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How can I tell if a child may have Dyslexia or if he's just 'slow'?

(Source: DFES; SEN division)

We've all come across the situation. A child who is struggling with his spelling, his
writing, or his reading, or perhaps his numeracy. A child who doesn't progress as
quickly as his classmates - or worse, doesn't seem to progress at all.

At first you put it down to slowness, or laziness. You think he will improve in time. But
he doesn't. 

Then someone mentions dyslexia, and you start to wonder. But you tell yourself that
children often get over such early difficulties, and you hope for the best. Yet you still
feel uneasy. 

So how do you tell if a child may have Dyslexia or if he's just slow or lazy? There
are some obvious signs, if you know what to look for. And it vital that you do
know, because dyslexic children need special help. If they don't get it, they'll fall
further and further behind. They'll become frustrated and lose their self-esteem.

This list gives some hints on identification. It's worth printing off and keeping handy - the chances are there's at least one dyslexic child in each of your classes. 
Written Work

Look out for a child who.....

has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability 

produces messy work with many crossings out and words tried
several times eg wippe, wype, wiep, wipe 

is persistently confused by letters which look similar, particularly
b/d, p/g, p/q, n/u, m/w, 

has poor handwriting, with many 'reversals' and badly formed

spells a word several different ways in one piece of writing 

makes anagrams of words eg tired for tried, breaded for bearded 

produces badly set-out written work, doesn't stay close to the


makes poor reading progress, especially using look-and-say

finds it difficult to blend letters together 

has difficulty in establishing syllable division or knowing the
beginnings and endings of words

is hesitant and laboured in reading, especially when reading aloud 

misses out words when reading, or adds extra words 

fails to recognise familiar words 

loses the point of a story being read or written 

has difficulty in picking out the most important points from a


shows confusion with number order eg units, tens, hundreds 

is confused by symbols, such as + and x signs 

has difficulty remembering anything in a sequential order eg tables,

days of the week, the alphabet 


has difficulty in learning to tell the time 

shows poor time keeping and general awareness 

has poor personal organisation 

has difficulty in remembering what day of the week it is, his birth
date, seasons of the year, month of the year


has poor motor skills, leading to weaknesses in the speed, control
and accuracy of the pencil 

has a limited understanding of non-verbal communication 

is confused by the difference between left and right 

has indeterminate hand preference 

performs unevenly from day to day


employs work avoidance tactics, such as sharpening pencils and
looking for books 

seems to 'dream', does not seem to listen 

is easily distracted 

is the class clown, or is disruptive or withdrawn (these are often
cries for help) 

is excessively tired, due to the amount of concentration and effort

If a child has a cluster of these difficulties, he may be dyslexic.

Your next step should be to consult the school's SENCO immediately, and to decide whether the child should be placed on the school's SEN register and given appropriate help.

With acknowledgements to the Department for Education and Employment SEN Division.