The Undiagnosed Teenager with Dyslexia

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 websites 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.

Citation Information
Marshall, A. The Undiagnosed Teenager with Dyslexia. Retrieved January 16, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:

Related Articles

Davis Dyslexia Correction

Davis Dyslexia Correction

The Davis Dyslexia Correction program is suitable for children age 8 and over, and adults of any age.   Licensed Davis providers have successfully worked with with many individuals over age 70. The program typically includes 30 hours of one-on-one w...
Diary of a Week with a Facilitator

Diary of a Week with a Facilitator

Diary of 13-year-old Bridget Dalton's week with her Davis facilitator Monday I was really excited because I was having a week off school and coming to a place I didn't know and staying in a bed-and-breakfast. But I was also quite nervous, mainly...
What Sets Davis Apart

What Sets Davis Apart

We view dyslexia as a result of an inherent mental gift or talent. People who develop dyslexia think in pictures, rather than words; they are imaginative and creative; and they try to solve problems by looking at the whole picture, rather than working ...


Share this page!


  • ky

    why does the article say his and him only ? Girls can have dyslexia too. I’m just asking

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Good question. This article is a reprint of a chapter from the book, The Everything Parents Guide to Children with Dyslexia. In the book, the pronoun “she” is alternated with “he” in different sections. So one section might use “he” throughout, and the next section would use “he”. This is a style decision made by the publisher and its copy editors — they didn’t want things to get confusing with pronouns being switched repeatedly back and forth.

      So if you had the whole book, you would see that pattern. However, it happens that the particular sections that were selected for the excerpt are using “he”.

      Of course, the same concerns apply whether the teenager who needs help is a girl or a boy! And, as you can see, we did choose to use a photo of a girl to illustrate the article on our site.

  • Neecie

    I cant pay attention whatsoever on any of my assignments and pretty much all of the learning disability signs apply to me. Id want to talk to my parents about it but they think i lie about it because im lazy. What do i do

  • Juanita L

    I need help please! My daughter and I live in Florida. My daughter is in the 10th. She attends a charter school. She suffers from dyslexia, ADHD and anxiety. She has all A’s and B’s but in reading she has an F. Can someone help me and tell me what I need to do to help her?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Have you read the book, The Gift of Dyslexia? That’s a good place to start because it offers a different perspective and also a specific approach to addressing the underlying causes of difficulties with reading and attention focus.

  • Danielle

    Is Dyslexia often confused with ADHD, or do the two disorders present commonly together? My daughter has been diagnosed ADHD and gets tremendous help with medication in her ability to focus. But she is still showing signs of dyslexia.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, dyslexia is often misdiagnosed as ADHD, and it is extremely common for symptoms to overlap. That is one reason that every Davis program rests first on teaching the ability to recognize disorientation and self-regulate attention focus and energy level. We have taken that approach rather than medication because once learned, the self-regulation tools are always available.

  • Johnny

    I used to perform very well in school, and have done well on IQ tests. However, long length assignments, particularly involving a lot of time management – I never seem to be able to deliver on. It’s not that I’m lazy, I really try, but never can seem to stay on top of things.
    Over the part year or so, I have noticed by spelling and ability to read words 100% correctly the first time, has been deteriorating. I can think in concepts, or not words. I have massive trouble remembering numbers or reading numbers quickly. I am also TERRIBLE at remembering names, real life – or of characters in stories.
    I have bipolar disorder on top of this.

    I’m a senior in high school, approaching exams, should I investigate this further??
    Thanks for your help

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Johnny, dyslexics tend to be nonverbal thinker — as you say, thinking in concepts, not words. Many of the symptoms associated with dyslexia are actually caused by disorientation. In essence, your mind becomes overwhelmed or confused, and that leads to mistakes in perception. It is possible for a very smart and capable young person to cope well during early years of schooling, but experience difficulty for the first time in high school when the material becomes more difficult and stress levels are higher. Particularly as you are now a senior with exams coming up, you could be experiencing this sort of mental pressure. So yes, this is worth investigating. There are some very simple mental relaxation and focusing techniques that can help tremendously, if in fact disorientation is at the root of your newly developing problems.

Leave a Reply to Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *