The Undiagnosed Teenager with Dyslexia

Author
by Abigail Marshall.  Excerpted with permission from Chapters 2 and 3 of The Everything Parent’s Guide To Children With Dyslexia
© 2004 F+W Publications, Inc., a division of Adams Media.

teenage girl studyingOften, very bright children are able to compensate for their dyslexia in the early school years, but cannot cope with the greater intellectual demands of secondary level schooling.

Some common signs that your teenager may have dyslexia are:

  • Your child must repeatedly read and reread material in order to understand it.
  • Your child has extreme difficulty managing and keeping track of homework assignments and deadlines for his various classes.
  • Your child repeatedly reports that he was unaware of assignments and deadlines because the teacher “never told” him what was required.
  • Your child has unexpected difficulty with learning a foreign language.
  • Your child struggles with higher math, such as algebra.
  • There is a significant discrepancy between your child’s school performance and scores on standardized tests, including college board tests such as the PSAT.

If your child shows significant problems in any one of the above areas, it is a sign that he may have a previously undiagnosed learning disability. You should discuss these issues with him and also talk to parents of his classmates to find out whether their children are also having problems with the same subjects. Sometimes a problem with a math class or the first year of a foreign language can simply be the result of a poor teacher; poor grades in any subject can also occur with a teacher who is unusually strict in grading practices. If it is a “teacher” problem, usually other students and parents will have similar complaints.

However, if the problems seem to be unusual or persistent, you should seek an evaluation for dyslexia or other learning barriers. The guidance counselor at school may be able to help arrange such testing, as well as to help plan your child’s course schedule to better meet his needs.

When an Older Child Asks for Help

In some cases, your older child or teenager may be the one who asks for testing. Your child may find the academic demands in middle school and high school overwhelming, at least in some subject areas. He may have learned about dyslexia on his own, through Internet web sites or by talking to other kids. In any case, he knows that he is struggling with material that seems easy for his peers.

Your teenager may be afraid to bring up the subject of dyslexia at home. He may be embarrassed to let you know just how poorly he is doing at school, or he may be afraid that you will be angry or upset.

It is important that you listen to your child and try to understand the reasons he feels he needs extra help. You might want to take a list of common dyslexia symptoms and ask your child to show you which problems on the list he feels apply to him.

You may be surprised to learn that your child has been struggling for years, but has managed in the past to hide his problems through sheer determination and hard work. Your support and understanding is crucial; for a child who has previously done well academically, an appropriate diagnosis can be the boost he needs to excel in high school and gain admittance into the college of his choice.

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29 comments

  • Diana

    I am in middle school, and In the advance program, and I at first didn’t think I had dyslexia because I thought dyslexia was seeing letters and words in a different order. I can perfectly see a word or phrase and I know what it is suppose to look like but sometimes I switch the letters to making me say the word different like the word ‘foal’ i can see the word and know its spelled f-o-a-l but i pronounce it flow. In regular tests and state assessments I do okay but I reread the sentences about 5 times before I fully understand what they are saying but in writing I need to think for about 20 minutes to write words, phrases and general sentences, I also have problem spelling simple words and I can’t pronounce them right until someone corrects me. In math I do really good but I can’t write down the steps I took to get the answer and I do use my hands for math as well, when I try to remember something I always think of a picture the way I’m suppose to do something or I try to remember what I did before and the scenes that took place before hand. In all of my classes I constantly don’t remember if I have an assignment, I loose track of time always from something extremely important to the simple things. Also, On a daily basis I have to rethink what my people say to understand what there saying, sometimes I act like I am copying what there saying with my hand to comprehend what they’re saying.

    • Diana

      I also get headaches when I read and I can’t study correctly

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Diana, all of the problems you describe can be caused by dyslexia. I hope you can talk with your parents about your concerns — if you are struggling to do your schoolwork but managing to keep your grades up, your parents may not have any idea about how hard you are working. Dyslexia can be corrected — but at your age you will need to have adults to help you find and get the help you want.

  • Nora G

    Hi there,
    I’m tutoring a high school student in math and saw her naturally print a word from right to left but the word was spelled correctly and each letter was written the correct way! She’s amazingly quiet and sweet and I’m helping her gather strategies and tools to gain understanding of her course work.
    I’ve stumbled upon this website and WOW!!!

    There are so many ideas here for assisting so many students not only with dyslexia but also beginning reading strategies for tactile learners, readers who are speedy quick but miss lots…….and more. It’s definitely worth it to snoop through all of the links on here to find help for your students!

    Thank you for this site! 🙂

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