The Process of Dyslexia Diagnosis

Is there a simple 'one-off' test to 'diagnose' dyslexia?

The answer is 'No'! ... and here is why:

The definition of 'dyslexia' as used by the World Health Organisation is:
"A disorder manifested by difficulty learning to read, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and sociocultural opportunity. It is dependent upon fundamental cognitive disabilities which are frequently of constitutional origin."

Notice that there are many 'parts' to this ...

Yes, it is a 'problem with reading', but it is one that is not due to 'anything else' (lack of instruction, intelligence, social opportunity) and so a proper diagnosis of dyslexia has to 'peel off' all the possible layers that could be causing a problem.

So ... what are the 'layers' that need to be checked?

Dyslexia Diagnosis Checklist

  1. An initial screening test to check if there IS a significant problem with reading.

    This might seem obvious, but just because you or a child seem to have some difficulty does not necessarily mean that it is 'significant' ... they might be OK but you are comparing them with the local literacy genius. As a general guide, a child would need to be about 2 years behind their peers with reading for it to be classed as 'significant' (which, by the way, counts out a formal diagnosis for very young children ... they can't be 2 years behind if they have just started .... but this does not mean it is not a good idea to check early and start monitoring and early intervention!)

    The Dyslexia & Irlen Clinic does this screening as part of our initial diagnostic testing.

  2. Checking and correcting for 'physical' problems.

    Two possible physical issues that could cause a problem with learning to read are:
    (a) Vision problems .... can they see properly?
    (b) Hearing problems ... can they hear properly?

    It is important to have a visual check with an Optometrist and a hearing check with an Audiologist if there is any doubt at all about these two factors.

  3. Checking and correcting for visual and auditory 'processing' problems.

    These things are not quite the same as problems with the actual visual or auditory systems, but they do inter-relate.

    Dyslexia & Irlen Clinic will check for 'Irlen Syndrome', which is a visual processing difficulty, and this can and often does interact with the visual and even the auditory and other processing ... it is critical to check this as part of the 'process' of diagnosis, and to make sure this is corrected using Irlen Filters if it is an issue. Auditory processing screening is also done as part of the initial diagnostic testing, and you would be referred to a specialist if this seems to be a problem.

  4. Checking and correcting the 'instruction'.

    Yes, they may have been to school, but have they somehow not picked up or been 'taught' properly? Sometimes children miss out at critical points, for all sorts of reasons ... sickness, school 'distress' (bullying perhaps?). If there is any doubt about this, and as an important elimination step, a child need 'targeted literacy intervention'.

    The Dyslexia & Irlen Clinic can suggest an Irlen- friendly tutor if needed.

  5. Checking if there is 'adequate intelligence'.

    Are you or your child fine with most other things but just seem to be having trouble with reading? This is the big 'pointer' to dyslexia, and usually you are quite aware of this. However, in a formal diagnosis, this needs to be 'formally' checked with an IQ test administered by a registered psychologist.

    This can usually be done for FREE through your School Psychologist, or we can suggest other private psychologists. Generally we suggest that it is best to not actually do this until AFTER the 'review' (Step 6) ... you may find that the problem is no longer an issue, so you will save yourself the time and hassle.

  6. Review after targeted intervention.

    At the end of 6 months of 'targeted intervention', such as tutoring, the use of Irlen Filters, or the wearing of glasses or a hearing aid etc, the reading level needs to be retested. If there has been a noticeable improvement from these interventions, then generally speaking the problem is probably NOT dyslexia.

    Dyslexia & Irlen Clinic will strongly encourage you to have a Retest after about 6 months to actually 'measure' if there is a significant change ... it may 'seem' OK or perhaps not much difference, but you never know unless you measure ... and you can't get a formal diagnosis unless you do.

All of this process may seem daunting ... and it can be ...but unless you go through to check and peel off ALL the layers, you will not be able to really know what is going on. ... And until you know that, you will not really be able to work on improving or even fixing the problem.