Yesterday my son had a neurological exam and the doctor determined that he is dyslexic and has ADHD. Although I knew this in my heart I still feel overwhelmed. He is seven years old and so behind. I researched tutoring in our area and found a recommended center. I'm worried that we will not be able to afford the cost. We live a no frills life, but are not in need. I'm wondering if you can point me in a direction that will be easier on my family's finances while still helping my child succeed.

Thank you for any feedback.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 
It can be very challenging to find quality services that do not cost. This is a real challenge for people. I've seen too many families in my clinical practice who have spent a lot of money at centers with little to show. Here's an interview with a mom that I did -- and I think in the interview she mentions that they spent a LOT of money for her son to learn the alphabet...

First of all, have you worked with the public schools to get your son an IEP for his dyslexia or 504 Plan for the ADHD? Your son is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and these services are mandated by law, and therefore, funded by our tax dollars (i.e., no additional cost to the student). Relative to the dyslexia diagnosis, you could sign a request for evaluation for a suspected learning disability (SLD), which falls under special education. Head into the special education office for your school district and ask for this. Some schools tell parents that dyslexia is not recognized by the public schools in Michigan, but, indeed, it is in the MI Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) under SLD. After a meeting with you, the first step will be an assessment by the school team. Here's what a comprehensive assessment entails.

With an ADHD diagnosis, he could qualify for a 504 Plan, which is a general education initiative.

I would first pursue the IEP route as he can then also get accommodations for his ADHD, whereas with a 504 Plan, he will not get the direct intervention that he needs for his dyslexia -- structured, systematic, intensive intervention. Please see this piece that I wrote about Structured Literacy for further information about the tenets of comprehensive therapy to address dyslexia.

There is the question of him qualifying for services in the schools. Many times, students who are dyslexic do not score severely enough to qualify for services in the public schools. Hopefully, with new understandings, future legislation (with funding behind it), and changes in teacher education and training programs, this will change. But, for now, typically, students must score below the 10th percentile, which is the range that has historically been considered clinically significant, to qualify. The challenge is that our dyslexic students are average to above average in intellectual ability (by definition), and many times do not score that low, BUT, they do score below average. We’ve got kids who should easily be handling the school curriculum and they are not. Here's a piece I wrote about that.

I hope that your son can get the help he needs through the school. It is really the most cost-effective route for you. You may also find a reasonable tutor, who is trained in the areas of Structured Literacy. Here is the provider list for MI from the International Dyslexia Association.