"How do I have my child tested for dyslexia?"

Dyslexia can be diagnosed by a Licensed Psychologist (PhD) or Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Other professionals may diagnose if they have been properly trained in dyslexia and how to administer and interpret the appropriate tests.  Family physicians, counselors, social workers, and teachers do not typically diagnose.  To get started, contact your health insurance company and ask if educational and/or neuro-psychological testing is covered. Contact us for a list of Iowa professionals who diagnose dyslexia and compare it with your insurance list.  Please remember that it is very important to choose an evaluator who understands dyslexia and how to test for it.  We recommend asking any evaluator the questions at the bottom of this page before deciding.

"What does the testing involve?"

There is no single test for dyslexia, because dyslexia impacts many areas of functioning and can range from mild to moderate to severe to profound.   An evaluator will gather thorough background information about your family and your child.  Parents and teachers are typically given questionnaires about the child's behavior and performance.   The evaluator will choose specific tests based on your child's age and areas of concern. Typically, tests measure phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading comprehension, spelling, writing, math, attention, memory, and IQ.   Testing usually takes at least four hours.  A good evaluator will provide a written report that states the results of the tests, any diagnoses made, and his or her interpretations and recommendations. Good evaluators will also schedule a face-to-face meeting  to discuss the results.

"I was told my child is too young to be tested for dyslexia." 

Many parents and educators are erroneously told that dyslexia can't be diagnosed until 3rd or 4th grade. Please do not buy into this myth - it can be costly for your child.  In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reading disabilities can be diagnosed as early as age 5 1/2, or the last half of kindergarten.

"What if I can't afford it?"

Without health insurance coverage, diagnostic testing for dyslexia can be expensive - $750 to $2000 is typical. This may not be possible for many families.  If you cannot afford to have your child officially diagnosed, but strongly suspect dyslexia due to family history and many signs and symptoms, we recommend putting your available financial resources towards helping your child.   A diagnosis is helpful, but not required to work on your child's difficulties.  See the Tutoring and Homeschooling sections for more information.

"What is the difference between a diagnosis of Reading Disability and a diagnosis of Dyslexia?" 

The American Psychological Association (APA) recently updated their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), which contains the diagnostic criteria used by Licensed Psychologists.  Dyslexia is now listed and described under the category of "Specific Learning Disability with Impairment in Reading" which is diagnostic code 315.00. Some psychologists use this terminology, while others prefer to say dyslexia.  Be sure to ask your evaluator about this prior to your evaluation. This article by psychologist Steve Dyksra further addresses dyslexia in the DSM-V, including the erroneous rumor that it was removed.

Benefits of Diagnosis

In our society, labels are often seen as negative.  Many parents fear that a diagnostic label will follow their child and cause harm, both now and later.  We have yet to meet a parent or child who has regretted getting a formal diagnosis of dyslexia.  On the contrary - having a name for learning struggles is a huge relief for both parents and children.  A diagnosis of dyslexia helps a person understand that brain difference is responsible for their differences - not a lack of intelligence.  This can be a huge self-esteem boost.  To understand this further, read what a dyslexic student and a mom have to say:

The Case for Labeling by Joshua Clemens, a dyslexic student

Dyslexia: The One Label We Don't Mind Having by the Dyslexia Warrior Mom

In addition, a diagnosis is typically a requirement for a child to qualify for a 504 plan and receive needed accommodations in school.

Questions to Ask Your Evaluator

  • How do you define dyslexia?  What does it mean to you?
  • What are some of the tests you will use?
  • Do you give the types of tests needed to tell dyslexia apart from a general Specific Learning Disability?
  • Can you tell me what you know about phonological awareness - a common skill deficit in dyslexia?
  • Can you tell me what you know about rapid naming - a common skill deficits in dyslexia?
  • If so, will your written report state that my child has dyslexia -- if that is what the tests reveal?
  • Where did you get trained to do this?
  • What do you charge for testing a child?
  • What is the process like?  How long will it take?
  • Will you provide a written report as part of your fee? What will be in that report?
  • Will you meet with us when the testing is done and explain the results?
  • Are you familiar with 504 plans?  If appropriate, will you recommend specific accommodations for my child?
  • Will you meet with my child’s teacher/s and explain the results? Is that included in your fee? If not, what is the charge?
  • Can you provide me with a list of references -- parents who have hired you to test their child?