:: common signs ::

Recognizing Dyslexia

Learning difficulties experienced by people with dyslexia range from mild to severe. Research indicates these learning challenges are not related to general intelligence, but typically result from differences in the phonological components of oral and written language. Phonological components are complex, but when a learner consistently struggles with these types of tasks, they may have dyslexia.

Woman wondering

Oral Language

  • Frequently mispronounces familiar words
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
  • Difficulty recognizing or generating words beginning with the same sound (lamp/lemon)
  • Difficulty recognizing or generating rhyming words (bat/cat)
  • Unable to blend given sounds to say a word (Teacher says /k/-/a/-/t/; student responds “top,” not cat)
  • Difficulty manipulating sounds in words (T: “sand”, take off /s/ to make a new word; student: and)
  • Difficulty counting
  • Difficulty “finding” words to name or explain; uses vague language (ex: stuff)
  • Spoken vocabulary level is smaller than listening vocabulary
  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions/requests
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  • Difficulty with visual tracking from left to right
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet
  • Difficulty learning sound/symbol relationships (b says b as in bug)
  • Difficulty remembering names and shapes of letters
  • Unable to name alphabet letters or common short words rapidly
  • Frequently transposes the order of letters when reading or spelling
  • Frequently misreads or omits common short words
  • “Stumbles” through longer words
  • Reading errors often do not match written text
  • Frequently unable to retell a short or familiar story accurately
  • Unable to answer questions about details directly stated in a short passage they have read
  • Difficulty making reasonable predictions, and drawing conclusions
  • Slow, laborious oral reading
  • Avoids reading aloud
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Written Language

  • Difficulty putting ideas on paper
  • Often misspells words when writing
  • May do well on weekly spelling tests, but may have spelling mistakes in daily work
  • Makes errors in grammar
  • Difficulty proofreading
  • Writes with little variety in vocabulary
  • Writes stories or descriptions with little detail
  • Writing is disorganized and/or incomplete

Other Indicators

  • History of characteristics of dyslexia experienced by parents and/or siblings
  • Messy handwriting
  • Experiences significant fatigue when reading
  • Trouble remembering dates, names, random lists, etc.
  • Struggles to organize assignments, materials, due dates, etc.
  • Expresses low self-competence and self-esteem

:: common signs ::

Related Learning Disorders

Individuals with dyslexia may have other related disorders. However, you can have dyslexia without other related disorders. Some of the co-existing disorders are described below.

Dysgraphia (Handwriting)

  • Unsure of handedness
  • Poor or slow handwriting
  • Messy and unorganized papers
  • Difficulty copying
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Difficulty remembering the kinesthetic movements to form letters correctly
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Dyscalculia (Math)

  • Difficulty counting accurately
  • May misread numbers
  • Difficulty memorizing and retrieving math facts
  • Difficulty copying math problems and organizing written work
  • Many calculation errors
  • Difficulty retaining math vocabulary concepts
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Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Variable attention
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dyspraxia (Motor skills)
  • Difficulty planning and coordinating body movements
  • Difficulty coordinating facial muscles to produce sounds
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Executive Function/Organization

  • Loses papers
  • Poor sense of time
  • Forgets homework
  • Messy desk
  • Overwhelmed by too much input
  • Works slowly

Taking the Next Step

If your child is having difficulties learning to read and you have confirmed multiple of these characteristics, he or she may need to be evaluated for dyslexia or a related disorder.
Kelly Turner

Kelly Turner

Kelly Turner graduated from Lycoming College with a BA in Sociology and Human Services as well as a minor in Psychology. She previously worked one on one with children with Autism using a behavioral modification program. After raising her children, she took the Orton-Gillingham basic and advanced training through The Reading Center/Dyslexia Institute of MN in Rochester, MN, giving her the ability to work with students of all ages. Along with being an Academic Language Therapist, Kelly is a Practicum Instructor for trainees going through the Orton-Gillingham basic training. She also coordinates the Dyslexia Simulation offered through The Reading Center. Understanding the importance of effective reading instruction, Kelly feels strongly that structured literacy be available for all students.

Jane Conlin

Jane Conlin

Jane Conlin is a licensed, professional teacher with a Master’s degree in Counseling. Her classroom experience includes teaching social studies and teaching the deaf and hard of hearing. Jane has achieved advanced certification in teaching the Barton Reading & Spelling System which is an Orton-Gillingham influenced method of teaching dyslexic students to read. She completed a master’s level, multisensory approach for teaching math to people who have dyslexia. She has attended IDA conferences, Upper Midwest Branch, and Decoding Dyslexia sponsored conferences on dyslexia. Jane is dyslexic, the parent of a child with dyslexia, and has several family members who are dyslexic. She has tutored most of these family members in reading at Learn to Learn, the tutoring center she founded in an effort to reach more families who would benefit by using an Orton-Gillingham approach to learn to read.
Sue Hegland

Sue Hegland

Sue Scibetta Hegland is an educator, author, and frequent speaker on topics related to spelling. She began her career doing research and instructional design, but her focus shifted in 2003, when she learned that one of her children is dyslexic. Trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach to literacy instruction, she has been studying and teaching about orthographic linguistics since 2014. Sue has served on the Board of Directors for the Upper Midwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, on the Board of Education for the Brandon Valley School District, and is currently the Editor-in-Chief for the International Dyslexia Association’s Fact Sheet publications. She is the founder of the website LearningAboutSpelling.com [learningaboutspelling.com] and author of the book “Beneath the Surface of Words: What English Spelling Reveals and Why It Matters.
Kelly Gorman

Kelly Gorman

Kelly Gorman brings to the Upper Midwest Branch, 36 years of teaching and leadership from around the country at all levels from elementary, middle, high school and university levels in general and special education. Since retiring, Kelly has spent her time and lifelong learning skills increasing her knowledge of dyslexia and helping parents advocate for appropriate specially designed instruction for their dyslexic learners.

Through her familiarity with Special Education processes, especially the assessment and IEP processes, she has helped parents advocate for accommodations/adaptations, assistive technology, measurable, observable goals, and instruction based on the science of reading. Kelly believes serving on the Board of Directors of IDA-UMB is an opportunity to help create positive change and increase success for dyslexic learners.

Mona Dougherty

Mona Dougherty

Mona Dougherty worked in the field of Dyslexia for over 30 years. Her son was not diagnosed until entering the 5th grade. Being told he was reading at a K level at that point was devastating. That is how she began her journey.

Mona’s educational background includes earning a Certified OT Associate Degree; a BS with a major in Audiology; BS with a major in ES, and a minor in Psychology. She is also a Certified Dyslexia Practitioner and Dyslexia Therapist. Mona has worked teaching adults to read in a research collaboration with the University of MN. She has been employed by Wilson Language Training for the last 18 years.

In her capacity with WLT, She has trained teachers from all parts of the country as well as internationally. She has coached teachers to help those in prisons, private schools and large inner-city schools to improve their reading outcomes.

Deb Dwyer

Deb Dwyer

While raising and teaching two children with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyspraxia, Deb Dwyer trained in all four levels of Orton-Gillingham of MN, successfully completing the additional training to become an instructor. In 2019, she completed her Masters in Education in Reading Science at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In addition to tutoring full time, Deb served as the President of Orton-Gillingham of MN for 6 years and is currently serving as a past-president. She continues to teach courses for OGMN. Deb is a board member for IMSLEC (International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council), and coordinates parent and tutoring meetings in her area. She has presented at the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health Conference, public school in-services and community education courses as well as teaching Orton-Gillingham Introductory, Intermediate and Extended Practicum courses.

Candice McCarty

Candice McCarty

Before joining Wilson Language as a Literacy Advisor/Literacy Specialist, Candice worked in Chicago Public Schools as a special education teacher, case manager, diverse learner administrator, and special education administrator for structured literacy.

Candice passionately believes that ensuring all students have access to high-quality, evidence-based, science of reading aligned literacy instruction is the cornerstone for achieving equity in education.

Justine Gibbon

Justine Gibbon

Justine Gibbon is a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Kindred, North Dakota. She is married and has three children, the oldest two have been diagnosed with dyslexia. She is an active leader for ND-DPI’s dyslexia pilot program. ND-DPI’s dyslexia pilot program is ND’s first initiative to implement dyslexia screening and intervention in the public-school setting. The dyslexia pilot program has served hundreds of children, and Justine continues to teach other educators how to effectively screen and implement appropriate intervention for students at-risk for dyslexia. Justine has served as President of Decoding Dyslexia North Dakota for the past four years. She has found it especially rewarding to help parents navigate the public school system who have children struggling with dyslexia. Justine is an active member of International Dyslexia Association and North Dakota Literacy Association. During her free-time she also teaches online continuing education courses about dyslexia at North Dakota State University.

Justine comments, “Learning about dyslexia has changed my life, for the better. I am more successful as a reading teacher, more empathetic with parents, a stronger leader, and most importantly, a more confident and knowledgeable advocate for my own children.”

“As a board member, I would bring connections from DDND and my knowledge and expertise as a public-school reading teacher. I helped build Multi-Level Systems of Support (MTSS) that includes dyslexia screening and intervention in five rural school districts. I understand the difficulties rural communities face when implementing programs. I hope IDA-UMB can push forward state-wide implementation of dyslexia screening and intervention in every public school in North Dakota (and all of the upper Midwest) so those in rural communities or underprivileged families get the support they need. I would be most interested in serving on the Education and Communication committees, but I am willing to learn and serve on any IDA-UMB committee.”

Robin Rovick

Robin Rovick

Robin Rovick is a Certified Academic Language Therapist, Level IV-trained Orton-Gillingham reading specialist, and a Wilson Level 1 Certified Practitioner. Additionally, she is a Certified Dyslexia Therapist through the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the Center for Effective Reading Instruction (CERI). Robin is a knowledgeable and creative educator with more than thirty years of experience in nurturing and building the skills of learners of all ages, with a special emphasis on developing the reading, writing, and comprehension skills of individuals with language-based disabilities. She has served the IDA-UMB organization as Vice President, Chair of the Information and Referral Committee, and on several committees including Education/ Conference and Publicity/ Promotion. She provides remediation and advocacy work through her private practice at MultiSensory Reading Solutions, LLC, where she designs individual learning programs based upon student needs both in academic areas and executive function deficits, and provides direct, one-on-one instruction. Robin also works with students and teachers at metro-area charter and private schools, training both general and special education teachers in structured literacy. She provided tutoring through the Groves Academy Outreach program, served on the Board of Directors for Orton-Gillingham of MN, and works with parent outreach organizations including Decoding Dyslexia MN to promote the adoption of multisensory, explicit, research-based reading instruction in schools and tutor training programs. Robin currently is a director on the board of the Great Lakes ALTA Chapter. Robin is passionate about all children and adults having the opportunity to read fluently, accurately, and with enjoyment, as well as helping families navigate through the academic and personal journey of dyslexia and other reading disabilities.
Christine Stern

Christine Stern


Chris is a retired advertising writer-producer with more than 35 years in consumer, health, and education marketing. Her family includes (at least) five individuals with dyslexia and one with dysgraphia. Therefore, she has plenty of experience living with and advocating for this talented and challenged group. Her mother-in-law, June Stern, was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in her late 60s. Along with Chris and her husband, Leo, June established a foundation that awarded over 200 professional development scholarships to K-3 classroom teachers for Orton-Gillingham training in effective ways to teach reading, writing, and spelling. Chris is a co-founder and a guiding member of the Higher Education Literacy Partnership of Minnesota (HELP).

Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer Bennett, M.S.


Jennifer Bennett, M.S., is a Licensed Psychologist who focuses her work on neuropsychological and psychoeducational assessment. At BrainWorks, her private practice, she conducts diagnostic evaluations with people ages 5 to 60 who are experiencing difficulties related to learning, attention, information processing, and cognitive development. With 20+ years of assessment experience, Jennifer’s areas of expertise include learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and nonverbal LD), attention deficit disorders (ADHD with and without hyperactivity/impulsivity, sluggish cognitive tempo), auditory processing difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, and other neurocognitive difficulties that affect thinking, learning, and communication.

Marcia Henry

Marcia Henry

I have over 60 years of experience working in the field dyslexia as a diagnostician, tutor, teacher, and professor. I received by initial O-G training directly from Paula Dozier Rome and Jean Osman at The Reading Center in Rochester. Moving to California, I obtained my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Stanford University and became a professor in the Division of Special Education at San Jose State University. Serving as a Fulbright Lecturer/ Research Scholar at the University of Trondheim, Norway in 1991 was a highlight of my career. Along with Patterns for Success in Reading and Spelling (2nd ed.), my books include WORDS (2nd ed.), and Unlocking Literacy: Effective Decoding and Spelling Instruction (2nd ed.). I compiled and co-edited Dyslexia – Samuel T. Orton and His Legacy. I served as president of the International Dyslexia Association from 1992-1996 and received the Margaret Byrd Rawson Lifetime Achievement Award from the IDA in 2000. Now retired from active teaching, I am a Fellow in the Orton-Gillingham Academy and a member of the Board of Directors for The Reading Center.
Barbara Wilson

Barbara Wilson, Ed.D.

Barbara Wilson, Ed.D., is the co-founder and president of Wilson Language Training. She has worked to improve the lives of individuals with dyslexia for over 30 years. Barbara developed and oversaw graduate courses and clinical practicums that lead to Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner and Therapist certifications, which are accredited International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Tier 3 training programs. This certification is also an integral component for several university programs. Barbara is a founding member of the Global Implementation Society as she is dedicated to implementation and co-edited an International Dyslexia Association publication on this subject with an emphasis on how to bridge the gap between research, educational legislation, and classroom instruction. In 2015, she testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee in support of H.R. 3033, the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia (READ) Act, which was later signed into law
Arlene Sonday

Arlene Sunday

Arlene Sonday trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach in Rochester, MN. She is a founding member and past president of UMBIDA, past vice-president of IDA, Founding Fellow and first president of the Orton Gillingham Academy. She is a founding member of Orton-Gillingham of Minnesota and guided OGM to certification by IMSLEC. Arlene is the author of the Sonday System, 15 curricula for Special Ed, classroom, and homeschool, and co-author of controlled readers, published by Winsor Learning of Bloomington, MN. She taught courses and supervised practica at Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ, that led to the 30 credit Dyslexia Specialist Certificate program and has graduated close to 1,000 students and continues to serve on the FDU Advisory Board. Arlene has taught courses and presented at conferences in India, Pakistan, Thailand, China, Egypt, Kuwait, England and Jamaica.
Bette Erickson

Bette Erickson

Bette’s career in education took a turn when her then eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. She has since had the pleasure of volunteering as an education policy advocate on the local, state and national level-including a visit to the White House. Her affiliations include the International Dyslexia Association, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Literate Nation, Decoding Dyslexia MN, the MN Reading Corps, and MOMs on a Mission. She has met the certification standards of IMSLEC and CERI and maintains a robust tutoring practice.
Shelly Bayer

Shelly Bayer, PhD

Dr. Shelly Bayer is the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs & Accessibility at South Dakota State University where she works to create spaces that value diverse, inclusive perspectives and systems that generate equitable opportunities. Shelly earned her B.A. in English Education from South Dakota State University, her Masters of Education in Literacy (Certified Reading Specialist) from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and her doctorate in Education Administration – Adult & Higher Education through the University of South Dakota. Previously, Shelly worked in educational development at SDSU and taught in public schools in Brookings, SD and Las Vegas, NV. Her educational background combined with her son’s identification as a dyslexic learner inspired her to work to create systems and supports that embrace the strengths of every learner. Shelly joined the IDA-UMB Board of Directors in April 2018. She was elected as President in July 2021.