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There can be many signs of language-based learning disabilities. We’ve listed 10 key categories and their common characteristics.

This page is for information purposes only, not diagnosis. If you think that your child has a language-based learning disability, you should arrange for your child to have a psycho-educational assessment by a registered psychologist. Our Admissions Team can help by providing more information (contact here or call 604 736 5575).

  • Can read a word on one page, but won’t recognize it on the next page
  • Slow, inaccurate reading of single words when there are no pictures or storyline to provide clues
  • Often say a word that has the same first and last letters, and the same shape, such as form-from or trial-trail
  • Often insert or leave out letters, such as could-cold or star-stair
  • May say a word that has the same letters, but in a different sequence, such as who-how, lots-lost, saw-was, or girl-grill
  • Directionality confusion with b-d, n-u or m-w
  • Substitute similar-looking words, even if it changes the meaning of the sentence, such as sunrise-surprise, house-horse, while-white, wanting-walking

  • Poor, nearly illegible handwriting (a.k.a. dysgraphia or visual-motor integration disability)
  • Mixture of upper/lower case letters or print/cursive letter
  • Irregular letter sizes and shapes or unfinished letters
  • Unusual pencil grip, often with the thumb on top of the fingers (“fist grip”)
  • Letters don’t “sit” on the horizontal lines
  • Slow, painful copying off the board—visually “grabbing” just one or two letters at a time, often misspelling words and losing place
  • Chronic confusion about similarly formed cursive letters such as f and b, m and n, w and u.

  • Trouble memorizing addition and subtraction facts, plus multiplication tables
  • Unable to remember the sequence of steps in long division
  • Difficulty reading word problems
  • Often copy an answer incorrectly from one spot to a different spot
  • Often “see” math in their head, so showing work is almost impossible
  • Make errors doing math too rapidly
  • Often able to excel at higher levels of math, such as algebra, geometry and calculus—if they have a teacher who understands how to work with this learning disability

  • Learning any task that has a series of steps that must be completed in a specific order can be difficult, such as tying shoelaces, printing letters, doing long division or touch typing

  • Directionality (left-right; numbers; up-down; word order; time; sense of direction) never becomes rapid and automatic
  • Left-Right confusion with letters that point in the opposite direction such as b-d
  • Number confusion: often start math problems on the wrong side or carry a number the wrong way
  • Up-Down confusion with letters b-p, d-q, n-u and m-w
  • Word confusion with first-last, before-after, next-previous, over-under
  • Time confusion with yesterday-tomorrow
  • Sense of direction confusion with north, south, east, west: often get lost when driving around; often have difficulty reading or understanding maps

  • Have extreme difficulty with vowel sounds and often leave them out
  • With enormous effort, might be able to “memorize” Monday’s spelling list long enough to pass Friday’s spelling test, but can’t spell the same words later
  • Continually misspell high-frequency sight words such as they, what, where, does and because, despite extensive practice
  • Misspell even when copying something from the board or from a book
  • Written work shows signs of spelling uncertainty—numerous erasures, cross-outs, etc.

  • When asked the time, may say something like, “It’s ten past quarter to.”
  • Often can tell whole and half hours (5:00, 5:30, etc.) but not smaller chunks of time (i. e., 5:12)
  • Can tell time on a digital clock, but if told to be home in 15 minutes, can’t figure out when that would be

  • Notable difference between the ability to tell people something and writing it down
  • Avoid writing whenever possible
  • Write everything as one very long sentence
  • No understanding that a sentence has to start with a capital letter and end with punctuation
  • Misspell many words—even simple one-syllable words
  • Have nearly illegible handwriting
  • Use space poorly on the page , with odd spacing between words, ignored margins, words widely spaced or tightly pushed together

  • Tendency to pile things rather than to organize them and put them away
  • Often forget where an item is if not visible (e.g. behind a door or in a drawer)
  • Often have extremely messy bedrooms, lockers, desks, backpacks, purses, offices

  • Difficulty memorizing “non-meaningful” facts such as multiplication tables, days of the week or months of the year (in order), science statistics (e.g., water boils at 21º F) and historical dates, names, places

IDA Dyslexia Handbook

Browse the IDA Dyslexia Handbook: What Every Family Should Know – a valuable resource produced by the International Dyslexia Association.

The handbook includes characteristics of dyslexia, information on valid assessments, effective teaching approaches, self-advocacy ideas and a list of resources for parents and children.

Does your child struggle with reading, writing or math?

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