation more commonplace.
6. Trouble with double meanings and idioms
We use idioms every day. If something is easy, it’s a “piece of cake”. When we joke with someone, we’re “pulling their leg”. People with dyslexia often cannot make the connection between these sorts of phrases. For most people, it’s just an expression – another way of verbalising a certain situation – but for dyslexics, it can prove difficult understanding why those two concepts are interchangeable.
7. Difficulty summarising a story
Putting a story into your own words is a key skill in a number of fields, not just English Lit classes. It could be a barrister summarising for the benefit of the jury, or just describing something that happened to you to a friend over coffee. Many people with dyslexia have problems wrapping an event up in words – again, making that connection between concepts and language.
8. Trouble learning a foreign language
A key aspect of learning a foreign language is that you create a space in your mind where you overlay a new word across a concept that you are already familiar with. We know that ‘pain’ and ‘bread’ represent the same thing, for instance. Many dyslexics report difficulties with performing this task, particularly if they are learning their new language with the aid of written texts.
9. Difficulty memorizing
Like many items on this list, this is not an example of a poor memory, but more to do with the dyslexics relationship with words. When we are trying to memorise something – whether that be cramming for a test, or trying to recall all fifty states – we instinctively use mnemonics and other verbal tricks to order things in our minds. Because of the disconnect between words and concepts that often indicates dyslexia, this can prove very difficult for people with the condition.
10. Difficulty doing math problems
While it’s common to think of numbers and letters as being two separate things, the brain does tend to treat the same way, particularly when written down. In much the same way that someone with dyslexia has trouble with the layout of letters in any given word, they can have the same or similar difficulty with the arrangement of number and symbols in a math problem. Of course, many people have concerns with math that have nothing to do with being dyslexic, but if your issue is determining what the problem is, rather than how it can be solved, it may be a symptom.
Whilst the symptoms listed above can all be indicative of dyslexia, it is important to remember that non-dyslexics can also show signs of one or more of them. If you are genuinely concerned that you or a loved one might have dyslexia, be sure to make an appointment to see your doctor. Not only will they be able to diagnose any underlying condition they will also be able to recommend the best ways for you to deal with their symptoms going forward.