How to tell if your own child has dyslexia

When a parent fears that their child has dyslexia, and investigates, there are 3 likely scenarios.

Scenario 1: It’s ‘Visual Dyslexia’ (aka ‘Scotopic Sensitivity’; parents call it Irlen Syndrome)

dyslexic child home supportBasically this is when the words are appearing to slide shake, fade or somehow move on the page when your child looks at the page.  This is good news because it is often fairly straightforward for parents to put simple things in place that make a big difference very quickly.

Most of the time, when parents have come to me fearing that their child has dyslexia, it has usually turned out to be what parents call ‘visual dyslexia’, and what the experts would call ‘Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome’ or ‘Irlen Syndrome’.

Common indicators of this ‘Visual Dyslexia’ (Scotopic Sensitivity):

There are lots of different indicators of this type of visual dyslexia.  Here’s a quick check for indicators that works for a lot of parents: Ask your child to stare at a dot in the middle of a WHITE page of text for at least 10 seconds.  Then ask the child to tell you what the words are doing on the page.  Be very careful to not put words in your child’s mouth, but listen carefully for your child telling you that the words are appearing to shake, come off the page, slide around, go blurry or fade away.

CLICK HERE to see this video to see how the page can appear to children who have this.


Scenario 2: It’s ‘Phonological/Auditory Dyslexia’ (Official dyslexia)

young-woman-and-little-girl-read-a-book-sThis is classic dyslexia – where the words are not appearing to move or do anything funny on the page. However, when your child is processing books or text in their brain, things just aren’t quite working the way they should. Phonological/Auditory Dyslexia is a lifetime issue, and it is present if all 3 of these criteria are happening:

  1. Your child is definitely behind in reading and therefore has a reading problem (as compared to other children there age and from a similar education background).
  2. There is “unexpectedness” and “surprise” that your otherwise normal child is behind in reading skills (and this can’t be explained by poor teaching, extended school absences, brain injuries, or some other valid reason that would account for why your child is behind).
  3. Your child struggles with phonological skills (can’t quickly grasp and rearrange words), yet your child has grasped plenty of other, more difficult higher-level skills that are not affected.

Common indicators of Phonological/Auditory Dyslexia:

People with this type of phonological dyslexia really struggled to read made-up/nonsense words.  They can read words like ‘sanity’ and ‘cheese’, but when you put a word like ‘nitpog’ or ‘simgin’ in front of them, they are very slow to sound out those words.  Another skill they really struggle with is being told to read a word, but to take a letter out first… e.g to read words like ‘plain’ and ‘black’ but without the ‘l’ sound.  Children with phonological dyslexia are often very slow to read, even as adults and find reading very exhausting.

Scenario 3: Your child actually does not have dyslexia or visual issues

There is another clear, easy-to-spot explanation for your child is lack of reading success… For example, your child was taught by 4 different teachers last year, none of whom took the time to really understand your child PLUS your child’s school is the lowest performing school in the worst school district PLUS your child is extremely shortsighted and only recently got glasses.

Reasons why people can accidentally misdiagnose scotopic sensitivity or phonological dyslexia

There are plenty of reasons.  Three of the main reasons would be that your child needs glasses, that your child has a hearing issue or that your child has a working memory issue.



How to teach your Grade 4-7 dyslexic child to read paid videoIf you seriously think that your child has dyslexia, then it’s a great idea to get a professional opinion about that.  This is especially true if your child is facing serious challenges at school.  The more severe your child is difficulties are, the more important it is to get local, professional help.

If, after looking through this section and these indicators, you are fairly confident that your child is dealing with some form of dyslexia, it’s important to get professional advice. You wouldn’t diagnose yourself with cancer by reading Wikipedia, and you wouldn’t rewire your house based on a Youtube clip. This is just a starting point.


Can a child have visual dyslexia AND phonological dyslexia at the same time? – Question sent by a Mum

MICHAEL’S ANSWER:  The answer to your question is technically “Yes”.  However, the most likely situation (I’m guessing about 90% likely in your situation) is that your child has visual dyslexia (scotopic sensitivity/visual stress or whatever people want to call it) and that that is causing it to be difficult for your child to read.  Then, when your child is struggling to read, people will think your child has phonological dyslexia.  But if you fix the issue of the visual dyslexia, it is highly, highly likely that it will turn out the child does not have phonological dyslexia.

Now, there are some people who would disagree with what I’m saying, and who we want to run a lot of tests for your child that are very expensive for phonological dyslexia.  However, until you get to the bottom of the visual dyslexia then those tests would not be accurate anyway.  Does that make sense?  If you are worried, then your “Mum-radar” is probably working well.