These warning signs may indicate your child has a problem.

By the editors of Child
October 05, 2005

If you suspect your child has a learning disability, don't keep your worries to yourself, urges Sally Shaywitz, M.D., co-director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention in New Haven, CT. Below, Dr. Shaywitz outlines some telltale signs to watch for from her helpful book, Overcoming Dyslexia. To get a formal diagnosis, start by talking to your child's pediatrician and teacher.

  • Failure to understand that words come apart; for example, that batboy can be pulled apart into bat and boy, and later on, that the word bat can be broken down still further and sounded out as: "b" "aaaa" "t"
  • Inability to learn to associate letters and sounds, such as being unable to connect the letter b and the "b" sound
  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters; for example, the word big is read as goat
  • The inability to read common one-syllable words or to sound out even the simplest words, such as mat, cat, hop, nap
  • Complaints about how hard reading is, or running and hiding when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings

From Second Grade On

  • Speech that is not fluent -- pausing or hesitating often when speaking, lots of um's during speech
  • Not being able to find the exact word, such as confusing words that sound alike: saying tornado instead of volcano, substituting lotion for ocean, or humanity for humidity
  • Difficulty in remembering isolated pieces of verbal information -- trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists
  • Trouble reading unknown (new, unfamiliar) words that must be sounded out; making wild stabs or guesses when reading a word; failure to systematically sound out words
  • Omitting parts of words when reading; failure to decode parts within a word, as if someone had chewed a hole in the middle of the word, such as conible for convertible
  • Disastrous spelling, with words not resembling true spelling
  • A history of reading, spelling, and foreign language problems in family members

Excerpted from Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Copyright © 2003 by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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