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Common Warning Signs of Dyslexia in Teens in Grades 9–12

Dyslexia Symptoms and Warning Signs in Teens

Are you concerned because your teen is struggling with academic learning in school? Have you noticed any social awkwardness or a tendency to keep a distance from peers? Does lack of motivation seem to be a problem? Do you worry about whether low self-esteem is taking the joy out of learning? These may all be signs of a not-yet-identified learning disability (LD) such as dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language-based processing disorder that can affect reading, writing, spelling, and speaking, as well as social interactions and self-esteem. Look over the following list of common warning signs of dyslexia in teens in Grades 9–12. You may find that it will help clarify your concerns.

Because learning disabilities such as dyslexia are persistent over time, be sure to consider any similar struggles your child had in elementary and middle school. You may also want to use our Interactive Learning Disabilities Checklist to more clearly identify your teen’s particular challenges. Finally, understand that some “symptoms” listed below may also apply to other learning disabilities or to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition that often co-exists with LD.


For At Least the Past Six Months, My Teen Has Had Trouble


  • Speaking fluently (not haltingly) and precisely, using a rich vocabulary.
  • Understanding instructions/directions.
  • Using correct grammar and vocabulary.
  • Understanding the relationship between speaker and listener; participating in conversation appropriately.
  • Staying on topic and getting to the point (gets bogged down in details).
  • Summarizing a story.
  • Distinguishing between words that look or sound similar.
  • Understanding non-literal language such as idioms and jokes.



  • Reading with speed and accuracy for one's expected grade level.
  • Reading aloud.
  • Reading without losing one's place or substituting/skipping over words.
  • Recognizing sight words.
  • Using word analysis (not guessing) to read/learn unfamiliar words.
  • Finding enjoyment and confidence in reading.



  • Spelling accurately and consistently.
  • Proofreading and editing written work.
  • Preparing an outline for written work.
  • Expressing ideas in a logical, organized way.
  • Fully developing ideas in written work.



  • Picking up on other people's moods and feelings.
  • Understanding and responding appropriately to teasing.
  • Making and keeping friends.
  • Setting realistic goals for social relationships.
  • Dealing with group pressure and embarrassment and unexpected challenges.
  • Having a realistic sense of his or her social strengths and weaknesses.
  • Being motivated and confident about learning and relationships.



  • Organizing and managing time.
  • Navigating space and direction (e.g., knowing left from right).
  • Reading charts and maps.
  • Performing consistently from day to day.
  • Applying skills learned in one situation to another situation.
  • Learning and mastering new games and puzzles.
  • Memorizing.
  • Learning a foreign language.


If your teen struggles with several of these warning signs, don't hesitate to seek help. Print this article, check off the warning signs that apply to your teen, talk it over with them and take the list with you to the professional(s) you consult. With proper identification and support, your teen will be better able to succeed in school, the workplace and in life. The teenage years are difficult at times – for both parent and child – but if you can work together to pinpoint and address their special needs now, they will have a greater chance of success and happiness in college and beyond.


Additional Resources

Tags: grade9-12