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Learning Disabilities Research Program

Clues to reading disabilities

from Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz M.D., New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003

Does your Preschooler . . .

  • Seem uninterested in playing games with language sounds, such as repetition and rhyming?
  • Have trouble learning nursery rhymes, such as “Humpty Dumpty: or “Jack and Jill”?
  • Frequently mispronounce words and persist in using baby talk?
  • Fail to recognize the letters in his or her own name?
  • Have difficulty remembering the names of letters, numbers, or days of the week?

Does your Kindergartner . . .

  • Fail to recognize and write letters, write his or her name or use invented spelling for words?
  • Have trouble breaking spoken words into syllables, such as cowboy into cow and boy?
  • Still have trouble recognizing words that rhyme, such as cat and bat?
  • Fail to connect letters and sounds? (Ask your child: “What does the letter b sound like?”)
  • Fail to recognize phonemes? (Ask your child: “What starts with the same sound as cat—dog, man, or car?”)

Does your First Grader . . .

  • Still have difficulty recognizing and manipulating phonemes?
  • Fail to read common one-syllable words, such as mat or top?
  • Make reading errors that suggest a failure to connect sounds and letters, such as big for goat?
  • Fail to recognize common, irregularly spelled words, such as said, where, and two?
  • Complain about how hard reading is and refuse to do it?

Does your child aged 7 and older . . .

  • Mispronounce long or complicated words, saying, “amulium” instead of aluminum?
  • Confuse words that sound alike, such as tornado for volcano, or lotion for ocean?
  • Speak haltingly and overuse vague words such as stuff or things?
  • Have trouble memorizing dates, names, and telephone numbers?
  • Have trouble reading small function words, such as that, an, and in?
  • Guess wildly when reading multisyllabic words instead of sounding them out?
  • Skip parts of words, reading conible instead of convertible, for example?
  • When reading aloud often substitute easy words for hard ones, such as car for automobile?
  • Make many spelling errors and have messy handwriting?
  • Have trouble completing homework or finishing tests on time?
  • Have a deep fear of reading aloud?

Does the adult person have. . .

  • Problems in speaking?
  • Persistence of earlier oral language difficulties?
  • Difficulty pronouncing names of people and places, and tripping over parts of words?
  • Difficulty remembering names of people and places and confuse names that sound alike?
  • Difficulty retrieving words: “It was on the tip of my tongue”?
  • Problems in reading?
  • A childhood history of reading and spelling difficulties?
  • Difficulty reading fluently?
  • Trouble reading and pronouncing uncommon, strange, or unique words such as people’s names, street or location names, food dishes on a menu (often resorting to asking the waiter about the special of the day or resorting to saying, “I’ll have what he’s having” to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to read the menu)?
  • Extreme fatigue from reading?
  • Continued difficulties with spelling?

The Persistence of Core Learning Problems over the life span

Many adults diagnosed with reading problems continue to experience difficulties with reading and reading-related skills such as:

  • Phonological processing: the ability to differentiate and segment sounds in words and effectively use speech sounds to read words.
  • Reading fluency: the ability to read text rapidly, smoothly, effortlessly, and automatically.
  • Spelling: representing sounds in words when spelling
  • Writing: use of proper grammar and knowledge of sentence and story structure