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Advanced Abilities but Unable to Read

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son just turned 6 years old (end of July). He is extremely intelligent - can do addition (and sometimes subtraction) in his head, identify where all the states (and some countries) are located on a map (including using north, south, east and west directions) and is a quick study when it comes to things scientific.

For instance, he's fascinated with power lines and how electricity and electrical current work. He draws schematics of what he believes it looks like. He studies the mechanics of carnival rides and then describes how the mechanics work.

He has a vast vocabulary and can carry on a conversation with some intelligence with just about anybody.

The issue is that he can't read yet. He can identify some words and has been able to identify all of the letters and print them for the past couple of years, but he can't/won't sound words out. It's almost as if he's bored. By the time I was his age, I was reading on an 8th grade level and was described as "gifted"; but then again, I didn't have his proficiency with math, science and geography. My question is, is this normal, or should I be getting him extra help with his reading?

A: He surely appears to be above average with his abilities; however, I suspect he may have a reading problem which definitely needs to be checked. Since he is advanced in most other tasks, reading seems difficult and by this stage, if he is behind, intervention should be considered.

I believe he may have stealth dyslexic, but for a proper diagnosis, it is best to have him tested for appropriate and early intervention. Please do not wait any longer as your son needs help here and may be underperforming due to his inability to read at grade level a least. See a reputable educational psychologist in your area to determine the tests recommended to identify the problem. If he is dyslexic, early intervention can certainly help ease out a lot of frustration he may be going through. Good luck!


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