I am interested in finding out about testing to determine if a child might be dyslexic. My grandson is seven years old and has been receiving speech services for five years for apraxia and dysarthria. He has slower process speed due to a congenital brain malformation. He is in second grade and seems to be lagging on reading skills in spite of Title 1 reading support. Can you please provide me specific recommendations about how to have him tested?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 
I typically refer people to the provider list for their state -- here is MI from the MI Branch of the International Dyslexia Assoc. (I am this year's president.) Not everyone on this list diagnoses, though, so you need to check.

Given what you said about your grandson's speech challenges and slow processing, it will be very important to have someone who understands spoken language assess his comprehension and use of oral language. I say that because, as a speech and language pathologist, through my initial training (BS and MS), I find that many times this is missed with these kids. A language impairment coupled with a reading impairment is a different diagnosis than dyslexia. Here's a piece I wrote on that subject.

Many times I find that this important spoken language piece is overlooked. Spoken language skills undergird learning to read, spell, and write -- and so if they are not addressed in therapy, we are missing the boat, so to speak. We can work on reading all we want, but if we don't target those underlying skills, progress will be limited. When making the diagnosis of dyslexia, we are looking for skills in spoken language comprehension that fall within the average range and reading and spelling skills that are not commensurate with oral comprehension.

Relative to Title One services -- those services are designed for students who are behind in reading, but not necessarily disordered. This would include kids who have not had the same exposure to text as others, but who have the underlying skills (e.g., the ability to perceive sounds in words, or phonemic awareness) versus kids who process sounds differently than the typical (i.e., "normal") reader and who need intervention in those areas in order to learn to read, spell, and write..

I hope this points you in the right direction. Don't hesitate to ask if I can be of further help.