To whom it may concern,

For the past year I've suspected my daughter may have dyslexia. I requested that her school district test her for a learning disability and they found nothing. When I specially asked about dyslexia they said testing for dyslexia was done under the realm of specific learning disabilities (SLD) and she did not meet criteria.

These are some of the things my daughter has been struggling with since she began her schooling: Reads slowly and painfully, experiences decoding errors, especially with order of letters, shows huge disparity between listening comprehension and reading comprehension, has major troubles with spelling, has difficulty recalling known words, has difficulty with written language, has difficulty with math computation and uses finger for counting, can't decode nonsense words, has trouble reading small sight words and substitutes one small sight word for another (for example reads "the" instead of "and"), can't read, write, or spell at grade level, reading and writing shows letter and number reversal, repetition, and omissions, spells phonetically and inconsistently, has trouble copying and often has illegible handwriting with too much space in between letters and little space between words.

She is now in third grade and continues to struggle with all of these tasks. Can you please advise me on how I can get her properly evaluated for dyslexia either outside of or through the school district? Can you please inform me as to what the diagnostic process is like and what kinds of test I can expect. Thank you in advance for your help.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 
I am sorry that you are struggling so much to get your daughter the help she needs. All of those behaviors you listed certainly raise a flag for me relative to dyslexia.

Here are my suggestions -- first, familiarize yourself with the federal law for special education and get a copy of your state’s guidelines. I have information here and a lot more on the subsequent tabs.

In Michigan (where I am) although dyslexia is listed in the guidelines under Specific Learning Disability in the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education, schools are still telling parents that it is not an educational diagnosis. This is an antiquated thinking. It is the job of our schools to teach our kids to read, spell, and write. When we correctly identify dyslexia, we know how to intervene with evidenced-based intervention; so it is important to properly identify it.

Here is the list of providers for CA that I point people to from the International Dyslexia Association. Now not everyone on this list will diagnose, and you want to be sure you get a good comprehensive assessment, so ask questions.

I would also suggest connecting with the folks at Decoding Dyslexia (DD) - CA. You can search for them on Facebook. DD is a grassroots group of parents who are 'taking the nation.' Someone there might be able to connect you with an advocate -- someone you can take to a meeting with the school -- or help you sift through how to go about getting your daughter the services she deserves.

Persevere! She needs an advocate and until she can advocate for herself, that will most likely need to be you.