How is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

Learn how Dyslexia is diagnosed

School children practice reading.
School children practice reading.. Jamie Grill/Getty Images

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is one of several types of reading problems. The broad term, learning disability in reading, includes Dyslexia and other specific reading problems. It is possible for a student to have symptoms of Dyslexia that are problematic but not disabling--or to have symptoms that make reading and writing virtually impossible. Signs of Dyslexia may include:

  • Seeing letters backwards
  • Seeing words and letters jumping around on the page
  • Being unable to distinguish similar letters from one another (d from b, for example)
  • Being unable to connect written letters or letter combinations with their associated sounds
  • Being able to read words but unable to make sense of the words as they are read

A related disorder, dysgraphia, involves the inability to write words, or the tendency to write letters incorrectly. People with dysgraphia may or may not also be Dyslexic.

How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed?

Dyslexia is diagnosed using a complete evaluation including intelligence, educational, and speech/language assessments. The assessments used in diagnosing dyslexia should also include observations, input from teachers and parents, analysis of student work, and developmental and social histories. During the assessment process, examiners look for evidence of the disorder and also rule out other factors that could be causing the student's reading and language problems.

Factors to rule out include, lack of instruction, lack of attendance, social and economic factors, and physical problems such as hearing or vision difficulty.

How Do Children with Dyslexia Qualify for Special Needs Services?

To meet federal guidelines to qualify for special education services, a student with Dyslexia must meet eligibility requirements based on guidelines set by his state's department of education.

Eligibility may be determined based on one of the following methods:

The Aptitude / Achievement Discrepancy Method

This method requires a student to meet the following criteria to determine eligibility:

The Response to Intervention Method

Response to Intervention is a method of determining level of disability that was introduced in the 2004 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). To determine if this method is being used by your state, contact your state's department of education office for special education programs. Specific steps required by method may vary from state to state, but essentially, it involves three levels of intervention and identification:

Level I: The student is exposed to appropriate instruction in reading and writing.

If she continues to experience difficulty, she goes to the next level of intervention.

Level II: The student receives more individualized intervention. If she continues to have difficulty, she progresses to the next level of intervention.

Level III: This level would typically begin placement in a special education program.

Next: How to Refer Your Child for Testing

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