Is Your Student a Dyslexic Reader?

Abigail Marshall, a founding member of the Davis Dyslexia Association International, lists the following problems that a dyslexic person might have. She cautions, however, that there is no single pattern of difficulty that affects all dyslexic persons.

She might see some letters as backwards or upside down.

He might see text appearing to jump around on a page.

She might not be able to tell the difference between letters that look similar in shape such as o,e,c.

He might not be able to tell the difference between letters that have similar shape but different orientation, such as b and p, d and q.

The letters might look all jumbled up and out of order.

The letters and words might look all bunched together.

The letters of some words might appear completely backwards, such as the word was looking like saw.

The letters and words might look okay, but the dyslexic person might get a severe headache or feel sick to her stomach every time she tries to read.   

He might see the letters okay, but not be able to sound out words—that is, not  able to connect the letters to the sounds they make and understand them.

She might be able to connect the letters and sound out words, but not recognize words she has seen before, no matter how many times she has seen them—each time she would have to start fresh.

He might be able to read the words okay but not be able to make sense of or remember what he reads, so that he finds herself coming back to read the same passage over and over again.        

It is important to understand that when a dyslexic person sees letters or words reversed or mixed up, there is usually nothing wrong with her eyes. The problem is in the way the mind interprets what the eyes see—like an optical illusion, except this mismatch between what illusion and reality happens with ordinary print on a page.

Marshall, Abigail.  Understanding and Recognizing Dyslexia.  Davis Dyslexia Association International.  01 August 2012. 13 June 2013.


Have you ever asked yourself why your student is having so much trouble reading the text on a given page?  You’ve worked on letter names and sounds, practiced the 100 most frequently used words, worked with vowel sounds and blends, etc.  But, given a page to read, things get all mixed up.  What should you do next?  It might be that your student is dyslexic.             

How do we as tutors help those who have been diagnosed as dyslexic?  Let me share what I have done with my student whom I will call “Joan.” Joan is in her mid-thirties and works daily.  Her job requires her to know specific words which we have practiced often. She knows these few words quite well. Joan can read words from a list or from cards. She can read frequently-used phrases from cards.  Her problem comes when we read books or articles.

Because she is an older student, she knows when something doesn’t make sense and this is an advantage. We’ve experimented with a number of techniques. We have used larger print books and articles. We always use a card to mark our place, and this helps her eyes not skip around or jump to the other text on the page.  A red colored piece of cellophane, an overlay, helps to make the black letters more predominant. We read together; I read a line or two and she reads the same lines, and then she reads the lines by herself. When she gets tired I can hear more mistakes, so I read for a while. Joan is especially fond of history and biography books, and it helps her keep her attention level up when she reads these books that interests her.

Do you work with a student who is dyslexic, and what techniques would you like to share? Please email Josh, janderson [at] waukeganpl [dot] info and add to this discussion!

Contributed by tutor Ruth Woodruff


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