HUNDREDS of Somerset children could be losing out because they are not diagnosed with dyslexia until too late, a county-based specialist claims.

Dr Peter Gardner says diagnosis of dyslexia in young children is essential in helping overcome the condition.

He has launched a free fact sheet on the importance of early diagnosis of dyslexia in young children to coincide with the start of the new school year.

It offers guidance to parents of young children who may have the condition, which is characterised by problems with reading, writing or spelling.

It is believed that one in 10 children have some form of dyslexia.

Symptoms can now be recognised at four and a half years of age, says Dr. Peter Gardner.

He said: "Advances in diagnosis in recent years means that children who years ago may have slipped through the net can now be recognised earlier.

"All the available research points to the fact that if children's learning difficulties are diagnosed early and if appropriate help is offered at an early stage, the child is given the best chance of success.

"So much of the suffering and lack of self-confidence of these children could be avoided by a nationwide screening programme of children entering school."

Signs in a young child which might indicate dyslexia include difficulties with: sound discrimination; appreciation of rhyme; short-term memory for spoken information; letter naming; number naming; shape copying; postural stability; fine motor coordination; The sheet is available from Early Diagnosis of Dyslexia Fact Sheet, Appleford School, Shrewton, Salisbury, SP3 4HL, phone 01980-621020.