I have a nine year old son that we believe may have a learning disability. We believe it is possibly dyslexia or dyscalculia. We are unable to have an evaluation at this time due to the cost. How can we help him and support him until we can get the diagnosis? I believe once we get an official diagnosis with the areas he are struggling in, we can request accommodations. But until then, I feel clueless about how to help him. I'd appreciate any advice you can offer!

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

Did they tell you at your son’s school that a student can be tested for a suspected learning disability at no charge (part of our tax dollars) by the public schools? As a parent, you have a right to request an evaluation for a suspected learning disability. You can go into the special education office in your son's school district and request the form. Your signature will get the process in motion.

Now, that said, you son may or may not meet the criteria for services in the public schools. Kids have to score pretty poorly (at or below the 9th percentile generally) on the assessments to qualify for services; and many dyslexic kids, despite struggling greatly to learn to read, spell, and write, do not score that poorly. That does not mean they are not dyslexic, but just that they don't meet the criteria for services in the public schools.. It can be a problem for our dyslexic kids.

Also, the public school staff may tell you that they do not diagnose dyslexia (despite, for example, the very word being an example of a specific learning disability in the MI Administrative Rules for Special Education). Dyslexia is a specific learning disability, which IS a category for special education services.

I would familiarize yourself with this info about special education in the public schools and then go ask for a referral form.

If that doesn't get things moving forward, let me know and I'll see what else I can advise.