Third Grade Warning Signs

Most schools do not yet test or screen for dyslexia. So parents should watch for these classic warning signs in third graders. 

My son is a month into 3rd grade, and last year – somewhere in the middle of second grade, he hit a brick wall in reading.

He was always one or two levels behind his peers, and we worked very hard to stay that close to grade level. But in the middle of second grade, as other classmates reading took off, his just flattened out. He ended the year reading at level 18, and he was supposed to be at 28.

So I spent the summer at the library with him, having him read aloud to me. I also had him write 6 or 7 sentences on everything he read, and I was struck by the following:

1. He does not always see the start, middle and end of a word – especially bigger words.

2. He misreads simple words, like those for these, them for they, and who for how — and he substitutes words that mean the same thing at an alarming rate (like every other sentence).

3. He guesses at words by using pictures and a predictable story line.

4. He still confuses b and d.

Third Grader

5. Punctuation might as well not be on the page at all.

6. He reads very slowly, without any fluency or comprehension. It is all he can do to actually read the words and get them right, so he has no chance of understanding what he read. In fact, on his first reading comprehension test ever, he scored a 0.

7. After an entire summer of having him read aloud to me every day, and after an intense first month of school, (I mean reading so much at home that he does not have much time to do anything else), he is only reading at level 20. His peers are 32 and higher.

8. We studied for his first social studies test this past weekend. He had so much trouble memorizing the terms: region, culture, agriculture, climate, artifact, adaptation – that at first, I thought he was joking around. It was not until he began to cry that I realized how hard he was working.

I strongly suspect he has dyslexia.

I also suspect my husband has it. My husband does not read beyond a 3rd grade level, and this is forcing him to relive the hell of his school years.

I feel so stupid for not researching this sooner and for trusting his teachers and the school.

I feel like I have failed my son.

No, you have not. You can change his entire future by taking action now.

If he gets the right type of tutoring after school, plus accommodations in the classroom and during homework, you will be amazed at the improvement in his skills – and self-esteem – by the end of this school year.

8 responses

  1. Isn’t dyslexia a medical diagnosis? Schools have a part in recognizing there’s a problem, but I think a doctor has to diagnose it. Schos also have to be incredibly careful about recommending seeing doctors because they can be held liable.

  2. I have two sons with dyslexia as well as my husband. the schools did not notice or understand dyslexia for any of them. it took a specialist who heard my frustration with my older son who was able to show us what dyslexia is and isn’t and get us help. my older son felt it was too late and after a year stopped working with the specialist. he feels he already copes so he doesn’t want to start over. my younger son has worked with the specialist starting in third grade – in sixth now – and the difference is tremendous. he is a straight A student, loves reading and works hard to help others know what dyslexia is. his school still doesn’t help and doesn’t understand it – but he does. sad that at 12 he works harder than his school to understand and learn how to deal with dyslexia. bottom line – trust yourself and get info – get them help ASAP – it works and don’t give up.

    1. Re: “get them help ASAP – it works and don’t give up.”

      Do you think there is anything that would help a reluctant 17 yr old? (who also compensates pretty well most of the time; at least enough to pass his classes, which he says is good enough)
      Gifted Dev Ctr suggested stealth dyslexia. He STILL confuses b and d. When writing, it seems to help to use capitals; otherwise he says he has learned to just pick one or the other and keep going. And, he told me last year (when he began driving independently) that he is pretty sure he has dyslexia (because he can SEE sharp details at the distance of street signs, but cannot read the signs).

  3. No, Sarah it is not a medical diagnosis. The school psychologist, and special education professional give a variety of tests. This helps to accurately identify your child’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Often schools will not use the word dyslexic, but it will be clear based on the results of your child’s testing.

  4. This sounds so much like my daughter. She was predictive reading aka guessing with great accuracy so was only a little under average at the end of first grade then hit the wall half way through second grade as the vocab got bigger and she also had a terrible teacher. Her anxiety kicked in and she went up only 2 reading levels in a year. After getting her anxiety sorted out we went and got her independently tested as the school wasn’t doing anything. She has moderate dyslexia and has blossomed this year in grade 3 with the worlds most wonderful teacher and an OG tutor. OG has switched on a light. So after starting the year a year behind in reading she is now ahead of grade level. i am now heavily involved in dyslexia advocacy in Australia. I founded the sydney support group and help run the Australian group.

  5. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis and can only be diagnosed by a neuropsych evaluation. The school can test for a general learning disability. This sounds like dyslexia and he needs a very specific intervention that uses Orton-Gillingham methods. Look up Orton-Gillingham online, then find a one on one tutor that is trained in this program.

  6. As a teacher, I know that often there are many different indicators with dyslexia. As Karen stated, it needs to be diagnosed by a neuropsych. While I have a tremendous amount experience and knowledge in the field of education, I am not qualified to diagnose each and every behavior or deficiency. We do our best to communicate to parents, but honestly, there are so many options for what the cause may be. I can’t speak for other schools or teachers, but dyslexia is one of the least common issues that I have dealt with.

  7. So, my 9 year old son was evaluated by his public school (screening) and Scottish Rite last summer and not diagnosed with dyslexia, although he is way below his peers in reading. He does all of these things listed above. I have been dead sure he has dyslexia for the past 2 years because he has all of the symptoms and a tutor told me she suspected it, as well as his teacher (who has a son with dyslexia). At Scottish Rite, he was diagnosed with ADHD and READING PROBLEM. They told me he does not have dyslexia. One year into taking medication for ADHD his behavior is better, and he focuses better but reading has been unchanged despite having a weekly tutor and working hard in class. He is doing well in school but because he can’t read well it is getting much harder and he is still below grade level for reading.

    There is a new dyslexia therapist at school this year and she suspects it. We have a meeting next week for possible Take Flight program and 504. I am on an emotional rollercoaster. I just want my son to get the help he needs. He feels stupid and dumb and tells me this often.

    On top of it, I am a pediatric nurse practitioner. I know what ADHD looks like. He definitely has it but it is not so debilitating that it is affecting his reading this much.

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