It appears my youngest son will need a secondary diagnosis to address a learning disability. My son has a family history of dyslexia on both parental sides. Based on my discussions with various professionals, both his pediatrician and BCBA and other psychologists, they are concerned that he may have either: dyslexia, an audio visual processing disorder, or a short- to long-term memory problem.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

Good for you all to be getting at this early! Dyslexia is a disorder of reading, spelling, and/or writing in the absence of a disorder of spoken language. Typically, a child with autism has a disorder of language comprehension, whereas a student with dyslexia has intact spoken language comprehension skills. Depending on the severity of your son's autism, in particular his language comprehension challenges, he may not receive a diagnosis of dyslexia, but rather one of reading disorder. A child with a language disorder does not meet the diagnostic criteria for dyslexia.

I do not know what an "audio visual processing disorder" is. Many times children are diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, which is another way of saying a receptive language disorder. Children with reading and spelling problems can have difficulty with short-term and working memory. Your son needs a good assessment that includes BOTH spoken and written language.

The importance of getting a good assessment is that IF he has challenges with spoken language, he will need language therapy along with reading intervention. The intervention for the reading disorder is the same. A child with dyslexia does not need the language therapy piece.

He could also be assessed in the schools, but historically, the school staff has not diagnosed dyslexia, despite the fact that dyslexia is a specific learning disability per special education code. Additionally, students need to fail before being assessed. You do not want that. Early intervention has the best outcomes for children with language-based learning disorders, whether the diagnosis is reading disorder or dyslexia.