Best Practices for Dyslexia Diagnosis and Treatment

 

When parents notice that their child is having difficulty with reading, writing, speaking, or understanding language, they typically turn to the child’s teachers, other parents, doctors, and online resources. Anxious to make decisions that will resolve their child’s problems, they often find themselves overwhelmed with information – not all of it reliable.

The good news for parents and their children with language-processing disorders is that decades of research have yielded a solid foundation of best practices: methods of evaluation and instruction that produce the best results.

While the research is dense with numbers and technical language, we can offer a brief overview of three areas where best practices are critical for dyslexia diagnosis and treatment.

Testing and evaluation

A parent’s observations are very important, but it takes more than observation to establish a diagnosis. Many factors can influence a child’s language difficulties, including vision or hearing impairment, developmental delays, attention deficits, or language-processing disorders.

This dyslexia symptoms checklist (near the bottom of the linked page) can help parents decide whether their child is a candidate for screening or further testing. It’s an easy place to begin, even if the child is not present.

The next step is a brief screening that engages the child. Lexercise offers a number of free online tests for dyslexia, dysgraphia, learning disabilities, and listening comprehension. The results are immediate and will indicate whether the child needs a comprehensive evaluation.

The initial screening is a good place to begin, but a professional evaluation is needed to truly define the child’s problem. A language processing assessment is also essential for the design of an individualized treatment program and the development of documentation that can assist the family in getting access to tax-supported services.

Setting the bar for best practices, the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) provides a very clear explanation of what should be included in the evaluation. This goes far beyond observation and a brief interview, taking into account a wide range of skills as well as personal and family history.

Who’s qualified to help?

While teachers, school counselors, and even pediatricians are often eager to help families manage their child’s learning challenges, the IDA found that “many teachers are unprepared and poorly equipped to manage the level of attention and instruction needed.”

Just this year (2018), the IDA revised and reissued its detailed publication, Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (or view the full PDF here). Again, this establishes a high caliber of best practices for teachers and other professionals working with children who have language-processing disorders such as dyslexia. These are the standards that Lexercise uses in qualifying our therapists.

Treatment

As the research shows, there are a number of elements of effective intervention and treatment for dyslexia and other language-processing disorders, including:

  • Direct instruction (clear, explicit, systematic, step-by-step instruction with full explanations)
  • A multiple-linguistic approach (language components – speech sounds, letter symbols, word meanings – are explicitly identified and connected to one another)
  • Simultaneous involvement of four language systems: listening  comprehension, oral expression, reading comprehension, and written expression
  • Learning the building blocks of both spoken and written words (vowels, consonants, phonemes, graphemes, syllables)
  • Reciprocal reading and spelling skills (phonics, fluency, nonsense words, sight words, spelling) to support upper level literacy
  • Explicit teaching of morphology (word parts, i.e., base, suffix, prefix, word sums)
  • Direct instruction approach for vocabulary
  • Sentence practice and construction (parts of speech, capitalization, punctuation)
  • Listening for comprehension
  • Transcription skills, such as handwriting and spelling

Over time, these  strategies support and emphasize planning, organization, attention to task, critical thinking, and self‐management.

The combination of comprehensive testing and evaluation, skilled professionals, and research-based treatment – in other words, best practices – produce the best results.

 

Reference: McArthur, G. and Castles, A. (2107). Helping children with reading difficulties: some things we have learned so far. Nature.com, Science of Learning, 2 (7). )

 

For more information on dyslexia testing and treatment, visit the Lexercise website or contact us today.

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