Signs That May Indicate a Need for Interventions


If a learner has 3 or more of the following warning signs, parents and teachers are encouraged to learn more about struggles with reading skill development. Reach out to Carmen Heethuis at or (605)359-6425 to hear about how our program may help.


In Preschool

  • delayed speech
  • mixing up the sounds and syllables in long words
  • chronic ear infections
  • struggles to name objects
  • has a hard time learning nursery rhymes or song lyrics that rhyme
  • late establishing a dominant hand
  • difficulty remembering and following directions with multiple steps
  • trouble remembering sequences like singing the letters of the alphabet
  • tells stories that are hard to follow or recalling an event in logical order
  • a close relative with dyslexia

 In Elementary School:

Kindergarten and 1st grade

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog 
  • difficulty learning to tie shoes
  • trouble memorizing their address, phone number, or the alphabet
  • struggles to recognize or generate rhyming words
  • Does not understand that words come apart into individual sounds
  • Complains about how hard reading is; “disappears” when it is time to read/avoids reading
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Cannot sound out even simple words like cat, mop, fit
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound
  • difficulty learning sight words
  • when speaking: difficulty finding the correct word, lots of “whatchamacallits” and “thingies”, common sayings come out slightly twisted such as “pasghetti” instead of “spaghetti”
  • often confusing letters that look the same such as u/n or b/d/p/q
  • trouble learning individual sounds in words and blending sounds to make a word

2nd through 5th Grade

  • a close relative with dyslexia
  • Little or no progress with traditional interventions at school or at home
  • Very slow in acquiring reading skills. Reading is slow and choppy
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he cannot sound out the word
  • Doesn’t seem to have a strategy for reading new words
  • Avoids reading out loud
  • dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read)
  • letter or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
  • slow, choppy, inaccurate reading: guesses based on shape or context, skips or misreads prepositions (at, to, of), ignores suffixes, can’t sound out unknown words, spelling difficulties
  • often can’t remember sight words (they, were, does) or homonyms (their, they’re, and there)
  • trouble with math: memorizing multiplication tables, memorizing a sequence of steps, directionality or even excelling at Math until about 3rd grade when much of what is done requires reading
  • when speaking: difficulty finding the correct word, lots of “whatchamacallits” and “thingies”, common sayings come out slightly twisted
  • extremely messy bedroom, backpack, and desk
  • dreads going to school, complains of stomach aches or headaches, may have nightmares about school
  • poor or inconsistent spelling, may remember for spelling test but poor application in writing

In Middle school & High School

  • All of the above symptoms plus:
  • limited vocabulary
  • may achieve good grades but takes a very long time to complete written assignments/spends considerably more time than peers to complete assignments
  • extremely poor written expression, large discrepancy between verbal skills and written compositions
  • unable to master a foreign language
  • difficulty reading printed music
  • poor grades in many classes
  • may drop out of high school
  • a close relative with dyslexia


In Adults- Education history similar to above, plus:

  • slow reader
  • may have to read a page 2 or 3 times to understand it
  • poor speller
  • difficulty putting thoughts onto paper – dreads writing memos or letters
  • still has difficulty with right versus left
  • often gets lost, even in a familiar city
  • sometimes confuses b and d, especially when tired or sick

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