Evaluating Dyslexia

The earlier, the better

In this section, you will find information about testing, including what to expect in an evaluation for dyslexia or a language-learning disability. We also provide a list of tests for all ages.

If you suspect your child is having difficulty with communication, reading, spelling, or writing, a language and literacy evaluation is in order. Do not delay. The earlier one's skills can be assessed and an intervention program begun, the better. But, it is never too late!

The evaluator will be looking for a pattern of strengths and weaknesses, with spoken language comprehension skills generally being an area of strength and phonological processing, written word decoding, and spelling being areas of weakness. The components in making a comprehensive diagnosis of dyslexia will vary depending on the age of the individual, but there are some core areas to be assessed regardless of age.

These core areas are:

  • phonological processing skills including phonemic awareness, phonological memory, and rapid naming abilities
  • oral vocabulary
  • spoken language comprehension
  • decoding (i.e., knowing the sound-letter connections of language in order to read)
  • reading comprehension and fluency (rate and accuracy) during both silent and oral reading
  • spelling skills
  • writing skills

Expressive language skills may also need to be assessed, particularly if the child has difficulty explaining a procedure, using words in correct order, and using the correct words to refer to items. Many times, naming or word retrieval problems accompany dyslexia. For example, your child uses "thing" a bit too much to refer to things.

For older children, teens, and young adults it is important to obtain their history of learning to read, spell, and write. Understanding of higher-level language (e.g., inference, gaining meaning from context, understanding non-literal language such as jokes and sarcasm) may also need to be assessed. Slow, laborious reading, difficulty with spelling, and needing additional time for tests can all be indicators of dyslexia. It is important to determine what the individual knows about his or her specific learning disability, and the strategies that are effective in the classroom and/or workplace. It is also important to assess interests as well as self-understanding of communication, reading, and writing skills.

Other areas to assess can include children’s articulation and social skills. Math may be affected, as well as other academic areas, and should be assessed if warranted. Other areas that may need evaluated include organizational skills, memory, and executive functioning (e.g., planning, sequencing, following through with task completion, etc.), as challenges in these areas can affect spoken communication, reading, spelling, and writing. For some individuals, further testing may be necessary to 'rule out' such things as attentional or motor problems.

There are many pieces that fit the diagnostic puzzle. By assembling the pieces, a systematic, individualized treatment program can be designed. Success starts here!