How to spot if your child has reading difficulties

Dec 2011
How to spot if your child has reading difficulties
The majority of children need some time and practise in order to read fluently.

Learning to read is not something which all children find easy. Most children experience difficulties at the beginning, but they should overcome them with practice and patience. Identifying whether your child has genuine reading difficulties is the first step to solving the problem.

Becoming familiar with letters, words and sentences can take time for many children. Reading and writing can come as a shock for children who are purely used to communicating verbally.

The majority of children need some time and patience in order to read fluently and it doesn't mean that they have reading difficulties. However, after a while, every child should improve and their reading abilities tend to improve considerably as they develop into toddlers.

If you are genuinely worried about your child's reading abilities, there are some techniques to spot if your child may have reading difficulties.

What is a reading disorder?
Despite being a learning issue, a reading disorder is more complex than simply being slow to pick up information. Every child with standard intelligence can experience it.

A reading disorder suggests there is a gap between the expected level of performance and actual achievement. Therefore, parents should consider the age of the child in order to determine what to look for when comparing expected performance and actual achievement.

Consequences of a reading disorder
Once children are in school, it is essential to spot any possible reading problems and work to solve them as soon as possible. Otherwise, reading disorders can cause learning problems in all subjects and, consequently, in their overall academic work.

Although they are usually easy to solve, the consequences of not improving a reading disorder could quickly affect many other areas of learning.

In many cases, children with reading difficulties end up experiencing additional learning problems such as delays in spoken language, confusion with directions, or right/left-handedness, confusion with opposites, mathematics or written expression problems.

Symptoms of reading difficulties
The good thing about this common problem is that parents can spot it quite easily. Difficulties in reading can occur on many levels and manifest themselves in different ways. The most common symptoms when having reading difficulties are:

  • Slow reading speed

  • Transposing letters in words

  • Poor reading comprehension

  • Difficulty identifying single words

  • Problems with spelling

  • Omission or substitution of words while reading

  • Reversal of words while reading

  • Difficulty decoding syllables or single words and associating them with specific sounds

  • Limited sight word vocabulary

  • Resistance to reading and lack of enjoyment


How can you overcome a child's reading difficulties?
The top tips to solve reading disorders are practice and patience. It is advisable to develop a reading plan in which children will work and progress with their reading skills in a customised system tailored to every child's needs and circumstances.

It is also important to create a friendly reading environment at home, offer support and to encourage them to become interested in what they are reading. If they find a particular book to be boring, they will not want to make the effort.