Identifying Dyslexia in your Classroom | Education Elephant Siteground

Do you know a student who is:

  • Reluctant to read aloud and answer questions?
  • Constantly misspelling and mistaking words for others? 
  • Not completing homework on time?

If this sounds like one of your students, it may not be their fault, and perhaps it’s time for a Dyslexia assessment.


What is Dyslexia, anyway?

Dyslexia is the most common form of learning disability, affecting at least 1 in every 10 people. Dyslexia affects different people in different ways. With no one person exhibiting all the possible symptoms, some people may even exhibit symptoms that change throughout their lifetime.

People with Dyslexia do not see words any differently to how people without Dyslexia see words. Rather, it’s how those words are processed that is different and more challenging for Dyslexic students.

primary kids testing

Image Courtesy of Pragyan Bezbaruah

Identifying Dyslexia before Primary School

Dyslexia can be difficult to identify and diagnose in children under the age of 6 for a variety of reasons. Mainly it can be hard to spot in younger children due to a lack of formal introduction to reading and writing. Also, up to that point, they typically have not been needing to perform these skills in an environment where their progress and abilities can be observed in comparison with their peers.

Some Common Signs Pointing to Dyslexia can include:

  • Difficulty learning and remembering the alphabet
  • Learning common nursery rhymes
  • Recognising and spelling their own name
  • Mispronouncing familiar words
  • Using baby talk
  • Being unable to identify common rhyming patterns

However, if a child exhibits these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean they have Dyslexia. They may have a speech and/or language delay, or they may have a different neuro-developmental disorder, such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Identifying Dyslexia in Primary School aged children

With the introduction of formal reading, writing, and maths tasks, starting Primary School is a time where learning difficulties and delays become more easily identifiable. Students are now learning amongst their peers, so students who are performing certain tasks below the average will stand out to their teachers as potentially having a learning disability or problem.

Due to the difficulty in detecting Dyslexia in children under 6 years of age, Primary School educators will quite likely be dealing with students whose parents are somewhat unaware of their child’s learning difficulties and delays. For example, they may not have had the resources and/or opportunities to observe their children’s behaviours and habits directly or to compare their child with other children of the same age closely. Therefore, it is important to be sensitive, yet direct when identifying and addressing the potential for Dyslexia with each of your students in primary school especially. It is also important to acknowledge that no student will possess all of the potential characteristics in which Dyslexia may present.

kids reading dyslexia

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Signs to looks out for include:

  • Trouble pairing letters with sounds
  • Struggling to read isolated words (not in a chunk of text)
  • Confusing or mistaking words for other words
  • Reading aloud at a slower, more staggered rate than the average student
  • Trouble remembering basic Maths facts like times tables and how to read an analogue clock

Signs of Dyslexia in Secondary School aged children

Dyslexia is most commonly identified at a Primary School age. However, depending on the stage of life, the disorder can affect children in different ways as they grow. In other words, some symptoms of Dyslexia may change or develop in older children. Secondary School aged children with Dyslexia can experience any of the following:

  • They will maintain a slow reading pace, making many mistakes as they read aloud;
  • Both spelling and handwriting will be a challenge;
  • Summarising and proofreading texts will prove challenging for students as the ability to focus on and identify specific words remains difficult, just as it was in their earlier years.
  • In addition, students may be found to possess a smaller pool of knowledge as they have limited reading experience and struggle to attach meanings to words and remember them.

Student’s that potentially have Dyslexia have been shown to find more success in school subjects that are not language-oriented, such as Maths and Science, as opposed to language-heavy subjects like English, Languages, and History.

“I think my student has Dyslexia”

Realising your student could have Dyslexia is a challenging experience for any teacher to face, and it must be handled with care, empathy, and patience. Having Dyslexia does not mean a child is not intelligent, but after years of struggling to keep up with their peers, these students can have lower self-esteem so it’s important to let them know this is a fairly common situation and there is hope.

If you have observed signs of Dyslexia with one of your students, the best course of action is to discuss the importance of getting the student assessed with your their parents. It is only through an assessment that a diagnosis can be made and a proper learning plan can be provided to ensure the student gets all the support they really need.

Like with most educational assessments, an educational psychologist will perform a variety of tests with the student to assess their learning style and identify what their strengths and weaknesses are. The result of these assessments will allow the psychologist to determine whether or not your student has Dyslexia or any other kind of learning difficulty that may require individual attention and help.

kids reading assessment

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Getting an Educational Assessment for your Student

A trained Educational Psychologist will be able to provide an assessment in your area. You can google ‘Educational Psychologist’ in your area or check to see if there is a list of recommended practitioners nearby you through your school office.

In Ireland, our sister company, Eirim: The National Assessment Agency has offices in Dublin and is available to travel for assessments to schools around the country.