Dyslexia: The School Years

by Erin Hargis, Katie Price, and Taylor Slatton


Research has shown that 20% of school-aged children are diagnosed with dyslexia.2 In the school-based population, children with dyslexia experience difficulties academically, socially, and at home.

Signs & Symptoms for elementary aged children include difficulty with:

  • + Remembering simple sequences such as counting to 20, naming the days of the week, or reciting the alphabet
  • + Understanding the rhyming of words, such as knowing that fat rhymes with cat
  • + Recognizing words that begin with the same sound (for example, that bird, baby”, and big all start with b)
  • + Pronunciation
  • + Easily clapping hands to the rhythm of a song
  • + Word retrieval (frequently uses words like “stuff” and “that thing” rather than specific words to name objects)
  • + Remembering names of places and people
  • + Difficulty remembering spoken directions3

Identifying Dyslexia in the Classroom2

Children with dyslexia appear to have trouble with spelling, reading, writing, and oral communication in the classroom setting2. Children with dyslexia tend to have variations in performance from day to day. Some skills may come fairly easy one day and then incredibly difficult the next. The inconsistencies can be confusing for both the child with dyslexia and other peers in their environment7. Here are a few of the ways children with dyslexia may struggle in the classroom1.

Many children with dyslexia have poor reading comprehension that is due to their increased
focus on reading each words or the inaccuracy in reading.

  • + Students may have difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words, especially if the
    words sound similar,
  • + Trouble with rhyming words,
  • + Difficulty breaking words down into syllables,
  • + Difficulty remembering letter names and shapes,
  • + Transpose letters when reading,
  • + Find it difficult to sound out long words,
  • + Omits words when reading, and
  • + Difficulty sequencing events from the story1

Children with dyslexia may succeed on weekly spelling tests because each word is memorized, but an increase of spelling errors will be visible on daily writing assignments.

  • + Spell words exactly as they are heard (e.g., “brite” for “bright”, “reed” for “read”),
  • + Use the correct letters to spell a word but in the wrong order (e.g., “becuase” for “because”, “grate” for “great”), and
  • + Spell the same word differently within the same assignment1

A hallmark of dyslexia is that there will be a reversal of letters or numbers when written. Students with dyslexia may have difficulty writing their thoughts on paper which can cause them difficulties for handwritten tests. Oral tasks can represent their true ability without the roadblock of writing.

  • + Miss letters of words when writing (e.g., “slopy” for “sloppy”),
  • + Writing words backwards (e.g., “toc” for “cot”),
  • + Handwriting that is sloppy or illegible, and
  • + Difficulty proofreading1

Oral Communication

  • + Difficulty following multistep directions,
  • + Confusion with directional commands (e.g., up, down, behind) and time references (e.g., yesterday, tomorrow, after),
  • + Word retrieval problems, and
  • + Hard time understanding concepts and relationships1

In comparison to their peers, many children with dyslexia may be physically and socially immature which can lead to poor self-image and less acceptance from peers. Many dyslexic children also have a difficult time reading social cues causing them to be unaware of how much personal distance is needed in social situations. Along with these symptoms, dyslexia can also affect oral language functioning. This can cause these children to have a difficult time finding the right words to say or pause before answering questions. All of these symptoms can put these children at a disadvantage in social situations such as the playground or lunchroom environment7.

Children with dyslexia often times have difficulty with sequencing and memory. This problem can be present in the classroom environment with letters and words, as well as, social situations. For example, a child with dyslexia may take a toy from another child. The other child then calls the dyslexic child a name. The dyslexic child may remember the sequence of events differently, causing other children to be unwilling to play with them.

Emotional symptoms that may affect social situations:

  • + Anxiety
  • + Anger
  • + Depression

Anxiety is a common symptom for children with dyslexia. Frustration in school can translate to anticipating failure in new situations. Anger is a symptom that is sometimes seen in these children as a result of their frustration in school and social environments. As a result, dyslexic individuals may alienate themselves because of the fear of entering new social situations. While most children with dyslexia do not have depression, they are at a higher risk for developing depression due to low self-esteem and frustration in school. Misbehavior is often times used as a way to cover up these feelings of depression. “Research suggests that these feelings of inferiority develop by the age of ten. After this age, it becomes extremely difficult to help the child develop a positive self-image. This is a powerful argument for early

Dyslexia at Home

According to “Dyslexia In The Classroom,” children with dyslexia show difficulty in tasks that
involve reading, spelling, and writing3. With these struggles in mind, it is understood that
children may show difficulty with the following types of homework assignments:

  • Writing essays
    ● Understanding textbook material
    ● Grammar tasks3

According to the source “Dyslexic Advantage,” many teachers do not understand that dyslexic students tend to have a slower processing speed and a large homework load is overwhelming4. A survey by Dyslexic Advantage reported that 76% of students reported that they “were routinely assigned work they couldn’t possibly complete.”4 With a large homework load, children with dyslexia tend to get frustrated and stressed when trying to complete assignments that take them hours to complete.4 Research has shown that dyslexic students have a “deep learning” style when given a topic instead of a “memorization” type of learning4. Rather than giving a tremendous amount of work, teachers should understand that quality work should be assigned rather than the quantity of work4. This ensures that the students with dyslexia are still completing work, but rather in a way that is less stressful and time-consuming but still beneficial to their classroom learning4. It is recommended that parents/ caregivers should seek evaluation for dyslexia if their child is experiencing difficulties in the classroom setting3.

Parent Takeaways

Parents need to be informed that there are a variety of tests that are available to diagnose their child with dyslexia, and some even diagnose the type and severity of the disorder.6 According to “Homeschooling with Dyslexia,” “Since early intervention has been shown to decrease any lag in education, the earlier the better 8.” Accurate testing for dyslexia can begin as early as age five8. If a parent thinks that their child might have dyslexia, it is important that testing should be performed so that the child can benefit from classroom accommodations8. For more information on classroom accommodations click HERE.


Bailey, E. (2011, March 29). Recognizing dyslexia in the classroom: spotting the warning signs of dyslexia in your students. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://www.thoughtco.com/recognizing-dyslexia-in-the-classroom-3111190

Dyslexia facts and statistics. (2015). Austin Learning Solutions. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from

Dyslexia in the classroom: what every teacher needs to know. (2017). Baltimore, MD: International Dyslexia Association. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://dyslexiaida.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/DITC-Handbook.pdf

Eide, Fernette. (2016, February 24). Too Much Homework for Dyslexic Students. Dyslexic Advantage. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from http://www.dyslexicadvantage.org/too-much-homework-for-dyslexic-students/

Hodge, P., Dip.slpd. (2000). A dyslexic child in the classroom: a guide for teachers and parents. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://www.dyslexia.com/about-dyslexia/understanding-dyslexia/guide-for-classroom-teachers/

Myths about dyslexia. (2017). Dyslexia Institute of America. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://dyslexiainstitutes.com/?page=myths

Social and Emotional Problems Related to Dyslexia. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from http://www.ldonline.org/article/19296

Sunderland, Marianne. (2017). How and When to Get Tested for Dyslexia. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com/homeschooling-with-dyslexia-get-testing/

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