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So, You Think My Child Has Dyslexia?

By: Cathryne E. Wells, SLP

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.


It is not uncommon for parents to complete the ADHD evaluation process at Connections to find that a secondary concern is present: difficulty with reading. In fact, the educational consultant may mention the word “dyslexia” and recommend further evaluation.

Research indicates that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) coexists with other learning disabilities 50 percent of the time. The number one learning disability associated with ADHD in a child with at least average intelligence is dyslexia. Therefore, any licensed professional suspecting ADHD should also carefully consider the possibility of dyslexia.

Quite often, parents are surprised at the mention of dyslexia. A student’s difficulty with reading may actually go unnoticed by parents and teachers because the student “reads pretty well.” So what is it that we know about dyslexia at Connections that you need to know?

Dyslexia is about reading and so much more. It is not just “poor reading” but also a group of characteristics that indicate a processing disorder. After establishing that the student has at least average intelligence, we screen for dyslexia in five areas: reading, spelling, writing, spoken language and rote memory. Let’s begin with the last characteristic and build our way back to reading.

ROTE MEMORY: Dyslexic students may have difficulty memorizing the alphabet, the days of the week and months of the year. A third grader who still “sings the Alphabet Song,” rather than saying it, is waving a red flag that he or she does not know the alphabet. When reciting, they often omit one of the middle letters in the alphabet: m or n. Children with dyslexia might even ask, “Do I have to say the months in order?” For a dyslexic student, remembering random months in order is difficult.

SPOKEN LANGUAGE: Dyslexic students might have difficulty with irregular past tense verbs long after their peers have figured it out. (Ex: “He catched the ball.”) Pronouns may be difficult. (Ex: “Her did it.”) While speech may or may not be an issue, words with many syllables may be problematic. (Ex:“Busketti” for spaghetti; “morote control” for remote control; or even a mispronunciation of their favorite singer’s name, as one darling fourth grade student said, “I love Taylor Swith.”) It is as though the word or phrase is entered into the brain incorrectly, and they just can’t get it right. Dyslexic students also tend to have “word finding” issues. Conversation may be filled with “um,” “uh” or “thingie” as they search for the word they need to say.

WRITING: Although penmanship may be problematic, I am really addressing a broader area of weakness: getting information from the brain to the paper. Whether copying from the board or a book; generating sentences from personal experience; or summarizing, the dyslexic student either struggles to put information on the paper or refuses to do so.

SPELLING: Parents will often say that the student is “a great speller,” and they are referring only to grades on weekly spelling tests. However, when I ask how well the student spells words two weeks after the test, the report is not nearly as glowing. Over time, dyslexics are poor spellers. These are the children who ask, “How do you spell ‘who’? Is it h-o-w or h-o-o?”

Homophones (words that sound alike but have different meanings) are particularly tricky for the dyslexic student. (Ex: their for there) When they write sentences, dyslexic students will play it safe and write words they are confident they can spell. They can’t spell the days of the week without looking at them. A second grade child was recently asked to spell the word, “name.” She paused and wrote, “Name:,” recalling how she has seen that word on worksheets.

At Connections, reading is the very last skill I evaluate, and we spend only 90 seconds assessing reading. You see, by the time I get to the reading part of the test, observation of the above characteristics have given strong evidence as to whether or not the child is dyslexic. Family history is important, as well, because dyslexia is highly hereditary.

READING: I guess that the easiest way for me to describe the dyslexic student’s reading is to say that they are “word memorizers.” Word memorizers easily confuse words like “stop” and “shop” or “match” and “catch.” Good readers, however, would not make those mistakes, because their brains recognize sounds and effortlessly blend those into words.

Other clues are found in the child’s behavior, whether withdrawn and anxious or defiant and oppositional. Since reading is king in the classroom, children who struggle to read will often display their frustration through their behaviors.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading, we would love to help. Our goal at Connections, after all, is to “help children confidently and joyfully become all that God has in mind for them to be.” If you would like to schedule an appointment for your child, please call us at 601-261-5159.

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.