Diagnosis FAQ

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 standardized tests. Family physicians, counselors, social workers, and teachers do not typically diagnose. If you are concerned about other issues besides dyslexia (such as depression, anxiety, attention, etc.), we recommend choosing a licensed psychologist, as they are qualified to evaluate in all of these areas.

No.  Iowa schools do not diagnose any condition, including dyslexia.  Parents can request a special education evaluation from the AEA at any time.  However, this is different than a private evaluation.  The goal of the AEA's evaluation is to determine if your child qualifies for special education.  No diagnosis will be given.  If your child qualifies for special education, the process of developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will begin.  Please visit this section of our site for more information on IEPs.

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.  It is very important to choose an evaluator who understands dyslexia and how to test for it.  You should interview any evaluator you are considering prior to making an appointment to make sure your expectations will be met.  We recommend using this list of interview questions.

Before your appointment, the evaluator will gather background information about your child and the reasons you are seeking an evaluation.  Parents and teachers are typically given questionnaires about the child's behavior and performance.   At the appointment, the evaluator will give tests based on your child's age and the areas of concern. Typically, tests in a dyslexia evauation measure phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading comprehension, spelling, writing, math, attention, memory, and IQ.  Testing usually takes at least four hours.  A good evaluator provides a written report of the test results, any diagnoses made, and recommendations.  A good evaluators also schedules a face-to-face meeting to discuss the results.

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 evaluated, but strongly suspect dyslexia due to family history and many signs and symptoms, we recommend putting your available financial resources toward helping your child.   A diagnosis is helpful but not required to work on your child's difficulties.  See the Tutoring and Homeschooling pages for more information.

Many parents and educators are erroneously told that dyslexia can't be diagnosed until third or fourth 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.  Keep in mind that dyslexia exists on a continuum, and the more severe it is, the easier it is to identify in young children.

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 listed an alternative term for "Specific Learning Disability with Impairment in Reading."  Some psychologists use the SLD in reading terminology, others say dyslexia, and others use both.  Be sure to ask 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.

Many parents fear that a diagnostic label cause harm to their child, both now and later.  However, we have yet to meet a parent or child who regrets getting a formal diagnosis of dyslexia.  Having a name for learning struggles can be a huge relief for parents and children.  A diagnosis of dyslexia helps a person understand that brain differences are responsible for their difficulties - not a lack of intelligence.  This can be a huge self-esteem boost.  To understand this further, read what a student with dyslexia and a mom have to say:

A dyslexia diagnosis can help your child get a 504 plan and receive needed accommodations in school.