I have a client who suspects that she may have struggled with dyslexia all her life. Although she is high functioning, a diagnosis would give her some understanding and relief to know that her past struggles in school and present day tendency to avoid reading and math could be stemming from a learning disorder. What test would you recommend for a 32 year old female to find out if she is dyslexic?
Dr. Pierson's Response: 
This is a challenging question. There is no one test to assess dyslexia. She will need to work with a diagnostician who understands how to assess the skills of an adult. The challenge is a lot of the tests that we use are standardized up to only 21 or 24 years of age (e.g., Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing - 2, Gray Oral Reading Test - 5, Test of Word Reading Efficiency - 2), and the literature is clear about the problems using these assessments with adults. (I've got some of the tests listed here for up to age 25, but that won’t help your client.)

It is possible, though, to get a good assessment using norm-referenced tests coupled with other measures. For example, the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - 3 is normed for adults. Also, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - 4 could be used to get a receptive vocabulary score, although vocabulary has been shown to degrade over time in those who do not have access to the same text as their peers so the diagnostician will want to be mindful of that. Although I am not familiar with it, the Adult Reading Test was normed in the UK and goes to age 55.

The diagnostician could also use informal assessments to determine a pattern of strengths and weaknesses, in the areas of phonological processing, spelling, and writing.For example, analysis of types of spelling errors (i.e., phonological versus orthographic) could be informative. Another important piece to the puzzle will be the case history information, as well as potentially a review of school records, writing samples, and the like.

Key to an assessment is to find a professional who has experience conducting diagnostic evaluations for adults. Not everyone does. Many people specialize in children, which as I noted above, is where the standardized assessments focus as well. I typically refer people to the International Dyslexia Association provider list. You can click on your state to find a provider near you. Even if the particular person does not have the expertise needed, he or she may be able to refer you to someone. A good diagnostician will take all the data to build a picture as to whether it is dyslexia or not. This should lead to recommendations for a treatment plan. It is never too late to get help!

I hope this information points you in the right direction. Thank you for reaching out on behalf of this woman!