dyslexia evaluation Archives - Lexercise

Changes to Federal Disability Law

ada-blogThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a final rule to amend its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations in order to incorporate the statutory changes to the ADA federal disability law, which were set forth in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and took effect on January 1, 2009.

The DOJ has made several major revisions to the meaning and interpretation of the term disability in the ADA Amendments Act. The revised language clarifies that the term disability shall be interpreted “broadly” and “applied without extensive analysis”. Minimizing the need for extensive evaluations that often cost thousands of dollars! This is intended to make it easier for an individual to establish that he or she has a disability. The rule took effect on October 11, 2016.

excerpt of federal registerIn addition to requiring the definition of disability to be broadly interpreted, the final regulations expand the definition of “major life activities” by providing a non-exhaustive list of major life activities that specifically includes the operation of major bodily functions. The activity of “writing” was added as an example of a major life activity. Reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating were also included among others.

This is a great step in the right direction to make identification and accommodations for the disabled more accessible. The Lexercise evaluation follows ADA regulations.  If your child needs a school accommodations plan (aka, a 504 Plan) for a reading or writing disability our evaluation should provide the school’s assessment team with what they need to write an effective, individualized plan that complies with the ADA.

For more information on the final rule see the Federal Register [PDF], Vol. 81, No. 155, August 11, 2016.

Who is Qualified to Make a Dyslexia Diagnosis?

Who Is Qualified to Make a Dyslexia Diagnosis?

Guidance on Getting a Dyslexia Diagnosis

You may be concerned that your child is dyslexic. But who is qualified to make a dyslexia diagnosis? The school may be telling you one thing while your pediatrician is telling you another. So, who is eligible to diagnose dyslexia? The therapists at Lexercise are here with insight. 

Dyslexia Diagnosis Criteria from The NCLD 

Unfortunately, no federal law defines who can provide a formal dyslexia diagnosis. However, The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)  has advice on guidance about the diagnosis of dyslexia and the determination of a disability.  

The NCLD has provided the following guidance about who may diagnose dyslexia:  

“Professionals with expertise in several fields are best qualified to make a diagnosis of dyslexia. The testing may be done by a single individual or by a team of specialists. A knowledge and background in psychology, reading, language and education are necessary. The tester must have a thorough working knowledge of how individuals learn to read and why some people have trouble learning to read. They must also understand how to administer and interpret evaluation data and how to plan appropriate reading interventions.”

You can take a free online dyslexia screening test to gauge how likely it is that dyslexia is playing a role in your child’s learning difficulties. However, only a trained, knowledgeable specialist—like a therapist or clinician with dyslexia-specific certification—can provide a formal diagnosis. 

Which Doctor Should I Visit for Dyslexia Diagnosis?

You might be wondering, “Can a pediatrician diagnose dyslexia?” Naturally, many parents instinctively visit their pediatrician at the first signs of dyslexia symptoms. However, your child’s primary care doctor or pediatrician cannot provide a dyslexia diagnosis unless they also have a trained dyslexia specialist on staff. In many cases, your pediatrician will simply offer a recommendation or referral to a specialist. 

If you want to skip this step, you can have your child directly evaluated by a qualified therapist. Online evaluation has become especially popular with the rise of telehealth access. This process is easy and convenient for parents while offering more immediate results. If you prefer in-person care, you can also make an appointment with a qualified professional in your area.  

Evaluating for Dyslexia and Other Language Processing Disorders

The International Dyslexia Association‘s facts sheet on Testing and Evaluation by Diane J. Sawyer, Ph.D., and Karen M. Jones, Ed.S., NCSP makes the following points about what should be included in an evaluation for dyslexia and other language processing disorders:  

  • Background information should be included.
  • Intelligence testing is no longer considered necessary. Instead, oral language abilities (listening and speaking) are more predictive.
  • Oral language skills should be documented.
  • Word recognition (word reading) should be tested.
  • Decoding should be tested.
  • Spelling should be tested.
  • Phonological processing should be tested.
  • Automaticity /fluency skills should be tested.
  • Text Reading /comprehension should be tested.
  • Vocabulary knowledge should be tested.
  • Evaluation outcomes should provide the framework for the detailed evaluation of relative strengths and weaknesses across the various skill areas.
  • Diagnosis should be made by a professional who is thoroughly familiar with the important characteristics of language-literacy disorders/dyslexia.
  • Intervention planning recommendations should be included in the written report.
  • Documentation should acknowledge that the “specific criteria, such as cutoff scores for eligibility [for special education] vary from state to state”.

How Lexercise Can Help with Dyslexia Diagnosis and Treatment

The Lexercise Evaluation Procedures have been developed based on current dyslexia diagnosis best practices. We use the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Federal Act 1990) definition of “disability” (i.e., ”a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities”). 

Lexercise therapist can diagnose dyslexia

Reading and writing are certainly considered “major life activities”.  Our dyslexia evaluation is designed to determine if the individual has an “impairment which substantially limits” reading and/or writing.

Lexercise refers to professionals with this kind of expertise as “clinicians or therapists.”  Our clinicians and therapists may have gotten their basic training in psychology, speech-language pathology, education, or medicine. Beyond that basic training, they have had extensive training in language science, including reading and written language science, as well as in testing and measurement, as described by the IDA Standards

If you are a parent ready to take the first steps toward a better understanding, you can screen your child for dyslexia for free online in just 15 minutes. You can also put your mind at ease by reading about some common dyslexia myths. Our online therapy options are here to help your child overcome the challenges of dyslexia.

Is a Dyslexia Diagnosis Necessary?

Help Now, Diagnose LaterHelp NowDiagnose Later

In seven years as a special education teacher, I sat in countless meetings where we reviewed a child’s assessment scores with the parents.   In some of those, I shared with parents the challenging  news  that their child met the criteria of having a disability under the special education law.  In others, I shared that their child did not meet the criteria.  Having observed many of these meetings, and talking with even more parents since beginning my work with Lexercise, my thoughts on diagnosis have shifted.  Here are a few things parents should know about a diagnosis.

  1. Not qualifying for special education does not mean your child does not need help.
    I understand why parents feel relieved when they hear their child does not have a learning disability.  On the surface it seems like great news, right?  Here’s the thing though: your child was referred in the first place for testing, which means  that he or she is significantly behind.  It means that the teacher is very concerned about his or her progress.  It means that something about the current education system is not working for the child. It means your child needs help, whether or not special education is able to provide it.  
  2. Being diagnosed as dyslexic does not mean your child will qualify for special education.  The guidelines that states use to determine whether to disburse funds allocated for special education service are not about diagnosis but about level of need.  For instance, if a student has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or a mobility impairment, or a genetic deficit but is able to function to an acceptable level in the general education classroom, he or she will not qualify for special education.  The same is true with dyslexia.  Even if your child is learning to read and spell through unreliable strategies and in a way that will impair his or her literacy as an adult, the key question for special education is whether academic achievement is in the acceptable range. For many dyslexics, especially bright dyslexics, this rings true.
  3. Therapists don’t need a diagnosis to begin improving your child’s outcomes.  If you are looking for information about dyslexia, chances are your child is struggling with reading.  Lex_telepractice_withmom_illustrationWhile a diagnosis will give us some information about why he or she is having a hard time, we can start improving his or her reading without a diagnosis. When you start therapy without a diagnosis, your clinician will do some quick assessments to determine whether your child has language comprehension difficulties, which would be the primary reason Structured Literacy would not work.  For the same price as some evaluations, you could have bought enough therapy to get your child reading on grade level! So, why not start your child with therapy, see how they respond and then decide whether to test?  
  4. Different states, and schools have different requirements for a dyslexia diagnosis.  Since I started working with Lexercise, I’ve heard it all.  “It’s a medical diagnosis, so your doctor has to make it” (Except that most doctors don’t do that kind of testing).  “You need a neuropsychological evaluation”  (Except that then they do the same intellectual and achievement testing most schools do for special education, which does not identify dyslexia).  Schools often don’t have the resources to provide adequate help to dyslexic children, let alone diagnose them! Therapists who have worked with dyslexic kids know them when they see them.  With most kids, I can look at a writing sample and tell whether it’s dyslexia in a matter of minutes.  That’s not usually enough to get accommodations from the school and certainly not enough for special education, but it’s plenty for me to start teaching the kid to read, write and spell.  Accommodations can be a vital part of a child’s academic success, but on the whole, learning to read is more important.  While accommodations can be provided at any time with a diagnosis,  the window for maximum language and literacy learning is much narrower and does not require a diagnosis to begin.

If your primary goal is to find out in great detail what is going on in your child’s brain, testing is the way to get that information. But, if your priority is to get your child reading and learning in a way that makes sense to them then I highly suggest you seek therapy sooner rather than later. As a result you can save you and your child time and frustration and start celebrating their improvement! Start getting help now and get a diagnosis later if you feel it’s still necessary.

10 Dyslexia Facts Literacy Therapists Wish Everyone Knew

Learning Ally recently published a terrific list of ten things parents of children with dyslexia wish others knew, which inspired me to come up with a list of my own: “10 Dyslexia Facts Literacy Therapists Wish Everyone Knew.”

1. People with dyslexia are born with dyslexia.

Evidence suggests that people with dyslexia are born with neurological differences that show up when they begin to learn to read.

Because it begins so early, its symptoms can be recognized and treatment can begin at the same time as literacy instruction.

2. The symptoms aren’t always what you think they are.

“I never saw her reverse b and d!”
“He loves listening to books and would sit and read along when he was young!”

Sometimes parents and teachers don’t recognize dyslexia because it doesn’t look like they expect it to. While some people with dyslexia really struggle with reversals of letters and numbers, not all do. Other signs your child might have dyslexia include:

  • Substitutes words in sentences for other words that make sense
  • Memorizes words but cannot sound them out
  • Does well on spelling tests but struggles with the same words a week later

3. Even if a teacher says your child is reading on grade level, she still may have dyslexia.

Teachers use all kinds of assessments to determine a child’s grade level. Some of these tests have a stronger research base than others, and some miss identifying symptoms of dyslexia altogether because of the way they define “on grade level.”

dyslexia classroom4. You can’t count on your school to treat your child’s dyslexia.

Teaching kids with dyslexia to read sounds like it should be your school’s job. But time and time again we hear about the struggles parents have getting appropriate literacy services from school. While parents should advocate for improvements in the system, the wait time for that type of improvement can be precious years of your child’s life.

5. The school’s testing for learning disabilities is not the same as a dyslexia evaluation.

Even if you beat the odds and are able to get an evaluation from the school, it still may not help!

Schools typically administer two types of testing: (1) a broad achievement battery and (2) an intellectual battery. The problem is children with dyslexia who are also very bright may score in the “average” range on both of these assessments, so their dyslexia goes undetected.

What we are looking for with dyslexia, especially in lower elementary grades, is not just whether a child is able to read words on the page, but what strategies he or she is using. Kids who memorize words may appear to be average readers, but when the demands of reading increase (typically in upper elementary or middle school) the holes in their foundations cause them serious problems. Those kids need help too, even though they may not qualify for school services according to their assessment.

6. Accommodations are not the same thing as instruction.

Once you have a dyslexia diagnosis, your child may be eligible for a 504 plan. This plan is designed to improve your child’s access to the general education curriculum and may include accommodations such as extended time on tests or having test items read aloud. While such accommodations might improve your child’s grades, they are not a replacement for intervention! Accommodations will not teach your child to read or spell.

frustrated child7. Start the right interventions early to prevent academic and emotional problems.

Have you ever read about how much easier it is to learn a second language when you are young? The same is true for reading!

If your school is resistant to providing the services your child needs, don’t wait for them to get on board. You may have to pay for the services now, but the cost of waiting may be far higher.

  • First, the financial cost increases when children get older because it may take them longer to master the skills.
  • More importantly, there is a deep emotional cost on your child of not learning to read at a young age. Ongoing struggles in school may lead your child to conclude that he or she is dumb, that school and reading are for other people and that there is no point in trying. This accounts for the increased rate of depression and anxiety in people with dyslexia.

8. The program is less important than the person delivering it.

Parents often ask, “What is a good curriculum for children with dyslexia?”—either so they can (a) purchase it and teach it themselves or (b) demand that their school purchase it.

Using research-based instruction materials is vital, but it is not enough. Each dyslexic has a different combination of literacy and emotional issues that need individual, expert attention. That means that even if a curriculum is delivered exactly as prescribed, this one-size-fits-all approach cannot meet the needs of all children.

9. The way a program is delivered is as important as the program itself.

Even if your school has purchased a high quality, Orton-Gillingham based, structured literacy program and trained teachers to deliver it, your child may not get his or her needs met. The following aspects of a treatment program are particularly critical and under-served:

  • One-on-one attention: Schools rarely deliver instruction in very small groups or one-to-one, which research shows is how it’s most effective.
  • Repetition: Students need repeated “at bats” to practice these skills, as well as immediate, specific error correction.
  • Individualized pacing: Effective dyslexia intervention moves at a pace that is individualized for each student, and that is hard to do in a group setting. Schools often feel pressure to close the gap as swiftly as possible and thus move at a pace that is too fast for some children.
  • Motivation: Intervention delivered during the school day often comes at the expense of another subject. When a child has to miss a subject she enjoys and is motivated by to attend reading intervention, the intervention is naturally resented and thus less effective.

10. You’re going to make it!

Every time I deliver a diagnosis, I want to accompany it with a pep talk and a hug! By the time most kids are identified, both they and their parents have been through the wringer. I wish I could say it’s all smooth sailing from there, but for too many, it’s just the start of the battle. Still, people with dyslexia are succeeding all the time in just about any and every profession you can think of. They are doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators. All of the brilliance and potential you see in your child is exactly what our world needs, and there is no good reason to allow dyslexia to take that away. Your child has talents and strengths that run deeper than dyslexia, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it!

If you’d like more information about your child’s reading difficulties, I’d recommend taking this free online dyslexia test our team built to help parents quickly identify if their child may be at risk for dyslexia.

 

Images courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net: Clare Bloomfield, Criminalatt, Stoonn, Stockimages

Local Dyslexia Evaluations – Reviewing In-Person Dyslexia Testing

Boy and Mom doing homework For parents of struggling readers and writers, the following story sounds familiar. A mother watches her child struggle to read, write, or spell. She knows her son is smart—he can take things apart and put them together again and his listening comprehension is excellent—yet he has difficulties in school. She senses there is a more fundamental problem and wants to have him tested for dyslexia. Her first thought is to contact her child’s school for help. But she’s soon discouraged. She learns that getting her child tested may take months (if it ever happens), and the person who would administer the testing lacks advanced language-processing and dyslexia expertise, training, and education. She then turns to local options outside of the school. Is there some facility nearby staffed with experts who can evaluate her son for dyslexia? She quickly encounters a number of challenges with that approach:

  • There may be no professional in her city or town who can administer a complete, diagnostic language-processing evaluation (unless she happens to live next door to a major research university). Does she have to settle for a lower-quality, limited evaluation for her child just because of where she lives?
  • If she can find a seemingly good option, it often means multiple hours of travel in the car that already feels like a second home.
  • Most brick-and-mortar locations are only open 9am – 5pm, so scheduling time for an evaluation may mean a day out of work and/or pulling her child out of school.
  • When she asks about how she will be involved in the evaluation process she is told that she will need to fill out some paperwork and then wait in the reception room. She would like to observe her daughter’s evaluation to better understand what her daughter is struggling with but is told that is not allowed.
  • She learns that many of the clinics insist on performing a lot of testing that doesn’t seem relevant (psychological, emotional, etc.), which means her daughter would have to endure 4+ hours of tedious testing. Her daughter is already feeling defeated, and she is worried that this extensive testing will only make that worse.
  • She learns that all the private evaluation options cost thousands of dollars. She wants what is best for her child, but thousands of dollars seem like a lot and she wonders how much of the information will actually be helpful.  She worries that she’ll spend thousands of dollars just to be told what she already knows, with a broad disorder classification like “reading and writing disorder” or, even worse, a catchall categorization like “learning disability”.

The Online Alternative

If the school can’t help and the private evaluation options are problematic, what else can she do to help her daughter? We at Lexercise (unsurprisingly) think an online evaluation is the easiest, most effective, and most affordable way to have a child tested for dyslexia. Why?

  1. Access to the most highly skilled and experienced clinicians. Our teletherapy model allows parents to access a highly skilled and experienced clinician, regardless of where they live. Directed by a leader in the field with decades of experience both in private practice and in academia, Lexercise has recruited dedicated and highly skilled clinicians, all of whom must pass the Lexercise Qualification Examination to document their expertise. The application of research-backed practices is a Lexercise core value.
  2. Easier and more convenient. Traveling to our evaluation is as easy as a walk to your kitchen table or desk. And because our practice spans multiple time zones and because our clinicians can work from anywhere, we offer much more flexibility with scheduling to find a time convenient for parents (i.e., we’re not limited to the 9am – 5pm of brick-and-mortar locations).
  3. More affordable. Our offices are virtual, which helps us control overhead costs. That means we can invest in world-class people and pass the rest of the savings on to you.

Addressing Common Concerns with Online Evaluations

Q: Will an online evaluation be as accurate?
A: Yes. Accumulating research—such as that reported through the American Telemedicine Association—attests to the effectiveness and accuracy of online evaluations. In fact, online evaluations present unique advantages over traditional in-person evaluations. For example, we find children are often more engaged and attentive in online interactions than in an office.  There is something captivating to children about interacting with a person on the other side of the country through the computer.

Q: Will an online evaluation be recognized by schools or the government?
A: If the Lexercise evaluation indicates a disability diagnosis, yes, it will qualify your child under the federal law, The Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that our evaluation can be used at any school to get a 504 Plan for academic accommodations.

Q: Are Lexercise clinicians fully qualified with the appropriate certifications to evaluate or diagnose dyslexia?
A: Yes. Our clinical educators have master’s degrees in special education from accredited universities and are Teach for America alums. In addition, our clinical educators have continuing education above and beyond their master’s degrees in the Orton-Gillingham Approach. They have the specialized knowledge needed to evaluate language-processing difficulties like dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Q: Is Lexercise a reputable company?
A:
Absolutely. However, don’t just take our word for it, see what past customers have said about us.

 

Click here if you would like to take one of our free online tests. If you’d like to connect with one of our therapists, you can request a free initial consultation here

 

Is there 3rd party coverage for Lexercise’s dyslexia services?

You won’t be surprised to hear that one of our most-frequently-asked questions is, “Will insurance pay for Lexercise dyslexia evaluation or treatment?”

Although we know from scientific evidence that dyslexia is a life-long condition caused by a language-processing irregularity in the brain’s “wiring,” for insurance purposes, it is often considered a learning disability with no medical basis. While ADD, ADHD, and autism are considered medical diagnoses and may be covered by insurance, dyslexia is still seen by many insurers as a “developmental” or “academic” issue that should be handled by schools.

Unfortunately, many parents spend frustrating months and even years pursuing insurance coverage for their child’s evaluation and treatment, only to learn that it’s nonexistent. Meanwhile, their child continues to fall behind his or her peers.

Public schools begin routine academic testing of children at about age 6 or 7, but many parents see their child struggling to read, write or spell long before that. School testing is not the same as comprehensive dyslexia evaluation and is typically not designed to diagnose the specific and individual learning challenges of dyslexia.

 

The earlier parents seek professional evaluation for their child, the better the child’s chance of getting effective treatment and keeping up with grade-level schoolwork.

 

We strongly encourage parents to seek professional evaluation for their child as soon as possible if the child is struggling to read, write or spell. Professionals who are qualified to test for and diagnose dyslexia include some specifically trained psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators. The resulting written report includes comprehensive test data, an initial diagnosis and a plan for intervention outlining recommended steps for treatment. You can learn more about Lexercise online evaluation and treatment programs here.

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) often have more informed policies concerning dyslexia. You may be able to pay for evaluation and treatment from your account.

If your child was adopted, you may have access to Adoption Assistance for dyslexia services through the Department of Social Services. (Eligibility requirements are defined by each state, so check your local coverage.) Medicaid does not cover dyslexia.

In any case, the online evaluation and treatment offered by Lexercise significantly reduce out-of-pocket costs.

As public understanding of dyslexia catches up with medical science, we are hopeful that insurance procedures will be updated to recognize the biological basis of dyslexia and the very real needs of individuals and families dealing with this challenge.

 

We also offer scholarship opportunities via our Dyslexia Service Foundation and the Natalie Wexler Scholarship.

Please contact us for more information at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.