Thank you for your website! It is very helpful with a lot of information. My son is six years old and has nearly every item on your identification checklist. He also just yesterday mentioned for the first time that it appears “the words are moving.” He significantly struggled through preschool and kindergarten with the schools identifying a reading problem (although math and numbers come naturally to him); however they more focused on the cause being his immaturity and attention issues (he can be the "class clown" which is so interesting to see as a sign). He received the additional intensive reading assistance through school last year but so far it has not helped much at all. I'm very worried the school will not provide the specific treatments needed for his development. And his pediatrician said to go through the school. I need to find the help he needs now before we lose any more time in his academic development. Do you have recommendations on next steps for finding the needed professionals? Does U-M provide evaluations or treatment services? Also, he has had his vision tested three times since birth to six years, each time with no identified issues. Thank you for any additional assistance you can provide.


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

Thank you for your positive words about the website. It's a gift to provide people with this much-needed service. This service would not have been possible without our very generous donor! (Please see our call for help relative to raising the funds to continue this free service!)

I am not surprised the vision testing didn't note anything. Dyslexia is not a vision problem—that is a popular myth. It is a language-based disorder. I've got information about it here. Relative to his comment “the words are moving”—this might just be his way of saying that he can’t make sense of the text, track the print, etc.

I'm also not surprised that the school is more focused on attention. I have heard this story over and over for years—smart kids who can't read and know they can't read; and instead of feeling ‘dumb’ when asked to read, they find ways to avoid activities that deal with written text. This, to the person who doesn't understand what is really going on, is then viewed as inattention, misbehavior, lack of focus, etc. when the real problem is a smart kid who is not succeeding like his or her peers and doesn’t want to fail in front of them.

You need to begin with a good, comprehensive assessment of his skills to determine whether he is indeed dyslexic, whether he has a language disability, or what; and what his pattern of his strengths and weaknesses is.

Here is information about your rights under the special education law and IDEA. You can begin with requesting a special education referral.

Once he is evaluated, you will need to ascertain that his public school special education teachers understand how to treat dyslexia, which is a type of specific learning disability. I have found that most teachers have the best of intentions, but with staggering caseload numbers, the reality is that frequently there just is not enough time for the individual attention that a child needs. I have a lot of information here about what good intervention looks like. You will need to educate yourself to be able to ask the right questions and monitor your son’s progress. The professional (whether private or school-based) should be able to demonstrate systematic growth on goals and objectives. And, importantly, you should see evidence of growth.

I know this can be angst producing. Try not to worry—you are getting to this early, which is the best time!