Identifying the signs of dyslexia is an important step in the journey of helping a struggling reader.
Often the journey begins when an elementary teacher recognizes that a student is not acquiring basic reading skills at the same rate as other students. Or parents may begin to wonder why their younger child is having so much more difficulty reading than an older sibling did at the same age.
For teachers and parents who see young readers struggling, the first question is often whether there is cause for concern. After all, reading can be very challenging in the beginning—won’t they catch up? Is the child being pressured to read before he or she is ready? All children are unique, and so, too, is each child's language development and reading skill mastery.❞These are important questions; communication between parents and teachers is essential in determining if a child needs additional instruction or support. But what if instruction and support are not enough?
All children are unique, and so, too, is each child’s language development and reading skill mastery. When children are grasping concepts and making progress, however slowly, it may be easy to assume that they just need more time or are “late bloomers”.
Many of these children, however, are actually displaying signs of dyslexia that may never be identified or remediated. For this reason, a substantial number of children enter the upper grades reading well below grade level. This has resulted in a national reading crisis where only 36% of 4th graders and only 34% of 8th graders are reading at or above the Proficient level.
For many reasons, including national and state legislation and additional funding, schools are beginning to take this first step in determining the potential cause(s) of observed reading difficulties. There are many factors that contribute to reading difficulties and it is essential that an appropriate evaluation be conducted to rule out other possibilities that could explain a child’s problems with reading.❞ This includes implementing dyslexia screening and evaluation protocols that would determine if a struggling reader exhibits signs of dyslexia.
There are many factors that contribute to reading difficulties and it is essential that an appropriate evaluation be conducted to rule out other possibilities that could explain a child’s problems with reading. Another purpose of evaluation is to identify whether there are multiple or interrelated causes for reading deficits. Estimates indicate that 40% or more of children with dyslexia also have one or more coexisting conditions such as attention disorders and other learning difficulties.
Due to laws in some states, evaluations currently conducted by schools may not qualify as an acceptable method for diagnosing dyslexia. Thus begins the journey for many families as they attempt to obtain the necessary documentation that would entitle their child to services and accommodations. When there are signs of dyslexia, many families are forced to rely on an evaluaion from the school that would provide the more generic classification of specific learning disability.
For families who want to know whether dyslexia is the actual cause of reading problems, or when an official diagnosis of dyslexia is required, this can mean paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for an evaluation by a neuropsychologist. In areas where such an evaluation is not available or affordable, parents may seek a medical diagnosis from a family doctor.
Research indicates that children with dyslexia have the best outcomes when they receive early, targeted intervention that prevents reading difficulties from becoming more serious and long-lasting deficits. The ultimate goal of identifying signs of dyslexia is to provide these appropriate interventions as early as possible. Children who don’t receive such services in the early grades are significantly more likely to experience academic failure.
Diagnosing dyslexia and other disabilities is both an art and a science. While there are tests and symptoms that assist in determining if someone has a specific illness or disorder, it takes more than a single measure to arrive at a valid diagnosis of learning disabilities. This is particularly true of diagnosing dyslexia.
Until recently, there was very little known about the neurobiological origins of dyslexia and other print-based disabilities. Thanks to research and brain imaging, a great deal is now known about the brain differences between good readers and those with dyslexia. Diagnosing dyslexia using fMRI brain scans, however, is not a realistic option for identifying at risk students. It is therefore essential that a reliable method for identifying dyslexia is available and that schools have access to this information.