Reading Disabilities: What you Need to Know

reading disabilities

Many students struggle with reading for a variety of reasons – limited exposure to books, hearing problems, poor phonemic awareness, or speech problems. Your child may be experiencing any one of these issues or something else entirely. 

When students read well, they are phonemically aware, which means they can focus on and manipulate sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. They can apply the skill quickly and smoothly, possessing a broad and growing vocabulary with grammatical skills and exercise comprehension as they read. Usually, this is a pleasant experience for them. They enjoy it, so they read more often, which makes them even better readers. 

Unfortunately, there are many students for whom reading isn’t a great experience. They struggle with the basics of it and don’t always understand what part they’re missing.  

Related:  Early Literacy Skills You Should Be Teaching Your Child

What are the top 4 types of reading difficulties?

Reading difficulties can fall into four types:


This is an auditory difficulty with reading and has to do with decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) words. This difficulty is also called Auditory Dyslexia, Dysphonetic Dyslexia, or Phonological Dyslexia. When sight words are emphasized during the early years of reading education, children with reading difficulties may go unrecognized. But when it’s time to learn to decode, the issues can be seen. 


This visual difficulty is also called Visual Dyslexia or Surface Dyslexia. Children with this challenge find it hard to recognize sight words, and it takes them a long time to decode words as they read. This makes their reading process slow and disfluent. These children can sound out letters but are unable to recognize and remember letter groups. So their spelling is often inaccurate, though phonetically correct.  


This motor type of reading difficulty is associated with reversals in writing and print. Children with this issue can’t easily remember the motor movements and reverse their letters and numbers. Letters b/d and p/q are often confused, as are words on/no and saw/was. Although this is the struggle most associated with dyslexia, it is actually the least frequently occurring form of dyslexia.  


This trouble is a combination of Dyseidesia and Dysphonesia and is sometimes called Mixed Dyslexia. Children with this issue have phonological and visual Dyslexia.  

Related:  Spelling Difficulties: Causes and Solutions

Signs your child may have a reading disability 

Here are signs that your child may have a reading disability:

  • The first sign may be your child’s below-average reading level. Your child may be consistently more challenged with reading than others in the same grade. 
  • Your child may have difficulty recognizing words they should know or confuse similar words. 
  • Your child may experience difficulty sounding out words
  • After reading a passage, your child doesn’t understand what they’ve read. The process of reading takes so much effort that reading comprehension suffers. 
  • There is a distinct lack of fluency in your child’s reading. They will have trouble sounding out words and may take long pauses.  
  • Your child may have anxiety about reading.   
  • Their anxiety leads to avoiding any circumstance where reading is involved. 
  • In addition to issues with reading comprehension, your child may also have problems relating information they’ve read with previous knowledge.
  • They have difficulty focusing when reading.
  • Your child may have trouble with writing and spelling
  • Finally, you may notice that your child takes an unusually long time doing reading or writing assignments

Is your child struggling with reading? Our new tutoring approach will have them quickly developing skills and confidence in reading. Contact Sage Reading Tutors for more information.  

What are the 7 main types of learning disabilities?

Learning disability is an umbrella term for a variety of learning problems. Here are seven main types of learning disabilities


Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that affects reading, writing, and comprehension. As mentioned already, forms of Dyslexia cause problems with decoding words, phonemic awareness, and reading fluency. 


This learning disability is related to mathematical calculations – concepts, reasoning, and numbers. This is often called ‘math dyslexia’ and can affect the person’s ability to identify patterns, tell time, remember math facts, count money, and solve mental math.  


Dysgraphia is the most common type of reading disability and causes people to have trouble writing or drawing what they think. One of the signs of dysgraphia is poor handwriting, with other signs including problems with grammar, spelling, vocabulary, memory, and critical thinking. 

Auditory Processing Disorder

An auditory processing disorder (APD) causes difficulty with processing sounds. This leads to confusion with the order of sounds or with distinguishing different sounds. The brain confuses sounds like a teacher’s voice and background sounds. 

Language Processing Disorder  

Language processing disorder is a subset of auditory processing disorders. Sufferers have difficulty dealing with spoken language – receptive and expressive. Associating meaning to words, sentences, and stories is another problem for people with this disorder.  

Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit

This deficit is characterized by poor hand-eye coordination, difficulty holding pencils, crayons, scissors, and other fine motor activities. There is also difficulty in distinguishing similar-looking letters, unusual eye activity when reading, and trouble getting around in their surroundings. 

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Contrary to the wording of this disability, it doesn’t have to do with a person’s inability to speak. People with this disorder have problems understanding nonverbal behavior and social cues like body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions.  

What are the 7 strategies of reading?

Here are seven strategies of effective readers:

  • Activating: Making the connections of prior knowledge to what they are currently reading. 
  • Inferring: The ability to read between the lines and understand what isn’t being said.
  • Monitoring/Clarifying: Checking presuppositions to what the text actually says.
  • Questioning: Formulating questions about the text.
  • Searching/Selecting: Reinforcing what they are reading. 
  • Summarizing: Summing up their reading. 
  • Visualizing/Organizing: Utilizing their imagination and creativity to visualize what they’ve read.  

What do you do when your child refuses to read?

If your child isn’t reading by 6 or 7 years old, it doesn’t mean they have a reading disability, but you may try these tips:

  • Pique their interests with book topics they’ll love.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Read together.
  • Read aloud to them.
  • Build their confidence with books at their level.

Related: Reading Intervention Strategies You Need to Know

How do you help learners who cannot read?

You can feel helpless when your child is having reading difficulties. But like any potentially serious issue, this is a time to hire a professional. Reading tutors are uniquely qualified and suited to assist your child in overcoming their reading challenges. 

Are you looking for professional tutors to take your child to the next level? Our tutors are trained to help special needs online or in person. Check out Sage Reading Tutors to learn more. 

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