My granddaughter has been tested by her school multiple times. First, suggesting ADHD and then this week clarifying that the condition is more likely dyslexia. In our experience at home working with her, we see a manifested response that suggests dyslexia. The school says they have a process that will lead to labeling her as dyslexic and getting her into special classes. Otherwise, she is a very healthy child in a very loving and supportive environment. We are completely lost in how to establish a plan or what resources to access that will let us support her and her development. Can you give us some guidance or suggestions?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I am glad you are getting to the 'bottom' of her challenges. It is true that dyslexia and ADD/ADHD can occur together (i.e., are co-morbid). But, sometimes, students with reading disorder/dyslexia are 'mis-identified' as ADHD when it is the reading challenges that are causing the ADHD-like behaviors. These students are by nature savvy kids, and when they are confronted with tasks of reading and writing, knowing they cannot do the task, they can demonstrate behaviors that are interpreted as off-task (e.g., fidgeting, talking about other topics, avoiding the task) and hence, the referral for ADHD.

Texas was the first state in the nation to develop a law to screen and treat students with dyslexia. I would think by now they would have staff trained as far as diagnosis [1] and intervention. In regard to intervention, it doesn't make sense to have her pulled out if she will not be getting the right kind of intervention. A student with dyslexia requires structured literacy (SL) [2] intervention. You will want to ensure that the educator(s) providing instruction have training in SL, particularly if she is pulled out of her general education classroom instructional time. Some families opt to have private tutoring for the SL intervention and have a 504 Plan (rather than an IEP) in place at school to address accommodations for their child. Here's a bit [3] about IEPs and 504s.

Dr. Sally Shaywitz's book Overcoming Dyslexia is a good reference in general, so you might want to check that out. Your local library should have it. I know it can be overwhelming as to how to best proceed. Sometimes, working with a professional to guide you can be helpful. You could contact the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) for your Texas branch to see if you can connect with folks. You might want to think about joining IDA. I find this organization to be one of the best in regard to providing user-friendly information for parents. Also, you could reach out via Facebook to the Decoding Dyslexia - Texas folks. This group was started by parents and you might be able to connect with some people there who could point you to resources. She is lucky to have you in her court!