Does your child struggle with pronouncing words they read? Do you notice they often misspell words? Do they take a long time to read sentences? Can they read a word on one line only to forget it on the next?
If your child exhibits these symptoms, they may have dyslexia. Sometimes called developmental dyslexia or dysphonetic dyslexia, this condition is the most widespread learning disorder affecting school-aged children. Roughly 80%-90% of people with learning disabilities have dyslexia.
If you’ve noticed these reading struggles in your child, chances are their schools have, too. However, often schools wait until 3rd grade or beyond to assess students for learning disabilities when dyslexia can be identified in students as young as 4 years old. This is an unfortunate practice as, by the end of 3rd grade, students are no longer learning to read but instead, reading to learn!
Fortunately, we can provide advanced notice on what to expect if your child is referred (or you request) for an assessment for learning disabilities.
Read on to learn more about these assessments below!
What is Dyslexia?
We have mentioned some of the symptoms of dyslexia, but what exactly is it?? What causes these symptoms to manifest?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that presents as a cluster of symptoms including difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, and pronouncing words. In fact, the officially accepted definition as defined by the International Dyslexia Association is as follows:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
When we read, we rapidly and automatically match the sounds that letters make to their symbol (the letters themselves). Dyslexic learners struggle to match the sounds that letters make to the symbol on the page in a rapid and automatic way.
As a result, dyslexic students misread words and need more time to read than students without dyslexia. The more challenging it is to read, the more likely it is for people to struggle with reading comprehension.
Additional difficulties stem from problems with visual memory (not to be mistaken for vision itself). People with this subtype of dyslexia often remember words that they can sound out. But, words with silent letters like “eight”, “gnome”, or “knife” become too difficult to remember.
Often dyslexia is present with other disorders like ADD or ADHD as both of these disabilities are neurological (brain-based) in origin. Students who struggle to retain attention can also have problems with reading comprehension.
Signs of Dyslexia
Struggling with reading is not itself a clear indicator of dyslexia. As mentioned above, conditions like ADHD can also make literacy challenging for children.
Instead, dyslexic students show specific issues that indicate dyslexia as the cause. One of the most common tendencies is leaving out, transposing, or inserting sounds and letters when reading or writing.
Other problems include struggling with breaking down multisyllabic words, difficulty spelling, and inconsistent reading and spelling. These difficulties can cause dyslexic students to struggle with reading aloud and with fluency, as they often mispronounce words. Students may also have problems enunciating letters, vowels, or diphthongs because of these issues.
How can you identify if a student has these problems? Often, it helps to listen for a slow, choppy, disjointed reading pattern.
You may also notice that students experience frustration or anxiety when reading. After all, students want to keep pace with their peers and when they can’t, they are well aware of it. It can become a source of anger, avoidance, or shut-down behavior when these students recognize that they have problems that others do not but don’t understand why.
What Do Public Schools Do About Dyslexia?
Federal law requires public schools to identify dyslexic students. After all, students struggling with dyslexia could face extensive challenges later in their academic and workplace lives. The sooner schools identify the problem, the sooner they can help students resolve this issue.
So, how do schools pinpoint this issue? School Psychologists will administer several psychological assessments to determine what may be causing the difficulties at school. School Resource Teachers (Special Education Teachers) will administer academic testing.
These tests should include:
- Intelligence (IQ) testing to determine the “ability” of the child to learn.
- Auditory Processing
- Visual Processing
- Phonological Processing
- Behavior assessments
Additional assessments may include:
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech and Language
- Assistive Technology
School Resource teachers will assess all areas of academics. These tests should include:
- Full academic assessment in the areas of reading, writing, math, oral skills as well as listening comprehension.
- Phonological awareness
- Orthographic awareness
- Decoding/Encoding skills
- Reading fluency and comprehension
- Rapid naming
Tests addressing these areas of learning will determine if dyslexia is present and point to the severity level of dyslexia. Once identified, teachers should provide targeted instruction to help students overcome these issues.
Most states, including California, have laws ensuring that dyslexic students receive evidence-based instruction to provide an intensive structured literacy framework. However, unfortunately, many students do not receive the appropriate instruction to remediate the symptoms of dyslexia.
Dyslexia cases can vary in severity from mild to profound. A student with mild dyslexia may not be struggling as much and therefore, not identified. A profoundly dyslexic learner will struggle enormously.
In these cases, students may require one-on-one instruction from special education teachers. Other times, students may also meet with specialists outside the classroom for additional remediation.
Different schools have varying resources for helping students receive the specialized education they need. Some districts can provide extra staff in general classrooms to help students when necessary. These places can provide a more inclusive learning environment for dyslexic students.
Other schools may not have these resources. If this is the case, students may need to receive their education in a specialized classroom setting.
No matter the setting, it is imperative that students receive intensive instruction with an evidence-based structured literacy program taught by certified instructors who understand the needs of a dyslexic learner.
Private Schools and Dyslexia Assessments
You may wonder how private schools handle dyslexia cases.
Generally, private schools fall outside the legal codes that affect public schools. However, private schools also want to provide the best education for all their students. If a private school suspects that a student struggles with dyslexia, they will likely provide similar tests as public schools or they may refer you to the public school of residence for assessment.
Sometimes, these schools can provide better quality education for dyslexic students than public schools. Private schools often have smaller class sizes, allowing teachers to give more individualized instruction.
Some private schools even specialize in providing education for those with a higher degree of dyslexic needs. If these interest you, search your local area to learn more about schools designated to educate dyslexic learners.
Information for Parents: What to Expect
It can be scary when your child begins their dyslexia assessment process. Parents often become frightened when they realize what challenges are in store for their children if they have dyslexia.
The first thing to understand is that dyslexia does not mean that something is wrong with your child. It simply means that their brain is “wired” differently and needs a different approach to learning reading, writing, and spelling skills.
In fact, many dyslexic learners are “out-of-the-box” thinkers with amazing visual-spatial skills. Many, many famous people have overcome the challenges their dyslexia brings to become very successful engineers, architects, attorneys, actors, and artists.
Dyslexia means that your child will learn differently than their peers. Although they may need additional help and structure, they can still receive a quality education to become anything they want to become as an adult.
Dyslexia is often a source of frustration for children who feel different than their friends. Be patient, supportive, and understanding on their low days. Doing so makes their “high” days even more rewarding!
Finding the Best Dyslexia Assessment
If you suspect your child has dyslexia, the first step is to find the best dyslexia assessment protocol for them. Once they’ve completed the assessment, you will gain an understanding of what resources they will need to thrive in school.
Consider using our dyslexia assessment resources! We help children throughout the Greater Sacramento area receive the help they need to master reading and writing skills in order to excel in school.
Contact us today to learn more about our procedures and methods.