How to spot reading difficulties?

‘Does my child have reading difficulties?’

It’s an important question for a parent to consider because ultimately, the ball is in your court to follow through and seek out ways, often outside of school, to help your child overcome any learning difficulties they may encounter during their education.

It can be a difficult question to answer for many parents.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing! If I were to wind the clock back and have our time over again, these are some of the ‘red flags’ I’d be looking out for.

You may recognise some similarities in your child or only a few – keep in mind each child is different.

It is not an exhaustive list and merely scratches the surface of reading difficulties.

It is my hope that in sharing this information, it will shine more of a light on the often hidden and confusing topic of reading difficulties.

Potential ‘Red Flags’ include:

Before School Age
Language / Listening Skills

  • Late talker / limited vocabulary
  • Slow in learning new words
  • Difficulty forming words correctly
  • Difficulty remembering or naming letters, numbers, colours
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games
  • Difficulty remembering or following directions

School Age Grade 1-3
Reading and Writing

  • Lack of interest in reading and writing
  • Appearing not to remember what’s been taught
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Trouble matching letters with the correct sound
  • Confusion with letters with similar sounds (eg. d/t or s/x, f/v or short vowel e/i)
  • Confusion with letters that look alike (eg. b/d/q/p or w/m or f/t)
  • Difficulty blending sounds to make words
  • Reads words out of order
  • Reads letters out of order
  • Unable to sound out familiar words (eg. b/a/t)
  • Inserts extra letters when reading (eg. reads slip instead of sip)
  • Reading below the expected level for age
  • Might recognise a word on one page but not on the next page
  • Difficulty remembering sight words
  • Difficulty remembering how to read or write words over time
  • Spending a long-time completing task that involve reading or writing
It’s important to note there are many different signs that may or may not point toward reading difficulties. If your child is tired and simply having an off day and you happen to notice some of these signs in your child, it doesn’t mean your child has a learning difficulty – it may just mean your child is tired.

However, if you have been noticing a consistent pattern in your child’s learning over time (over at least 4 weeks or more), it’s worth following up with your child’s teacher as a first port of call to discuss your observations and concerns.

Beyond that, the ball is in your court to organise additional support for your child.

As I reflect back on our journey, we were encouraged to consult with our local GP to coordinate referrals for specialist appointments to gain hearing and auditory processing assessments. Eye tests were carried out with our usual Optometrist. These checks were important as they helped rule out other conditions which may interfere with learning.

My children’s Cognitive and Developmental Assessments were done through our local University Psychology Clinic and overseen by a Registered Psychologist. To organise these assessments, I rang the University and made the booking directly with their Psychology Clinic.

The results of the assessments helped me understand where my children’s strengths and weaknesses were. It was also a necessary step in organising additional support at a school level.

The Cognitive and Developmental Reports received at the end of their assessments were shared with my children’s school. It created understanding and opportunities to adjust and scaffold learning within the classroom.

Why am I telling you this? Because experience has shown me that finding a place to start is usually one of the hardest parts of moving forward.

Reading is a skill upon which other, higher level literacy skills are developed. A delay in developing reading skills also causes delays in spelling, writing and comprehension. It slows down the chain of learning.

As a child moves through the schooling system into high school, these skills become essential to their learning progress.

The sooner difficulties in learning to read can be identified, the better the educational outcome will be for your child.

There are many ways you can help your child progress.

Ultimately, what happens next is up to you.

More information about The Reading Switch and our Dual Code Reading System can be found on our website 
About Author

Brylee Langley

Founder of The Reading Switch,
Mum of Two Dyslexic Children, Lived Experience,
Parenting Dyslexic Thinkers

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