Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. Individuals with dyslexia typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding. Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing dyslexia. Examples of specific types of reading disorders include:

  • Word decoding-People who have difficulty sounding out written words; matching the letters to sounds to be able to read a word.
  • Lack of fluency-People who lack fluency have difficulty reading quickly, accurately, and with proper expression (if reading aloud).
  • Poor reading comprehension- People with poor reading comprehension have trouble understanding what they read.

There are many different symptoms and types of reading disorders, and not everyone with a reading disorder has every symptom. People with reading disorders may have problems recognizing words that they already know and may also be poor spellers. Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Trouble with handwriting
  • Difficulty reading quickly
  • Problems reading with correct expression
  • Problems understanding the written word 

Milestones to look for in phonological awareness development:


  • Engage in rhyme play and nonsense words implicitly

By age 5 (beginning kindergarten)

  • Awareness of the worse as a discrete unit
  • Awareness of the syllable as a discrete unit

As Kindergartners

  • Identify rhyme- particularly if given examples to judge
  • Match initial consonant (bat and ball have the same sound at the beginning!)
  • Segment two phonemes (“up “has two sounds “u” and “p”)
  • Blend two phonemes (“a” and “t” make “at”)

By age 6 (beginning first grade)

  • Match final sounds (“hat” and “rat” have the same sound at the end)
  • Segment simple spoken words CVC (hat is “h” “a” “t”)

Somewhat later-end of first grade beginning second

  • Blend three phonemes CVC or CCVC (“cat” or “trip”)
  • Complete phoneme segmentation: saying, tapping, counting phonemes

By age 8

  • Advanced phoneme segmentation-consonant clusters(str, bl) may still be difficult
  • Phoneme manipulation tasks-requires segmentation plus deletion, reversal or substitution (pig-Latin)

** Reversal of letters (confusing b/d) is typical up until age 7