I want to get my daughter tested for dyslexia. I just need names and numbers of who to go to! Her school has not been able to help. She is now in 3rd grade and I have been asking for help since she was in kindergarten. Her pediatrician says to ask the school and the school says to ask her pediatrician. Thank you for your time and help.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I don’t know why the school wants you to ask the pediatrician -- pediatricians do not diagnose dyslexia. I typically refer people to the list of providers from the MI IDA (of which this year I am board president). You can view that here: http://www.interdys.org/ewebeditpro5/upload/mi_2014_1024.pdf

You should know that we, as professionals, self-select to get on this list. You will need to ask whether the professional diagnoses because not everyone does. Some on the list strictly do tutoring. You also do not necessarily need a neuropsychological assessment, which can cost over , unless your daughter is having great problems with attention, for example; and sometimes kids with dyslexia demonstrate attention problems that are a manifestation of not being able to read, rather than anything neurological in nature. So you'll want to be sure to ask the questions.

I have what a good comprehensive assessment should entail. It is very important that your daughter's oral language skills are assessed, along with reading, spelling, and writing, because, one, spoken language undergirds learning to read, spell, and write; and, two, that will help determine the pattern of strengths and weaknesses that we are looking for when we diagnose.

Okay, that said, you have the right to request an evaluation for special education from the school for a suspected learning disability, which is what dyslexia is. It is a part of her rights under IDEA, which is federal law. You can read about her rights.

Dyslexia does fall under Specific Learning Disability in the State of MI Administrative Rules for Special Education. You can go into your school’s special education office and ask for a request for an evaluation for a suspected learning disability and that will get the ball rolling. Here is some advice on how to do so.

Now, that said, for a child to qualify for services in the schools, it has been my experience that he/she needs to score pretty poorly (i.e., below the 10th percentile on standardized measures). Given that by definition our kids with dyslexia are smart, I find that many of the kids who are referred to me do not meet this criteria despite the data showing they are definitely dyslexic (i.e., there is a distinct pattern of strengths and weaknesses) and, moreover, not succeeding with the school curriculum. Unfortunately, they have to really fail, and as they are in the process of failing, we are missing precious time to intervene.

If you can afford an outside evaluation, then I recommend going that route. I have found that when parents have my evaluation in hand it can help the school staff better understand the child’s challenges and design an intervention program to meet her needs.