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When can Dyslexia be diagnosed?

Updated: Feb 17

The International Dyslexia Association defines Dyslexia as a specific learning disability which is:

  • Neurobiological

  • Characterised by poor reading accuracy and/or fluency

  • Often associated with phonological processing difficulties

  • Unexpected in relation to the amount of effective instruction and intervention provided

  • A contributing factor to low levels of vocabulary and general knowledge, as well as poor reading comprehension

child with dyslexia

The identification of Dyslexia is a complex process. A popular myth is that it can be diagnosed through a simple screening process or via the completion of a checklist. The diagnosis of Dyslexia must be conducted by a qualified psychologist in a face-to-face format with the child. There is a battery of assessments that are administered to determine if a child would meet the criteria for a diagnosis. The psychologist also must conduct an extensive evaluation of a child’s developmental and educational history examining factors such as if a history of learning difficulties is evident and if there is any family history of Dyslexia.


A popular misconception associated with the identification of dyslexia is that it cannot be diagnosed until eight years of age. Children can be diagnosed with dyslexia before they turn eight if they have struggled with the acquisition of skills in reading and spelling for an extended period of time despite the provision of high-quality instruction and appropriate intensive intervention. The diagnostic criteria for a specific learning disorder in reading as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM 5) indicates that it is a persistent and enduring difficulty in acquiring and developing reading skills. Consequently, it can only be diagnosed once a child has been provided with reading instruction of sufficient quality and duration.


Structured reading instruction usually commences around pre-primary to grade one and once it has, there may be some children who appear to be struggling with literacy and are not able to keep up with their peers. These children will require explicit, intensive instruction which usually involves a high-quality synthetic phonics programme. It is not possible to diagnose Dyslexia until after a child who has been struggling with literacy has been provided with both systematic reading instruction and appropriate intervention. Assuming all diagnostic criteria have been met and given that at least six months of intensive, targeted intervention has been provided, Dyslexia can be diagnosed around the end of grade one.


Butterfly Psychology for Kids conducts comprehensive assessments from the age of six years to determine if children are exhibiting early indicators of a specific learning disorder such as Dyslexia. If intervention has been provided for the minimum six-month period and providing all other criteria are met, professional diagnosis of specific learning disorders can also be conducted by Butterfly Psychology for Kids. Click here for more information.


Adapted from: Identifying Dyslexia in the Early Years (2018). Auspeld. www.auspeld.org.au

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