Dyslexia 101: Part 2 - Characteristics of Dyslexia

Welcome to Part II of our Dyslexia 101 series. Over the next five weeks, our blog series will continue to focus on expanding your understanding of dyslexia.

If you missed last week's post, you can quickly read it here!

By the end of LD Expert's Dyslexia 101 series you will be able to:

  • Define dyslexia in a way that friends, family, and teachers can understand.

  • Understand common characteristics of dyslexia.

  • Understand how the common characteristics may impact students in the classroom and adults in the workplace.

  • Recognize common misconceptions and learn the facts that dispel them.

  • Understand what quality intervention looks like and describe why it is important that children have access to and receive early, evidence-based intervention services.

  • Advocate for your child at school or for yourself in the workplace

Today we will focus on understanding the common of characteristics of dyslexia in both children and adults.

The International Dyslexia Association's definition of dyslexia states that a person with dyslexia may struggle to accurately and quickly recognize words and struggle with reading and writing.

In a very high level sense, those are very common characteristics associated with dyslexia. But as we discussed in last week's blog, people with dyslexia fall along a continuum. People will experience a wide range of characteristics that also vary in severity. Additionally, there are talents and strengths that we typically see displayed in individuals with dyslexia.

This blog will focus on the struggles and strengths that suggest a person with dyslexia may have by looking at three groups:

  1. The Preschool - First Grade Years

  2. The Second Grade - Graduation Years

  3. The Young Adult - Adult Years

These clues include both struggles and strengths as defined by Drs. Shaywitz's in their book, Overcoming Dyslexia on pages 142 - 148.

When I was completing my introductory Wilson Reading System training course, my instructor, Dr. Cheri McManus, said: "You will nearly always find that people with dyslexia have these additional beautiful gifts."

She said it very casually within the course content, but it's something that has stayed with me.

Because she's exactly right.

Below you will find the comprehensive information provided by Drs. Shaywitz that focuses on both common struggles, but, just as importantly, lists of strengths.

Preschool – First Grade



  • Trouble learning rhymes and lacks an appreciation of rhymes

  • Mispronounced words or baby talk

  • Struggles to learn and remember the name of letters and numbers

  • Failure to know the letters in his/her own name

Kindergarten – First

  • Failure to understand that words come apart: catnap can be pulled into cat and nap

  • After this, failure to understand that words can be broken down further: cat into c, aah, t

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters: hug read as boat

  • Inability to read common one-syllable words or to sound out simple words like dog, hat, mop

  • Complains, runs away, or hides when it is time to read

  • History of reading problems in parents or siblings


  • Curiosity

  • A great imagination

  • The ability to figure things out

  • Eager embrace of new ideas

  • A good understanding of new concepts

  • Surprising maturity

  • Large vocabulary for age

  • Talent at building models