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Do you have a highly intelligent child who struggles with writing and spelling? A child who, despite good scores on standardized tests, is performing below his “potential”?  If so, you may be the parent of a “stealth dyslexic.” According to learning experts, dyslexia manifests itself in a variety of ways beyond the most common form where individuals reverse letters and have difficulty learning to read. Indeed, stealth dyslexics often learn to read quite easily because of their outstanding memories and ability to compensate for their deficits.  But because of this, their learning disability is often not detected until later in life.

According to school psychologist Jim Forgan,  ”These highly intelligent or gifted children compensate for their dyslexia because they learn to rely upon their outstanding memory, keen intuition, and general smarts to work around their reading weaknesses.” Stealth dyslexia often goes undetected until the child is in third grade or older. “Your child may have stealth dyslexia if they are very smart and can read but don’t enjoy reading and rarely read for pleasure. Many of these children don’t read for pleasure because it’s laborious and mentally exhausting,” says Forgan.

Teachers often think that these obviously smart kids are lazy, inattentive or “not applying themselves” because they have precocious verbal skills and many, in fact, have high verbal IQs. According to the Davidson Institute, there is often a huge gap between the child’s verbal skills and the ability to read and write, especially as the student progresses to more difficult assignments in the middle school years. The Davidson Institute says that children with stealth dyslexia tend to exhibit some of the following characteristics:

1. Difficulties with word processing and written output.

2. Reading skills that appear to fall within the normal or even superior range for children their age, at least on silent reading comprehension.

3. Difficulty remembering how to form individual letters (resulting in oddly formed letters, reversals, inversions, and irregular spacing.

4. Difficulty remembering the sequence of letters or even sounds in a word.

5. Difficulties with sensory-motor dyspraxia, or motor coordination problems resulting in handwriting problems.

6. An enormous gap between oral and written expression.

7. Spelling errors in children’s written output that are far out of character with their general language, working memory, or attention skills.

8. Persistent difficulties with word-for-word reading skills, resulting in subtle word substitutions or word skips; which can result in significant functional problems, especially on tests.  This occurs despite the appearance of age-appropriate reading comprehension on classroom assignments or standardized tests.