Updated: Apr 10, 2022
Does my child have dyslexia? Many parents find themselves asking this question if they have a child struggling at school. Sometimes it is their classroom teacher who first suggests their child may have dyslexia. So how do parents tell if this is the case and what is the process to diagnose dyslexia?
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder with impairment in reading. It is the most common form of learning disability and estimates suggest between 5-10% of individuals have it. Children with dyslexia have difficulty reading fluently and sounding out words. They typically read slowly and make frequent errors. This in turn effects how well they understand or comprehend what they are reading. Dyslexia can impact other skills as well including spelling, writing and mathematics.
The International Dyslexia Association (2002) defines it as “a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”.
What are the signs of dyslexia?
In early primary school, years Kindergarten to grade 2, children can present with some of the following characteristics:
Delayed speech and language development
Limited spoken vocabulary
Difficulties with rhyme, syllables, blending and segmenting sounds in words
Difficulty identifying letter names
Poor understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds
Poor word recognition
Inability to read nonsense or made up words
Difficulty understanding reading material such as books
Difficulties following instructions or remembering information
In the later years of primary school, grade 3 and above, children can present with some of the following:
Difficulty with literacy related tasks such as spelling, reading and writing
Avoidance of reading tasks and/or limited interest in reading
Slow and effortful reading
Confusing words when reading, particularly when visually similar
Difficulties with working memory
Difficulty manipulating sounds and isolating sounds in words
Poor reading comprehension
Difficulty decoding or sounding out words, particularly if unfamiliar to them
In the secondary or high school years, adolescents can present with some, but not all, of the following characteristics:
Poor reading fluency
Limited reading comprehension and needing to re-read material
Poor writing fluency and slow speed of writing
Trouble structuring writing content such as essays
Disorganisation and planning difficulties
Working memory issues become more noticeable as academic demands increase
General lack of interest in reading and writing tasks
* Source: Auspeld: Understanding Learning Difficulties (2019)
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
A psychologist is able to identify if your child has dyslexia. They will undertake a learning disability assessment and there are guidelines they use when making a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
As part of the assessment process, the psychologist will undertake a clinical review of the child’s developmental, medical, educational, and family history. They will also examine reports and assessments from the child’s school in addition to teacher observations and input. Response to intervention also has to be evaluated and this may include looking at what tutoring or literacy support a child has previously received.
Specific tests are then administered in a one on one setting with the child. An intellectual, or IQ test, is essential to identify areas of cognitive strength and weakness. An assessment of phonological processing is important to see if there are any processing weaknesses, as is quite common with children with learning disorders. Other tests may include a standardised measure of reading, writing and spelling.
Where can I get an assessment for dyslexia?
Butterfly Psychology for Kids offers comprehensive educational and psychological assessments to diagnose Dyslexia. Assessments used include the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V), Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP-2) and Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III).
Obtaining a diagnosis can help you and your child better understand why they are struggling at school. It can also inform what intervention and supports are required so that your child can get the help they need.