My husband and I are looking for someone to evaluate our daughter for dyslexia in Michigan. But we are having trouble getting professionals to listen and understand our concerns. Do you have any doctors or resource centers you recommend?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 
I typically point people to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) provider list for their state. Here is MI.

You'll want to be sure that the professional looks at your daughter's oral language skills since they underlie learning to read, spell, and write. Here's information as to what is entailed in a good comprehensive assessment.

I'm assuming you are aware that your could be evaluated by the public schools for a specific learning disability (SLD). That said, dyslexia is not typically diagnosed in the public schools in MI. And, if she is a typical dyslexic kid she won't necessarily score poorly enough to meet the school's criteria for services under SLD. Then there's the issue of knowing how to help her if she is dyslexic. You may be told that they can't assess her since she's so young; or that she'll have to move through the tiers of Response to Intervention (RTI), which could mean she'll continue to fail. She needs systematic, explicit, multisensory interventionthat is evidenced-based. I have a lot of information about the special education process on the website should you want to go that route, and on other subtabs with this one.

We can certainly identify the 6 year old who is at risk. I am working with a 6-year-old boy who is still in kindergarten. He was not diagnosed with dyslexia, but was identified as at-risk for literacy learning due to behaviors that are indicative of the potential of dyslexia. In his case, since he is only in kindergarten, he’s not had much instruction in reading or spelling, so we need to see what he does when he gets instruction; but he had challenges with phonological awareness tasks that were suspect. He is getting therapy 3x/week and I think the jury is still out as to whether he is dyslexic or not because he is making nice gains. But, his behavior at school was such that he was frustrated and acting out, which was another flag that he needed help.

A good diagnostician will be able to identify your daughter's pattern of strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations as to therapy or tutoring if needed. Good for you to be getting on this early before too much time passes with her struggling, and subsequently getting a poor self-concept of herself as a learner.

You might want to read Sally Shaywitz's book Overcoming Dyslexia. It's written for parents and, despite its 2003 publication date, it remains current as to what dyslexia is and what intervention looks like, and can help you as you advocate for your daughter. Most libraries have it. The parents with whom I work have found it very helpful and enlightening.