Early Dyslexia Signs: Importance of Early Intervention

What is Dyslexia and How Common Is It?

Dyslexia is a common reading and language-based disorder affecting at least 10-20% of children in the U.S. Without early, intensive, effective intervention, the difficulties associated with dyslexia often persist even into adulthood. Recognizing the early signs of dyslexia is crucial for timely intervention and support.

The causes of dyslexia are complex and only partially understood, but research is rapidly improving what we know about dyslexia. The early signs of dyslexia vary from one person to another. Dyslexia is not restricted to a specific age group or gender, but it is less commonly diagnosed in older students and adults, probably due to factors related to access to services. Identifying the early signs of dyslexia is an important, proactive step for overcoming this reading disorder. 

What are the Different Forms of Dyslexia?

Developmental and acquired forms of dyslexia have been documented by different researchers, with children typically diagnosed with the former. In their recent review of the definition of developmental dyslexia, Catts, et al. (2024) conclude, “The primary characteristic of dyslexia is severe and persistent difficulties in the accuracy and/or speed of word reading, decoding, and spelling.” There is a clear link between dyslexia and significant difficulties in language processing, including speech sound (phonemic) awareness, and memory and retrieval for words, sounds, and spelling patterns. While research has consistently documented brain differences between individuals with and without dyslexia, it is not always clear if these brain differences are the causes or consequences of dyslexia. Dyslexia is considered to have multiple, interacting causes including neurobiological and environmental causes. 

It can be hard to spot dyslexia because, as Catts, et al., explain, dyslexia “is not something you have or do not have, like a broken bone.” Instead, all of the characteristics of dyslexia exist on a continuum, with different levels of severity and often co-occurring with other disorders, such as ADHD or visual processing challenges. This can make it especially difficult to identify the early signs of dyslexia. 

girl reading a book

Early literacy challenges may present at preschool age, most commonly with difficulties learning the alphabet. Over the next few years, difficulties may be noticed in how letter sounds are learned and how easily and automatically they are used to decode and spell words. By elementary school, reading comprehension is likely to be impacted, as well. Difficulties with reading comprehension and negative attitudes about reading may be among the first symptoms noticed by teachers. Most students with dyslexia remain undiagnosed until they are of school age and have fallen behind grade-level reading proficiency

What increases an individual’s risk for dyslexia?

As mentioned above, dyslexia has multiple causes, and genetics is one causal link. Having a family member with dyslexia significantly increases the risk of dyslexia in a child. Early difficulties in speech sound processing, learning the alphabet, and other aspects of spoken language predict word-reading problems and can help identify the risk for dyslexia before a child experiences a cycle of failure. 

Why is it important to understand the early signs of dyslexia?

Understanding the early signs of dyslexia is crucial for preventing secondary disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is also critical for planning and implementing screening programs that can facilitate access to early intervention. Recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of structured literacy instruction in improving decoding, spelling, and reading comprehension skills of school-aged children. Early identification and interventions have proven highly effective in improving academic outcomes for children at risk for developmental dyslexia.

In conclusion, awareness of the early signs of dyslexia can play a key role in implementing effective interventions and preventing the negative, long-term consequences of dyslexia.

Lexercise offers a free dyslexia screener that can identify the risk of dyslexia in under 10 minutes. You can also connect with one of our dyslexia therapists for a free, 15-minute consultation to discuss your child’s literacy challenges and review potential solutions. 

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Tolu Andrea Osaba

Tolu Andrea Osoba M.S., Ph.D., SLDS | LitNum Connections

"Providing instruction services to clients with a variety of developmental or learning challenges including ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia. It is my passion to empower them and see their confidence grow."