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Is my child dyslexic?

Signs of dyslexia (Secondary school age)

Dyslexia is a combination of abilities as well as difficulties. It is the disparity between them that is often the give-away clue. A dyslexic learner, despite certain areas of difficulty, may be orally very able and knowledgeable, creative, artistic, or sporting. Alongside these abilities will be a cluster of difficulties - these will be different for every person.

Dyslexia can only be diagnosed through a Diagnostic Assessment. However, there are indicators which can help you to identify a young person who may be dyslexic.

Written work

  • Has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability
  • Has poor handwriting with badly formed letters or has neat handwriting, but writes very slowly
  • Produces badly set out or messy written work, with spellings crossed out several times
  • Spells the same word differently in one piece of work
  • Has difficulty with punctuation and/or grammar
  • Confuses upper and lower case letters
  • Writes a great deal but 'loses the thread'
  • Writes very little, but to the point
  • Has difficulty taking notes in lessons
  • Has difficulty with organisation of homework
  • Finds tasks difficult to complete on time
  • Appears to know more than they can commit to paper


  • Is hesitant and laboured, especially when reading aloud
  • Omits, repeats or adds extra words
  • Reads at a reasonable rate, but has a low level of comprehension
  • Fails to recognise familiar words
  • Misses a line or repeats the same line twice
  • Loses their place easily/uses a finger or marker to keep the place
  • Has difficulty in pin-pointing the main idea in a passage
  • Has difficulty using dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias


  • Has difficulty remembering tables and/or basic number sets
  • Finds sequencing problematic
  • Confuses signs such as x for +
  • Can think at a high level in mathematics, but needs a calculator for simple calculations
  • Misreads questions that include words
  • Finds mental arithmetic at speed very difficult
  • Finds memorising formulae difficult

Other areas

  • Confuses direction - left/right
  • Has difficulty in learning foreign languages
  • Has difficulty in finding the name for an object
  • Has clear difficulties processing information at speed
  • Misunderstands complicated questions
  • Finds holding a list of instructions in memory difficult, although can perform all tasks when told individually


  • Is disorganised or forgetful e.g. over sports equipment, lessons, homework, appointments
  • Is easily distracted. May find it difficult to remain focused on the task
  • Is often in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Is excessively tired, due to the amount of concentration and effort required

A cluster of these indicators alongside areas of ability may point to possible dyslexia and further investigation is recommended.

Next steps

If you suspect that your child may be dyslexic then you should discuss this with your child's teacher or the school's Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo).

If a teacher is concerned that a learner may have dyslexia or have any other SpLD, then they should consult the school's SENCo to discuss a plan of action. It is important that appropriate support is put in place as soon as a need is identified, rather than waiting for a formal identification.

Under the SEND Code of Practice, if a teacher suspects that a child has special educational needs (SEN) then they must inform a child's parents and include them in discussions about what is the best support for their child. The school must also tell the parents of any special educational provision that is made for their child.

Dyslexia can only be formally identified through a Diagnostic Assessment but this is not needed in order for the young person to receive support. You can find out more about Diagnostic Assessments on the BDA Assessment webpage.

More information

Understanding and support neurodiversity: Support strategies for parents and carers, BDA 2018