October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month, an opportunity to bring awareness to a learning disability that is estimated to affect 10%-15% of the U.S. population.

The first “symptom” of dyslexia is often poor performance in school. As a parent, it’s frustrating watching your child struggle or seeing classmates gain skills that your child can’t master. Dyslexia has nothing to do with a child’s intelligence or willingness to learn. When you understand what dyslexia is and recognize potential warning signs to look for, you can help your child succeed and thrive.

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Children with dyslexia have trouble processing information they see and have difficulty connecting the sound made by a specific letter. This makes it hard for them to read, spell, write, and pronounce words.

What Are the Signs?

Dyslexic children display varying degrees of symptoms. In younger children, you may see the following signs:

  • Late talker
  • Pronunciation problems and difficulty rhyming words
  • Trouble learning basic facts like letters, numbers, and colors
  • Problems with writing and other fine motor skills
  • Confusing similar looking letters like “b” and “d,” or struggling with letter order in words
  • Difficulty connecting letters and their sounds

Dyslexia is often diagnosed later in a child’s life. Look for these symptoms in older children or adults:

  • Trouble with reading, writing, and spelling
  • Difficulty remembering numbers
  • Continued struggle with schoolwork
  • Struggle to follow a sequence of directions and tell left from right

Not all children who show these symptoms have dyslexia. If you have concerns, speak to your pediatrician. The first step is to rule out possible physical issues (vision, hearing, etc.). Your pediatrician can then refer you to a learning specialist, speech therapist, or education consultant who can perform an evaluation.

The best way to help your child with dyslexia is to be informed, be positive, and be their advocate. Children with dyslexia grow up to pursue positive, productive endeavors. Just ask movie director Steven Spielberg, author John Irving, and actress Jennifer Aniston, all of whom have dyslexia.