Dyslexia North West & Red Rose School

Early Indicators of Dyslexia

In the past it was thought that the earliest a child could be identified as having a dyslexic profile was at about the age of six. It is now evident that there are many signs well before school age which may suggest such a profile and the consequent difficulties ahead.

Parents and pre-school careers as well as educators in those early years are amongst those in best position to recognise these signs and to provide appropriate activities to help.

Some of the early signs which may suggest a dyslexic profile:

  • Family history
  • May have walked early but did not crawl - was a 'bottom shuffler' or 'tummy wriggler'
  • Persistent difficulties in getting dressed efficiently
  • Persistent difficulty putting shoes on the correct feet
  • Unduly late in learning to fasten buttons or tie shoe-laces
  • Obvious 'good' and 'bad' days, for no apparent reason
  • Enjoys being read to, but shows no interest in letters or words
  • Often accused of 'not listening' or 'not paying attention
  • Excessive tripping, bumping into things and falling over
  • Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball
  • Difficulty with clapping a simple rhythm

Speech & Language

  • Later than expected learning to speak clearly
  • Persistent jumbled phrases
    • 'cobbler's club' for 'toddlers' club'
    • 'tebby-dare' for 'teddy-bear'
    • 'pence-fost' for 'fence-post'

  • use of substitute words or 'near-misses', e.g. 'lampshade' for 'lamp post'
  • mislabeling - knows colours but mislabels them, e.g. 'black' for 'brown'
  • an early lisp, e.g. 'duckth' for 'ducks'
  • inability to remember the label for known objects, e.g. table, chair
  • persistent word-searching
  • confusion between directional words, e.g. up/down; in/out
  • difficulty learning nursery rhymes
  • finds difficulty with rhyming words, e.g. 'cat'; 'mat'; 'fat'
  • difficulty with sequence, e.g. coloured bead sequence - later with days of the week or numbers

What does the child say?

Young children are very perceptive about themselves and very often the things which they say can alert adults to certain difficulties, provided that the adult is wise enough to listen and learn, for example:

  • I think God's put my brain in upside down
  • The word is coming
  • I'm getting close
  • The word's near the front of my mouth
  • Is yesterday the day after tomorrow?
  • Where is the beginning of the book?
  • Where does the book start?
  • This book is stupid
  • Where's the top of the page?
  • Which way does it go?
  • I've dropped it again
  • What's that word again?


  • Quick 'thinker' & 'doer' - but not in response to instruction
  • Enhanced creativity - often good at drawing - good sense of colour
  • Aptitude for constructional or technical toys
  • Appears bright - but seems 'an enigma'

Look for severity of trait
Clarity with which it may be observed
Length of time during which it persists

In many ways the dyslexic child is at a disadvantage when they enter school. Main strengths are centered in the right hemisphere of the brain. Hence, they are often random, intuitive, impulsive, sensitive thinker. Unfortunately for them, school is a left-hemisphered environment where they will be expected to read, write, spell, deal with symbols - letters, numbers, musical notation - learn phonics, follow instructions, listen carefully, respond accurately to what they hear and put things in order. The earlier they are given activities which build a sound foundation for learning such skills, the better chance they will have.