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Ask the Experts

Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

I think that my son may have dyslexia. He is in third grade. The school does not acknowledge the word. Can you give me information about dyslexia and how I should go about getting the school to help me?

Answer:

Dyslexia is a disorder many of us have heard of, but it can be confusing as to what it actually is. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a very accessible definition:

"Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person's ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia have difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds) and/ or rapid visual-verbal responding."

This organization is an excellent resource for further explaining the disorder and they reference current government research projects, as well as other organizations of interest. One such organization is The International Dyslexia Association.

The IDA has educational fact sheets with definitions, links to additional resources, information for parents and students, and advocacy and support groups. These sites can help familiarize you with dyslexia and help you advocate more effectively.

It is possible that your school doesn't use the word "dyslexia" for classifying reading disorders. Different school systems may use different criteria and terminology to qualify children for special education services. Some schools may not test until children reach third grade, because some of the characteristics of dyslexia are common in children from kindergarten to grade two, so it's great that you have begun this process now.

Tell his current teacher and your principal, that you would like to know the procedure for evaluating your child for a learning disability. It can be useful to bring samples of his work, which best illustrates his difficulties, to further explain what you are specifically concerned with.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/6/2012:
"I began homeschooling my son this year he is a 3rd grader. I thought he just had attention problems but with all the research i have recently done i have come to realize that he may be dyslexic, i would love tp find out more about what i can do for him at home. Thank You "
01/4/2012:
"Im 12 and i get a bunch of numbers and letters mixed up. Like for example: 314 for 143 and was for saw and really easy stuff like that. I absolutly hate reading no matter how easy. It takes me forever . Some of my friends say that I could be dyslexic. Am I? "
12/5/2011:
"Hey my daughter is 13 and in the 8th grade she has never been good in Language, she doesnt know her pronouns,adjectives,ect. and in math she has never been good in it either, she doent know how to tell time nor does she know her times tables fractions or percents ect does she have dyslexia? "
03/23/2010:
"In what ways can i go about getting my child tested and what can i do to help improve his dislexia?"
03/10/2010:
"i have a 7yrold that has all these symptons and is leading to faliure for the second time and im constantly asking the teachers for help can you mail me some information about this disorder"
07/7/2009:
"My child was diagnosised with dyslexia in 4th grade. However, I find it ashamed that this was a word that was not suppose to be used to me. Why? You may ask because the superintendent of the schools did not find this as an 'appropriate' word to be used. Thank goodness the ones who had tested my daughter were willing to tell me the bare truth about what was going on with my daughter and now I am learning to learn with my daughter who will be in 5th grade. I had noticed a problem since she was in 1st grade and fought til 4th for some kind of testing. My daughter had been labeled a 'problem child' or 'a child who didnt want to learn' for to many yrs in my opinion before I had success. "
06/23/2009:
"'Want some additional information, answers to questions, or support? Please consider joining and posting them at the 'Learning and Attention Difficulties' group found here at GS to receive to receive practical suggestions from parents who have faced similar challenges: http://community.greatschools.org/groups/11554'"
05/13/2009:
"My grand daughter who is now.. 11 lives out of state w/ her parents.. I raised her for many years.. Her father ( My son) had learning disabilities.. and so does she.. Dyslexia. She was put back her frist year of school. She broke her leg the frist of this school year going into Middle school.. it was too much to for her.. plus her family living conditions..? She has 3 other little siblings.. Needless to say.. she may be put back again this year.. I thought I would have her come this summer for summer school.. Can U advise me how to go about it? I would appreicate it.. so much.. Melody Bell-Leeder"
05/11/2009:
"I would like more information about dyslexia. I have a seven years old daughter and ahe has problems to read even when she is very smart. "
04/9/2009:
"I have 2 daughters with dyslexia. I fought their school for several years. They would not give them a dyslexia diagnosis but they put them in their dyslexia program. I did extensive research on dyslexia so I could help my children. My youngest daughter's dyslexia is more severe than my older daughter. The standard programs to help dyslexia do NOT work. All the basic approaches teach dyslexics phonics. Dylexics do not understand phonics. I put my daughter through the Davis Dyslexia program and at the end of the week she went up a grade level in reading. Several months later she passed her spelling tests with out studying for the first time, her reading levels have continued to increase, and her vocabulary has increased. It is worth every penny! Read the book The Gift Of Dyslexia....your child will thank you for the rest of their life. Don't make the same mistakes as me...I wasted too much time fighting the school to learn their programs don't work. Also the Orton-Gillingham program and the others like that one do not have research to prove long lasting results. These dyslexics just learn by rote and memorization because they can't truly understand phonics and sounds....you can't keep teaching them the same thing and expect them to get it!!!! I only hope our teachers and schools start chaning and becoming more open minded with learning! "
03/12/2009:
"My 8 year old child has just recently been diagnosed with dyslexia....Our school system (Kentucky) does not acknowledge dyslexia as being a learning disability....The school that he attends says that he doesn't qualify for special education and are only wanting to hold him back in second grade again....Our school system doesn't even test for dyslexia....I had a feeling he had it, so I took it upon myself to have him tested and am now grateful that I did..But it doesnt matter to the school cuz they are still seeing him as a failing student....I feel as if it is punishment to hold him back a year just because he can't read and and understand phonics as well as he should....Like the doctor that tested him told me, 'It's like trying to make a child run around a track and finish at the same time as the other kids only him having a broken leg'....I just takes them longer to grasp the concept of it all"
01/28/2009:
"Sometimes children with dyslexia even have a higher intelligence and just have no cance to show it because they aren't tested in ways they understand. Additionally, they also have trouble with sequences because of the same reason they have trouble comprehending what they've read, that is, they have trouble stringing more than one thing together. Anyone with questions about dyslexia PLEASE look at this link: http://dyslexiainstitutes.com/checklist.php"
10/14/2008:
"I have a 10 year old son who i truly think he mit be Dyslexic. I need to know if there are any place in Columbus Ohio that I can take him and get him tested. The tearchers seem to be thinking that he is showing sign of Dyslexia. I just don't know where to start. Thank you Bobbi "
10/6/2008:
"Do schools know how to test for Sensory Intergration Dysfunction? there was a person that wrote in on 3-19-08. It sounds like her son may have it. there is a good book out ' The out-of-sync child'. I have a 6 yr old first grader. The kendergarden teacher kept saying He will catch up give him time. He will better in frist grade.we worked over the summer. he still can't count in order he now can count to 8 skips 9 and says 10. he ues to skip 4. He can't say his alphabet he only recognizes some letters. We have worked sence he was a baby sing the alphabet song and counting song. To books and toys that say letter and numbers as he pushes the buttens. Could he have Dyslexia? is why he is having trouble. he has been tested and found to have difficulty in some areas of fine motor and visual motor skill development. the school is checking him to see if he need more testing."
10/1/2008:
"Generally the schools start testing before or in the third grade. It is hereditary. I've also been told that an early warning sign/red flag is a speech delay. My high school son was tested and found to have dyslexia after his second grade year. My 5 year old had a speech delay so we are keeping a close eye on this. Both sides of our family have dyslexics. If your child does have dyslexia the Masonic Learning Centers help teach them ways to deal and overcome the obstacles that dyslexics have. Ours had a 3 year waiting list, so the sooner you can get them on the list the better. You have to show the testing that was done, at least at ours we did. childrenslearningcenters.org/success/success.html "
09/30/2008:
"I have a five year old that is writing her name upside down and backwards. She is having troblem with letters and numbers. Where and how old does she have to be, before we test her for dislexia? My aunt is dislexic. So that is what triggered her behavior. Kendall"
09/17/2008:
"Information for the parents wondering how and where to test their child for dsylexia: I am a trained Orton-Gillingham tutor for the Dyslexia Institue of Indiana. I am also an elementary educ. major. My daughter was having trouble with 'sight' words and not being taught phonics. I knew something was wrong 3 weeks into school, but what was it? I heard ,'she'll outgrow it, she has no learning disablity,' etc. from the school system. We talked to a pediatrician who sent us to another pediatrician and clinician at Riley Hospital for children. They did not diagnose her either!! Then, I happened to read an article about the Dyslexia Institute when my daughter was in the fifth grade. That is when we finally found help. The comments made by some of the contributors are correct in that many school systems do not specifcally test for dyslexia, nor do they use the term. Unfortunately, they probably do not know how to best teach your child even when you get a diagnosis. But, you, the parent must be your child's advocate and find out EVERYTHING you can. Do NOT allow another school year go by. I would recommend checking out the local chapter of the International Dyslexia Association, mentioned in this section. Also, the Masonic organizations have programs for dyslexia. Both organizations can help you find out how and where to get a diagnosis. I would highly recommend a book by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. titled Overcoming Dyslexia, published by Alfred A. Knopf. She has researched dyslexia for years and based her findings on MRI brain imaging. Ms. Shaywitz states, 'Tens of thousands of children who are struggling to read are going undiagnosed.' Also, 'There is an emerging consensus among researchers and clinicians that the dependence on a discrepency between IQ and reading acheivement for a diagnosis of dyslexia has outlived its usefulness..' This system is used in most school systems across the country, although I do know that Indiana has changed its testing guidelines. One good testing tool that is being used more widely now for children at risk for reading problems is DIBELS (http://dibels.uoregon.edu) Hope this information helps!"
07/21/2008:
"Could you tell me is there any test that conclusively diagnosis teenage with dyslexia? The school says she has a specific learning disability in the IEP. To qualify for help fom the Blind and Dyslexic foundation, how does one prove your child is dyslexic?"
07/9/2008:
"It is important that parents are aware of their rights and responsiblities in getting their children evaluated for special ed. My personal experience with my son and advocating for other families is it is best for parents to learn about the SPED process and laws on their own. Schools have a vested interest in avoiding their child find responsiblities and often do not clearly and explicitly apprise parents of their rights and responsibilities. Often times they use reassuring words like 'we're watching him' or things like, 'you don't want her to have a sped label'. For parents that are upset about their child's lack of progress, they might not press for further testing. Please link the parents to other articles and resources on GS that inform them of the IEP process and legalities (Schwab had some great articles that are now part of your data base). This will arm parents with important and factual information that they can use to collaborate with the school and hold the school accountable. "
07/7/2008:
"my child can read but she has a hard time comprehending what the story was about, is there a disease for this?"
03/19/2008:
"my 5yea old boy has a problem writing and recognising sounds.HE knows his alphabets and sounds and the numbers too but can not read words or write anything just doase not wish to hold a pencil. can any one suggest some ways to help him write and develop his motor skills. he has a good grip- he can hold a spoon and eat very neatly but only writing is a problem."
02/13/2008:
" Hi, where do I go to get my child tested? His school said he will grow out of it. He is in the third grade. Thanks"
02/5/2008:
"I have a 6yr old little angel. She has so much trouble pointing out her numbers and letters, but she can say her abc's and can count to 40. However when I ask her to point out the letter or number she cannot. Any suggestions any one? I'm in need of advice. thanks "
08/9/2007:
"Public schools in CA are not required by law to test for dyslexia, so they don't. They are only required to test for eligibility for special education. There is a critical and serious difference. Many schools refuse to use the word dyslexia and refuse to use best practices for remediation specifically for dyslexia, even tough it is required by law. "
09/25/2006:
"I think it is extremely important to have an evaluation done outside of school if dyslexia is suspected. Dyslexia can be diagnosed well before a child gets to third grade. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the sooner the child can get help. Often school evaluations do not diagnose dyslexia."
09/19/2006:
"Parents should be aware that gifted dyslexic children do not always show reading problems. Our gifted dyslexic son reads above grade level so we were told he 'could not' be dyslexic. Please check out http://mislabeledchild.com/html/Library/DyslexiaReading/Stealth_dyslexia.htm and the new book The Mislabeled Child. Good luck!"
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