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How to Diagnose

In an ideal world, which dyslexia advocates are arduously working to create, every child would be screened for signs of dyslexia from grades K-2.  Children identified with weaker skills would receive more intensive instruction, close monitoring, and further evaluation rather than “waiting for them to fail.”


As it is now, families are often left to rely on their own observations, or those of a teacher, and a “wait and see” approach is all too common.  Depending on your child’s age, educational setting, family history of dyslexia and other diagnoses, you may be offered, or actively pursue, several options for gathering more information about your child’s individual learning profile. 


There are two basic evaluation options: school and private.  You can request a school evaluation if your child attends private school; likewise, you can pursue a private evaluation if your child attends public school.  


International Dyslexia Association (IDA): Universal K-2 reading screening

PDF article explaining what screening is and why it’s important Chart of private vs. school evaluations

PDF lists the pros and cons of each option Types of tests for dyslexia

PDF article with easy to read basic information and examples of testing stimuli


IDA: Dyslexia assessment

PDF article covering what is it and how it can help, with references 

IDA: Testing and evaluation 

PDF article going into greater depth, especially skill areas assessed Evaluations 

Link to extensive resources on evaluations written for parents Evaluation terms

Link to comprehensive list with brief explanation of various types of evaluations and different terms for each

Here is an explanation of the most basic testing terminology you may encounter:



A quick measure of a specific skill at a specific developmental level that is predictive of later outcomes.  For example, a kindergartener may be asked to recognize and generate rhymes, write their name, clap syllables and blend sounds in words.  If a child fails screening, further assessment and monitoring is warranted.  If a child passes a screening, it suggests that the child is within normal limits of skill development, but does not rule out a learning disorder.  If you continue to suspect learning difficulties, consider further testing or a comprehensive evaluation.



An evaluation includes comprehensive testing for a range of skills and may include cognitive abilities such as working memory or attention; auditory processing; auditory comprehension; and language skills in addition to reading and writing.  May involve a multi-disciplinary team, including input from psychologists, speech language pathologists, learning specialists and classroom teachers.  



Assessment and evaluation are often used interchangeably, but assessment also refers to a tool that measures specific skills in greater depth than a screener.  These measures can be formal, meaning that they are norm-referenced to provide comparisons to same-age peers through standardized scores.  They can also be informal, meaning that they provide information about the strengths and challenges of the individual child, as well as learning style and successful supports, but do not produce standardized scores.  Both formal and informal measures can be used to monitor progress.

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