Michigan Third Grader Needing Assessment

My son is 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. His teacher and principal have suggested that we have a "comprehensive child study" done to evaluate, understand, and help with his issues. I am having trouble finding resources where this evaluation and diagnosis could be performed.

He is currently reading slightly below 3rd grade reading level. However, his teacher believes he is not low enough below the baseline to qualify for special education services. He also struggles with low self esteem.

Can you provide a contact or point me in the right direction for an evaluation and diagnostic testing?


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I typically refer people to the provider list for their state from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Here is MI.

Not everyone on these lists diagnoses, so you will want to be sure to ascertain that they do. Moreover, you will want someone who understands MI special education rules so that he/she can help determine whether your son would qualify for services. Dyslexia is listed in the MI Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) under specific learning disability (SLD). When I conduct an assessment and making a diagnosis, I put both the ICD-10 code and the MARSE rule in the report. I have found that many times when I attend a meeting at the school, as an outside professional, this connection can sometimes help the school staff understand the need for services. It is also important to build a case relative to the child's history of dyslexia. This becomes important when asking for accommodations for taking ACT/SATs down the road (i.e., for college). Moreover, if a child is struggling to learn in school, then we need to figure out why and design a successful trajectory. After all, it is the job of our schools to teach our kids to read, spell, and write.

Typically a child needs to score below the 10th percentile to qualify for services in MI. It can be a real dilemma for some of our dyslexic kids because despite clearly being dyslexic (we look at a difference between receptive vocabulary and reading, spelling, and writing skills when making the diagnosis) and not achieving to his potential in school, he may not qualify for school services. I have seen too many kids like this in my private clinical practice. Sometimes, we can get accommodations for the student via a 504 Plan (which is a general education initiative) if he doesn’t qualify for an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Here's what a comprehensive assessment entails so that you can ask the right questions. You want to be sure that assessment of his spoken language abilities is included in the diagnostic testing. I find that many times this is not looked at, and then the child ends up have some challenges with spoken language that have been missed. Spoken language skills undergird learning to read, spell, and write, and if not addressed, we are merely putting on a band-aid, so to speak (i.e., not treating the underlying cause).

I hope this is helpful. Let me know if I can answer any other questions.