I was wondering if you had any recommendations for a testing facility in the St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN area. I have a 9-year-old daughter that struggles with reading and spelling and word sounds that I would like to have tested. Her father was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and I would like to know if she had a disability as well. There are so many places that pop up when searching it is quite overwhelming. I am just looking for a place that would thoroughly test every aspect of the disability including auditory processing because she seems to hear and speak words differently. For example, the word hurt she will say and spell ert. Words like example and escalator she will think has a g sound in them. Things like that. School has not offered anything in the way of testing and she doesn't meet the criteria for extra help because her test scores just meet the standards. I appreciate your time, trouble and reply. Thank you.


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

You are lucky in that you live in a state with a very active dyslexia community of professionals. Your best bet is to start with the provider list from the International Dyslexia Association.

It might be helpful to read what an evaluation entails so that you can ask the professional good questions to determine his or her training, expertise, and experience in assessing and diagnosing dyslexia.

You will want someone who understands the oral language foundation to reading disability and whose assessment will not only diagnose, but set the baseline with goals and suggestions for intervention. You will want her assessed by a psychologist, speech-language pathologist who also has training in reading disability (most do not), reading specialist, or neurospychologist (although they tend to test and diagnose, but do not always provide a treatment plan). Start with asking the questions about background, training, and experience. Ask for referrals of parents with whom he or she has worked and contact those parents.

Rather than asking someone to assess for auditory processing, you will want her oral language comprehension and verbal expression, and, importantly, phonological processing (perceiving the sounds in our language) assessed. Some of the errors you mention are indicative of a phonological processing— specifically, phonemic awareness—problem. A problem with phonological processing is one of the hallmarks of dyslexia. We would need to determine whether she is perceiving the 'h' in 'hurt', but is not able to transfer this knowledge to writing the letter. By writing 'er' for 'ur' it appears that she does have some orthographic understanding that the 'er' sound has a vowel and 'r', but she has not yet learned the correct spelling for that particular word.

When she hears a 'guh' in "example"—this is actually correct—although we spell it with an 'x.' Phonetically, we pronounce it "egzample" (or some might say "eksample"). This would indicate that her phonemic awareness is intact for this word, but she needs to learn the orthographic (letter) representation. On the other hand, we do not pronounce escalator with a 'guh'. Although that said, she could say it "egscalator.' These errors indicate that her phonological awareness skills need to be assessed.

Given the family history of dyslexia that you mention, her tendency to have dyslexia is increased. I know it can be an arduous task finding the right person, but persevere. It sounds like the schools are operating similar to what we are finding here in Michigan—bright kids are not getting identified because they score "too well." It's unfortunate, but that is the state of education in this country at present. It really does put the onus on you as the parent to try and find her the help she needs to succeed.

I hope this is helpful. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions from your inquiry into professionals. I am happy to help as best I can from afar.