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Testing for Dyslexia

Testing for Dyslexia

Should you have your child tested for dyslexia?

There are a number of valid reasons for which parents have their child tested for dyslexia.

  • To confirm a suspicion of dyslexia
  • To get the type of help the child needs from the public school
  • To obtain a specific type of intervention or therapy on the child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program)
  • To figure out what kind of help a child needs
  • Some children are helped by being able to put a name to their learning struggles
  • College-age students can receive accommodations for standardized testing and college entrance tests, and possible exemption from foreign language requirements in college

Different levels of dyslexia testing

There is no one definitive test for dyslexia. Testing can range from a brief assessment to a full psychoeducational battery of tests. Before submitting your child to dyslexia testing, first figure out why you want to have it done, and then let the evaluator know what you are trying to accomplish with the dyslexia testing or screening. That way, the evaluator will be able to advise you on what kind of testing would be best for your child.

You can often get the information you need from a brief screening test or assessment that can be done by a reading tutor or language therapist. A brief screening assessment can tell you

  • what decoding strategies your child uses
  • whether your child reads at grade level
  • what skills your child should be learning
  • whether your child has good silent reading comprehension

Reading tutors and language therapists can tell you whether or not your child is making adequate progress and whether the child has dyslexia symptoms. An assessment generally takes one or two hours, plus additional time if you need the evaluator to prepare a written report of the findings. Costs for brief assessments range from $100-$250.

Keep in mind, however, that a brief assessment is not a formal diagnosis of dyslexia, which can only be done by a licensed psychologist. In a formal diagnosis, the child undergoes a battery of tests that usually measures IQ, language abilities, and academic achievement in specific areas. The testing is normally done by a licensed psychologist or a team that includes a psychologist and one or more reading specialists. To ensure a proper diagnosis, the tester should have expertise in psychology, education, reading, and language, as well as reading and spelling interventions.

Typically, an IQ test is administered to determine if there is a gap between what the child is capable of and what he is actually achieving. Such tests include the Stanford-Binet Fifth Edition (SBV) and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV). These tests do not require reading; rather, they test reasoning skills and problem-solving abilities.

If the results show a gap between achievement and IQ, the tester will then try to determine why there is a gap by administering further tests regarding specific components of reading, spelling, and language. Among the areas tested are General Language and Oral Language Skills, Phonemic Awareness and Alphabetic Knowledge, Reading Skills, Spelling and Composition Skills, and Handwriting.

Links to many specific tests are included in gray boxes below for those who wish to know more about the area of testing. These tests generally require professional training in order to administer them correctly.

Each area consists of further specific components, as follows:

General Language and Oral Language Skills

  • word retrieval
  • rapid naming of letters, numbers, and objects
  • syllable awareness
  • verbal language ability including word pronunciation and sentence formation
  • comprehension of what is heard

Tests used in this area may include

 
Phonemic Awareness and Alphabetic Knowledge

  • rhyming
  • identifying individual phonemes (speech sounds)
  • blending
  • segmenting

Tests used in this area may include

 
Reading Skills

  • single word decoding
  • ability to decode nonsense words using phonics skills
  • reading fluency
  • reading comprehension

Tests in this area may include

 
Spelling and Composition Skills

  • written spelling test
  • analysis of spelling errors made
  • analysis of writing samples such as a short essay or paragraph
  • word choice, grammar, punctuation, organization

Tests in this area may include

 
Handwriting

  • pencil grip
  • letter formation
  • letter consistency

Costs for a full assessment can be upwards of $2,000, depending upon the tests administered. Depending upon your insurance program, your health insurance may cover it, so it is worth checking with your provider.

Where to find a dyslexia tester

It can be difficult in many areas to find a professional who can test for dyslexia. In some cases, you can ask your local school district, hospital, and homeschool groups. If you don’t live in a major metropolitan area, you may have to be willing to travel.

Here are some organizations that may be able to help you find a tester.

If you have worked with a good evaluator or can add to this list of helpful organizations, please contact us and let us know the person's name and number (and website or e-mail address, if you have it).

 

What to bring to the evaluation

By being prepared, you can help the evaluator diagnose your child more accurately. Following are some suggestions of what to bring to the evaluation, but you should also ask the evaluator if additional items are required.

  • A completed checklist of dyslexia symptoms
  • Writing samples
  • Spelling tests from school
  • Vision records (if your child has had vision problems)
  • Hearing records (if your child has had hearing problems)
  • Notes about the type of reading and spelling instruction your child has had
  • Results from any previous educational testing done, such as standardized tests

If your child is getting full psychoeducational testing, you will need a history of your child’s development (questions about the pregnancy, delivery, and first weeks, the age the child first walked and talked, and so on) If your child is struggling with reading or spelling, having him or her tested for dyslexia is one possible next step. Whether you opt for a brief assessment or in-depth testing (or no testing at all), getting your child the specific help he or she needs to succeed is certainly your main goal.

It may seem overwhelming to learn about dyslexia and reading problems, but there IS help available, and that will be the subject of one of our upcoming articles.

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