Predicting dyslexia before children learn to read

It is estimated that 8% or more of the UK’s population are affected by dyslexia to some degree and that in one in ten children struggle with it; 2-3% of those are likely to need specialist help for dyslexia.

The symptoms of dyslexia are usually witnessed when a child has difficulty reading but in fact, recent research has suggested that it can be predicted even before children learn to read. This is good news – the earlier the condition is detected, the earlier help can be sought and support provided.

The LDA factsheet on dyslexia, written by Kate Ruttle, explains more about this condition. Kate is the author of Target Ladders: Dyslexia and is a leasing Practitioner for Inclusion and a Special Needs Coordinator in two Suffolk primary schools.

‘Most children who are experiencing reading difficulties will respond well to small group intervention, but there are a small number of children who are likely to continue to experience persistent and significant difficulties and who will need ongoing individual support,’ she writes.

The 2009 Rose Report identified what it called developmental phases of dyslexia in children, starting from the preschool stage. Looking out for these signs may help to detect dyslexia before the children has become a fluent reader:

These signs include:

Delayed or problematic speech
Poor rhyming skills
Poor expressive language
Little interest or difficulty learning letters

Moving into the early school years, further signs are:

Poor letter-sound knowledge
Idiosyncratic spelling
Poor phoneme awareness
Poor word attack skills
Problems copying

The Dyslexia Association lists other observations that might be detectable in toddlers, so even before the ‘pre-school’ stage.
A history of glue ear difficulties, reluctance or failure to crawl before walking, and difficulty learning nursery rhymes could all justify further investigation.

There is no single test for dyslexia, so it’s a case of monitoring and observing, and then taking steps to manage it after diagnosis.
It’s a lifelong condition and won’t be outgrown. For the child suffering from it, he or she can find education difficult. LDA specialises in educational resources to support teachers and parents who have children with special educational needs – including, but not limited to, dyslexia.

For example, Elizabeth Franks – a qualified speech and language therapist, specialising in help for dyslexic pupils – co-ordinated the Beat Dyslexia range of books. These are just part of the range of useful LDA resources for identifying and supporting children with dyslexia. To view all of them, click here.

It’s important to remember that no child is the same, however, so not all indicators will be present. Likewise, some conditions may look like dyslexia but be something else. For more help and information, contact, who can offer help, support, assessments and screenings.