Dyslexia: Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment

dyslexia word association

Dyslexia can be confusing, especially if this is all new to you. There is an enormous body of research pertaining to dyslexia. A Google search for the term returns 87,300,000 hits! 


It’s devilishly hard for parents to sort through this avalanche of information to find credible help for their child!  A good strategy is to look for review articles that summarize the current scientific consensus written by credible professionals. In this blog post, we will share links to these credible sources, as well as steps to evaluating your child, diagnosing dyslexia, and your options for treatment.


The Importance of an Early Evaluation

There is a reason that the human is the only reading species: Reading requires lightning-fast coordination of a host of complex brain functions. Learning to read rests on a foundation of spoken language skills also unique to humans. But unlike learning to talk, learning to read generally requires direct instruction. It is no wonder that sorting out the reasons for reading and spelling problems and figuring out what help is needed feels overwhelming and stressful for parents.


child and teacher reading at schoolBy the time a child is in kindergarten, parents or teachers may observe that the child’s reading skills are not meeting expectations for his or her age. In some schools, where teachers are trained to recognize and respond to learning challenges, children with such difficulties may be targeted for extra reading instruction. For children who are merely weak readers, this assistance may be enough to boost them back to grade level. But for children with dyslexia and other language disorders, more specialized individual treatment is necessary.


The first step on the road to successful treatment is often professional evaluation. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) cites three important reasons for early and accurate evaluation:

  1. Diagnosis: naming the problem
  2. Intervention Planning: developing an individualized approach to treatment that is appropriate to the child’s skills and needs
  3. Documentation: establishing the child’s eligibility for special services.

This testing needs to be individualized; it is not something that can be conducted in the classroom on a group of students. Much more than a simple test, evaluation involves gathering detailed background information from parents and teachers and testing a wide range of language, literacy, reading, listening, comprehension, and vocabulary skills appropriate to the child’s age. 


The results are collected in a report that includes all of the data, an initial diagnosis, and a plan for intervention outlining recommended steps for treatment. For more in-depth information on testing, see the IDA Fact Sheet for Testing and Evaluation.


Diagnosing Dyslexia: Who is Qualified?

Professionals who are qualified to test for and diagnose dyslexia include psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators. Unfortunately, not all individuals with those titles have the specialized training it takes to administer this kind of testing. (To make matters more complicated, some people with no credentials and/or with flat-out misinformation claim that they can diagnose and treat dyslexia.) 


More and more,  qualified clinicians and researchers are basing evaluation and diagnosis of dyslexia on a theoretical model called The Simple View of Reading.  The Simple View is that there are two main types of reading and writing problems:  

  1. Dyslexia: difficulty processing words, including both pronouncing words from print and spelling them.
  2. Language Impairment: difficulties when listening to spoken language.


In the Simple View, dyslexia is defined not in terms of age, grade, or IQ, as it was once proposed.  Rather, it’s defined based on patterns of strengths and weaknesses. 


Since in dyslexia the deficits are in word identification (decoding) and spelling but not in understanding spoken language, an examiner diagnosing dyslexia must use procedures that allow a clear comparison of the student’s abilities in these two areas.


Helping Your Child with Dyslexia

Lexercise is a network of licensed psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators with the specialized training required to evaluate and treat dyslexia. We offer the following services:

  • Evaluation: A full online evaluation based on the Simple View that allows the therapist to determine if the student’s performance is characteristic of dyslexia.
  • Therapy: We also offer the option to start therapy without a formal diagnosis, with an informal assessment during the first therapy session. You can choose from two of our services, Basic Therapy and Professional Therapy.
  • Screening: You can use the free, online Lexercise Dyslexia Screener to get a better understanding of your child’s reading difficulties. We also offer screening for dysgraphia and other learning disabilities. 


If you’d like to schedule a free, 15-minute call with one of our expert clinicians, click here. You can also contact us at 1-919-747-4557 or email info@lexercise.com.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.