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Identifying Dyslexia in Students

October 3-9 marks Dyslexia Awareness Week 2016 in the UK.

This year the event has been themed “Identification of Dyslexia”. Teachers who are able to identify dyslexia in affected students provide a wonderful benefit to those students. Identification helps enable children to access life-changing support. Dyslexic students learn very differently from other students, and really must be taught differently in order to help them maximise their potential.

Why is it important to identify dyslexia?

Children with dyslexia who are not identified during the early years of their schooling may develop coping strategies that disguise their dyslexia. While these coping strategies may be positive or negative, they can prevent accurate identification, and this leads to secondary effects. Low self esteem, frustration, loss of motivation for learning, as well as social and emotional issues, can all stem from unidentified dyslexia. On the flip side, dyslexic children who are identified early are more able to access effective instruction, learning support and other tools to help them with their learning difference.

Dyslexia identification in children

How do you tell if a student is dyslexic? The condition may affect boys or girls, from all backgrounds. One of the more frustrating issues for teachers attempting to identify dyslexia is that, often, dyslexic traits seem to be normal variations in childhood development timetables. Dyslexic traits start becoming more apparent around aged 3, and observant teachers will notice clusters of issues that stand out. Some signs are more obvious than others. Dyslexic children can have a wide range of difficulties, and don’t necessarily experience them all. Dyslexia is often suspected by teachers (or parents) of children who are struggling with speaking, writing, reading, or numeracy. The child does not progress as quickly as classmates, or may not seem to progress at all. Yet they may also have areas of strong ability.


There are numerous lists of symptoms available which describe specific dyslexic traits to look for at different ages. The British Dyslexia Association provides useful lists of indications for pre-school, primary and secondary students, from which teachers can look for a cluster of difficulties. While a checklist itself cannot provide enough information for a diagnostic assessment, it can certainly be used as a guide to whether further testing would be beneficial. It is important to point out that people who do not have dyslexia can still check many of the boxes on the checklist. Therefore, checklists must be used with caution, and not in isolation.

Diagnostic Assessment

Diagnostic assessments should always be conducted by qualified, certified persons, such as chartered psychologists or specialist teachers/assessors with an Assessment Practicing Certificate. Your local Dyslexia Association, or your school’s SEN Co-ordinator, may be able to recommend suitable practitioners.

Identification is crucial

Identifying dyslexia is a crucial step in the lives of affected people. Identification can be a catalyst to get the help and support they need. Dyslexia is so often a ‘hidden disability’, but it is also the most common learning difficulty. Importantly, many schools don’t recognise dyslexia as disability, simply a learning difference. This is because when, taught in an appropriate way, dyslexic people are able to achieve outstanding success in this modern world. Teachers and support staff play an important role in the early identification of dyslexia amongst students. They can thus make a real difference in the lives of many.