POSTED ON: November 22, 2021
What Are Some of the Early Signs of Dyslexia?
In my first month as a speech-language pathologist, I evaluated a five-year-old girl whose parents suspected she had dyslexia. I was surprised to see a parent so proactive in having her child tested at such a young age.
When I asked the mother how she came to the conclusion that her child needed to be evaluated before she could even read, the knowledgeable and confident parent replied, “We have a family history of dyslexia and I can tell she is struggling with phonological awareness.”
I was awestruck with her advocacy work and her persistence in making sure her child received support at an early age. After providing a battery of assessments looking at language and phonological processing (among other things), it was determined that her child indeed was at-risk for dyslexia. I shared with the parent that I could not give a formal diagnosis of dyslexia until her child was of age to decode words, but I assured her that I could provide support for her child’s phonological awareness difficulties.
This blogpost and the next will delve into early signs of children with dyslexia. Before you read them, we ask you to remember that the best resource for support for your child’s language-related difficulties is a speech-language pathologist.
Before a child can develop phonological awareness skills, they have to be able to verbally communicate. An early sign that a child may be at-risk for dyslexia is if they are diagnosed as a late talker. Common criteria to diagnose a late talker is that the child says fewer than 50 different words and does not use two-word combinations by 24 months of age.¹ However, it is important to consult with a speech-language pathologist regarding your child’s language growth and take into account other factors affecting their development, including their use of gestures, symbolic play behaviors, and more.²
To clarify, a diagnosis of being a late talker does not immediately mean the child will develop dyslexia. In fact, one study done in 2005³ found that children who were late talkers, had a receptive language deficit, and had a family history of dyslexia significantly increased the likelihood that they would develop dyslexia. It was not necessarily the late talking alone that placed the children at-risk for dyslexia.
Dyslexia, at its core, is a deficit in the phonological component of language. And if dyslexia runs in your family, your child is at greater risk for dyslexia and it is imperative that you help your child as soon as you see signs of potential dyslexia. So what can you do to help your children?
Helping Your Child
If you believe your child is a late talker, the first thing you should do is see a speech-language pathologist. They can help you and your child by performing an evaluation, and, if needed, through intervention and parent coaching.
Your speech-language pathologist will provide support akin to what is recommended by Lyytinen, Eklund, & Lyytinen, the authors of the study mentioned above:
“…it would be good to provide late talkers, and especially if they are at familial risk for dyslexia and do not have age-appropriate receptive skills, with extra exposure to games and play activities that may help to strengthen word retrieval, verbal memory, phonological discrimination, and grammatical processing” (p. 187, 2005, emphasis added)
In the future, Red Square Pegs will provide resources and activities to strengthen skills listed above.
² For more information on late talkers, see https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/late-blooming-or-language-problem/
³ Lyytinen, P., Eklund, K., & Lyytinen, H. (2005). Language development and literacy skills in late-talking toddlers with and without familial risk for dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 55(2), 166-192. doi:10.1007/s11881-005-0010-y