Warning Signs of Possible Reading and/or Learning Difficulties

Some or many of the following signs can be present despite average or well above average intellectual ability

Prevention of learning and/or reading difficulties is possible when they are identified early. Researchers have found a strong correlation between phonological awareness and word recognition in kindergarten and first grade with reading proficiency at the end of fourth and fifth grades


  • Limited use of language
  • Lack of appreciation or concept of rhymes
  • Persistent baby talk
  • Difficulty in learning and remembering names of letters
  • Failure to know letters in own name


  • Failure to understand words can come apart (sailboat can be sail and boat, further: boat can be b/oa/t)
  • Inability to learn to associate letters with sounds
  • Inability to sound out the simplest of words, such as mat, cut, hop, nip, ten
  • Complains about how hard reading is

School Years:

  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words (pasghetti for spaghetti)
  • Trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, days of the week, months of the year
  • Speech that is not fluent – lots of ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’
  • Failure to manipulate sounds in words (What is cup without the /c/? What is lip if you add a /s/ at the beginning? What is cup if you change the /u/ to /a/?)
  • Use of imprecise language such as ‘thing’ and ‘stuff’
  • Unable to find the exact word (humanity for humidity)
  • Slow progress in acquiring reading skills
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Difficulty automatically and rapidly reading known words (fluency)
  • Lack of strategies to read new words – guesses
  • Difficulty with small words such as ‘that’, ‘an’, ‘in’, ‘the’
  • Fear/resistance to reading aloud
  • Inability to finish tests on time
  • Trouble reading math word problems
  • Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
  • Lowered self-esteem, with pain not always visible to others
  • Reading is very slow and tiring
  • Family history of learning disability/dyslexia
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty retelling a story that was heard
  • Difficulty automatically switching from one task to another

Young Adults and Adults:

  • Persistence of earlier oral language difficulties
  • Struggle to retrieve words
  • Childhood history of reading and spelling difficulties
  • Continued difficulty sounding out words and spelling
  • Lack of fluency
  • Word reading becomes more accurate but continues to require great effort
  • Extreme fatigue from reading
  • Doesn’t read for pleasure
  • Poor performance on clerical tasks
  • Unusually long hours spent reading school or work-related materials
  • Embarrassment caused by oral reading

Individuals with reading difficulties are often mistaken to be lazy, careless, or slow. They often struggle with seemingly simple tasks that others take for granted. Repeated failure to perform at expected levels sometimes results in an endless cycle of frustration, anxiety, and shame. A growing list of exceptional individuals known to have suffered from dyslexia proves that the condition doesn’t have to diminish ambitions, dreams, or success:

  • Hans Christian Andersen
  • Tom Cruise
  • Winston Churchill
  • Walt Disney
  • Thomas Edison
  • Albert Einstein
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • John Lennon
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Charles Schwab

If you suspect a possible reading difficulty or learning disability, investigate appropriate assessment and evaluation to determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Remediation is usually extremely effective for adults as well as children.

Heed the warning signs and unlock your child’s learning potential!

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