My son is attending his first semester at a small private college seminary and has been really struggling with his Spanish class. His older brother who teaches at another college indicated that in visiting with his younger brother he observed symptoms of dyslexia. How does one get an 18-year-old tested and a professional diagnosis made if appropriate? If a diagnosis is made, what is normally done to assist the adult student with learning in college?


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

First, it is not unusual for students with dyslexia or specific learning disability to have difficulty learning a foreign language. I'll refer you to this page on DyslexiaHelp for more information on that topic.

Relative to finding help, I'll refer you to our Find a Professional page on the website. We've got a few tips as to how to go about looking for someone.

Depending what school your son is at, they may have a department that assesses students for learning disabilities. You could check with the office for Services for Students with Disabilities on campus. They might also be able to refer you to someone off campus. You'll want to ascertain that the professional has had experience assessing people of your son's age. Sometimes, it can be missed in the older individual. One problem in testing the older individual is that many of the tests we use are not normed for adults. There are tests that are, though. You should also ask the school what type of information/documentation they want to be able to get your son the services and accommodations he needs and be sure the professional can provide you with the necessary documentation.

Typically, once kids get to college, students are expected to have the skill set to tackle the curriculum, so your son will most likely need to pursue outside therapy if that is warranted. That said, there could be a department (reading, education,speech-language,special education) on campus that has a clinic. The college will, by law, provide him with the accommodations he needs as long as you've got his disability documented. Here are a couple of pages that should be helpful to you. 1) his rights under IDEA; 2) accommodations that may be helpful.

It will be important for your son to understand his strengths and weaknesses, particularly how he learns best and what he needs in order to learn so that he can advocate for himself. I have information here for him. He should also read Dr. Michael Ryan’s Letters to the Young Dyslexic. Dr. Ryan has walked the walk, and he provides advice and suggestions about myriad topics.

I hope this points you in the right direction.