From Shame to Success – Identifying and Diagnosing Dyslexia

Early Diagnosis

Despite ongoing research and a better understanding of dyslexia, students with dyslexia are still misdiagnosed or, sadly, go undiagnosed. As we learned before, dyslexia is a neurological condition that can be caused by a number of things. As such, there isn’t a single indicator that can be used to definitively confirm that a student has dyslexia. Certified professionals screen, test and gather important information from teachers, parents, and medical professionals. The screening and testing are designed to assess the student’s strengths, weaknesses, medical concerns (if any) in order to reach a diagnosis and develop an appropriate plan of action for appropriately addressing the student’s learning disability. It’s very important to identify reading problems in young children as soon as possible so that a student doesn’t experience reading failure that in turn creates a spiral of academic decline.

The following areas are typically part of a dyslexia evaluation:

  • Background information – information from parents on family history of dyslexia, speech delays, and any brain trauma experienced by the child. Teachers provide data and the types of interventions the student has had.
  • Oral Language skills – There are two types of language skills: lower-level and higher-level. Higher-level language skills involve the ability to understand spoken language, directions, stories and carry on age-appropriate conversations. Lower-level language skills involve being able to make and recognize sounds within speech. Typically, students with dyslexia have difficulty with lower-level skills and therefore struggle with reading and spelling.
  • Word Recognition – Can students read lists of words to determine if they can quickly recognize familiar words and do so with accuracy and fluency?
  • Decoding – Can students read unfamiliar words using letter sounds, spelling rules, and  syllabication?
  • Spelling – Students spell words from memory using their knowledge of letter sounds, spelling rules, and patterns, consonant and vowel clusters, etc. Spelling can be the biggest weakness for a student with dyslexia.
  • Phonological Processing – This tests the low-level language skill that involves identifying, pronouncing, and recalling sounds.
  • Automaticity/fluency – Students are given rows of items such as numbers, letters, or colors and are asked to name them as quickly as possible. This is also called Rapid Automatic Naming.

Data and information from this evaluation are used to create a plan to provide systematic, explicit, and research-based instruction. Typically, an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is created that outlines the specific instruction and related services that must be delivered.

The Rights of Students with Dyslexia

The Individuals with Disabilities Act 2004 (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 define the rights of students with dyslexia. Under these laws, students are legally entitled to appropriate services and accommodations to address their specific learning needs. Individual states, except Hawaii, Idaho, and Vermont, have laws in place that define and address the needs of reading and dyslexia-related disorders for students in their states. These laws include the early identification of students as a priority. Screening is indicated for K through 3 students. Once identified and given an IEP, the law requires that IEP’s be followed and student progress monitored and documented. It is important that educators are trained and familiar with their specific state laws.

Dyslexia never goes away, but students have a fighting chance at success if we provide the help they need.


Testing and Evaluation, retrieved October 28, 2021

Effective Reading Instruction for Students with Dyslexia, retrieved October 28, 2021

Dyslexia Basics, retrieved October 28, 2021

Dyslexia, retrieved October 28, 2021

Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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