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. Having a name for the learning struggles is a huge relief for both parents and children. A diagnosis of dyslexia helps a person understand that brain difference is responsible - not lack of intelligence. This can be a huge self-esteem boost.

In addition, a diagnosis is typically a requirement for a child to qualify for a 504 plan. A 504 plan helps give students specific accommodations that add to their success and can carry onto their post-secondary education and work -- since legal rights are attached to it. The clarity of a diagnosis also helps other family members understand the genetic difference and helps them learn to recognize it. Learning and addressing dyslexia often results in ending the fear and shame and can help introduce pride and hope. 

The following agencies may diagnose dyslexia. Always do your research and ask questions like "Can you diagnosis dyslexia versus just a screening?" and "Will you use the term dyslexia in your written report?"

Additional Guidance

  1. The International Dyslexia Association - Upper Midwest Branch has also compiled a wonderful fact sheet about dyslexia diagnosis. See link.
  2. Susan Barton has compiled a variety of topics on “How to Get Help” on her website.
  3. Set up an independent neuropsychological evaluation. Check with your medical insurance before making an appointment to determine if it will be covered.
  4. See Tips for getting a dyslexia diagnosis from the Dyslexia Training Institute.
  5. The Arkansas Dyslexia Resource Guide, while written with Arkansas in mind, contains a lot of useful general information, including possible screening tools and tests for the underlying causes of dyslexia. This is a guide that parents could use and contains information that could be sent to their local schools and educators.
  6. The New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook (2017) contains useful information including a "potential indicators of dyslexia checklist".
  7. Undiagnosed dyslexia can have lasting effects. See the article "Investigating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Triggered by the Experience of Dyslexia in Mainstream School Education?".

Before setting up the appointment, Questions to ask an evaluator:

  • Do you diagnosis for dyslexia? What is your background? What makes you qualified to diagnosis someone for dyslexia?
  • When was the last time you did a dyslexia evaluation?
  • Can you provide a specific diagnosis of Dyslexia?
  • Do you use the specific diagnosis “Dyslexia” in your diagnosis or just "Specific Learning Disability"? An Independent Evaluation should evaluate for dyslexia, NOT a general diagnosis of SLD like the school can already provide.
  • What assessments do you use when evaluating a child for dyslexia?
  • The Arkansas Dyslexia Resource Guide (2015) Appendix F has a more comprehensive list of questions.

Dyslexia Diagnosis Assessments

The person you choose to do this evaluation needs to be completely independent of the school district. They need to have expertise in the area of dyslexia. They should test ALL of the following areas:

  • Phonological Processing
  • Oral Reading
  • Silent Reading
  • Single word reading
  • Processing speed/rapid naming
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing sample
  • Evidence of cognitive ability
  • Review of school records
  • Thorough review of family and school history
  • The Arkansas Dyslexia Resource Guide (2015) Appendix G has a list for "Assembling a Test Battery".

Frequently Asked Questions: 

"How do I have my child tested for dyslexia"

Dyslexia can be diagnosed by a Licensed Psychologist (Ph.D.) or a 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 diagnose dyslexia. To get started, contact your health insurance company and ask if educational and/or neuropsychological testing is covered. Please remember that it is very important to choose an evaluator who understands dyslexia and how to test for it. We recommend asking the evaluator a number of questions before making your decision. 

School can evaluate for a specific learning disability (SLD) which is the IEP category that dyslexia falls under, but a child with dyslexia still might not qualify for services under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A dyslexia diagnosis does not mean that a child will qualify for an IEP. If a student does not qualify for an IEP, they may still be able to obtain a 504 plan. A diagnosis also helps give a specific roadmap for interventions.

"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. 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.

There are unproven 'treatments' for dyslexia. Be wary of therapies suggesting that dyslexia will be cured. A qualified diagnostician can provide appropriate guidance based on your child's 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 listen to this myth - it can cost your child years of lost learning. In fact, according to the National Institute 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 - $800 to $2,000 is typical. Note that many health insurance companies do not cover the diagnostic testing. This cost may not be possible for many families. If you can not afford to have your child officially diagnosed, but strongly suspect dyslexia due to family history and many signs and symptoms, consider 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 section for more information.

Parents may want to check with their insurance companies and health saving's accounts to discuss if anything is covered under their plan as far as diagnosis and remediation options or if it can be claimed as part of a medical Flex Spending Account (FSA).

Educating yourself and those around your child will greatly empower your child's experience and can help cause changes in the classroom. Changes in your home can start today. Learn the facts. 

A Minnesota nonprofit, Dyslexia Advocates, is able to help some families with dyslexia screenings/assessments. Contact them 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, written by psychologist Steve Dykstra further addresses dyslexia in the DSM-V, including the erroneous rumor that is was removed.  


We would like to give Katie Greving, President, DDIA credit for the Benefits of Diagnoses and the Q & A portion of this page.