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 she was unaware of assignments and deadlines because the teacher “never told” her 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. She may have learned about dyslexia on her own, through Internet websites or by talking to other kids. In any case, she knows that she is struggling with material that seems easy for her 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 she feels she 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 she feels apply to her.

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 May 14, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website: http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=2323.

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153 comments

  • Adrianna

    Hey my name is Adrianna, And i am 15 i now have been questioning wether i have dyslexia or not and i dont know how to bring it up to my father, so my grades have been good since middle school and up till this freshman year with some 70’s in there and i am have been fine with math for 8th and 9th grade. but I have had trouble reading and spelling and while reading i have to reread what i am reading over and over or have someone speak it to me and with spelling i have trouble remembering how to spell words so i will mispell words a lot and it makes me mad when i cant remember how to say a word and when i read out loud it just gets worse i start to forget more words and i stutter and when writing stuff from a whitebored i cant seem to spell the words correctly after looking at it. I dont know if this is normal or not or if i have dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Adrianna, the problems you describe are common traits of dyslexia. If you feel that you need help or support at school, the first step is to ask for it — either to tell your father that you are experiencing problems, or talk to a teacher or counselor at your school.

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