Signs of dyslexia (Secondary school age)

Dyslexia is a learning difference which produces unique combinations of strengths as well as challenges. It is the disparity between them that is often the give-away clue. Dyslexia can only be diagnosed through a Diagnostic Assessment. However, there are indicators which can help you to identify a young person who may be dyslexic.

‘Written work

  • Has a poor standard of written work compared with oral ability
  • Has poor handwriting with badly formed letters or has neat handwriting but writes very slowly
  • Produces badly set out or messy written work, with spellings, crossed out several times
  • Spells the same word differently in one piece of work
  • Has difficulty with punctuation and/or grammar
  • Confuses upper and lower case letters
  • Writes a great deal but ‘loses the thread’
  • Writes very little, but to the point
  • Has difficulty taking notes in lessons
  • Has difficulty with organisation of homework
  • Finds tasks difficult to complete on time
  • Appears to know more than they can commit to paper


  • Is hesitant and laboured, especially when reading aloud
  • Omits, repeats or adds extra words
  • Reads at a reasonable rate, but has a low level of comprehension
  • Fails to recognise familiar words
  • Misses a line or repeats the same line twice
  • Loses their place easily/uses a finger or marker to keep the place
  • Has difficulty in pin-pointing the main idea in a passage
  • Has difficulty using dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias


  • Has difficulty remembering tables and/or basic number sets
  • Finds sequencing problematic
  • Confuses signs such as x for +
  • Can think at a high level in mathematics, but needs a calculator for simple calculations
  • Misreads questions that include words
  • Finds mental arithmetic at speed very difficult
  • Finds memorising formulae difficult

Other areas

  • Confuses direction – left/right
  • Has difficulty in learning foreign languages
  • Has indeterminate hand preference
  • Has difficulty in finding the name for an object
  • Has clear difficulties processing information at speed
  • Misunderstands complicated questions
  • Finds holding a list of instructions in memory difficult, although can perform all tasks when told individually


  • Is disorganised or forgetful e.g. over sports equipment, lessons, homework, appointments
  • Is immature and/or clumsy
  • Has difficulty relating to others; is unable to ‘read’ body language
  • Is often in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Is excessively tired, due to the amount of concentration and effort required

A cluster of these indicators alongside areas of ability may point to possible dyslexia and further investigation is recommended’ Taken from the British Dyslexia Association’s website.

Next steps

If you believe that your child may be dyslexic then your first port of call is to talk to their teacher and the school’s SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator).

The discussion:

  • Plan what your goal is and write down your questions, involving your child when possible. Collate reports, screenings, relevant correspondence from the school/outside agency.
  • Make sure you show respect to the teacher and value what they work very hard to do.
  • Listen and take time to consider what the teachers suggest. Be prepared to compromise and be open to plan B. Cooperation between parents and school staff is beneficial all around.
  • After the discussion, any follow up is likely to be on-going. Work with the school to set goals and ensure each party knows what they will do and when the subsequent meeting(s) will take place.


If you have any further concerns then Zoë at Mancroft Learning can help.  Call 01986 788011 or email zoeb@mancroftlearnin.co.uk


Author: Zoë Brown

I am a dyslexia specialist, qualified in assessing dyslexia and literacy related difficulties as well as tutoring dyslexic children and those who need additional literacy support. Having been diagnosed as dyslexic at an early age, I have a personal understanding of both the challenges and advantages that dyslexia brings. I feel strongly that when given the right support and positive encouragement, dyslexic people of all ages can excel in confidence and academic attainment.

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