You know your child better than anyone. Because of this, it is often parents and guardians who first identify that a child is struggling with reading or pre-reading skills, such as learning letters, their sounds, and words that rhyme. Trusting your instincts that something may be going on is the first step to helping your child.

How Does a Child Get a Dyslexia Diagnosis?

Diagnosis of Dyslexia

Once you determine that help may be needed, who can you trust to properly diagnose your struggling reader? The key is to work with qualified professionals with ample knowledge of reading and writing disorders, whether it is within the public school system or in the private sector. If you are trying to select a clinician outside of school, be sure to inquire about their training and experience, including asking about the assessment procedures they will use. Typically, professionals will take the child’s personal and family history, school data, work samples, and direct observation of skills into account when making diagnostic decisions.

Dyslexia falls under the category of specific learning disorder, as designated by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Per the APA, “Specific learning disorders are neurodevelopmental disorders that are typically diagnosed in early school-aged children, although may not be recognized until adulthood. They are characterized by a persistent impairment in at least one of three major areas: reading, written expression, and/or math.”

What Criteria Are Needed for a Dyslexia Diagnosis?

Currently, there are 4 diagnostic criteria that must be met for a person to receive a diagnosis of dyslexia (specific learning disorder):

  1. Persistent difficulties for 6 or more months with reading, comprehension, spelling, and/or writing, despite direct instruction.
  2. Academic struggles that are impacting school, work, and/or daily living.
  3. The difficulties with reading originated during school years. (Note: Early signs may be evident during preschool years.)
  4. Cause of the difficulties cannot be attributed to a medical condition such as a stroke, impaired vision or hearing, intellectual disability, environmental factors, lack of instruction, or English proficiency.

The professional making the diagnosis of dyslexia should then provide you with a thorough report that includes all the information and data that was gathered, the diagnostic conclusions that were made, as well as recommendations for interventions and accommodations. The public school evaluation process also includes sharing findings with families and making recommendations for services if the child is found eligible for special education.

My Child Has a Dyslexia Diagnosis – Now What?

Once a child is identified as having Dyslexia (or Specific Learning Disability/Disorder), it is essential that they receive the right reading interventions to get them back on track. Dyslexia refers specifically to deficits with accurate and fluent reading and spelling of words, despite the child having received reading instruction.

What is in a Dyslexia Evaluation Report?

The public school or private evaluation report should detail the child’s current abilities.
This includes information about their:

  1. Alphabet Knowledge – letter names & letter sounds
  2. Phonological Awareness – being able to identify and manipulate parts of words, including the abilities to segment words into sounds/syllables (ex. run= /r/…/u/…/n/) and blending sounds into words (ex. /u/…/p/= up)
  3. Phonics Skills – ability to decode/read real and nonsense words of varying complexity and length, as is appropriate for their grade level
  4. Fluency Skills – ability to efficiently and accurately read words and connected text, including retrieval of sight words from long-term memory
  5. Spelling Skills – ability to spell both regular and irregular words, use common spelling patterns, and legibly form letters for writing
  6. Morphological Awareness – ability to identify and use word parts, including prefixes (ex. unwell, redo) and suffixes (ex. parking, walked)

What Should I Look for in a Reading Intervention Program?

Quality intervention, whether at school or through a private clinician or tutor, should target ALL areas of weakness. If your child has deficits in all areas listed above, then goals should be established for each. Instruction should be explicit and systematic, with lots of opportunities for practice and review. Concepts should not be taught in a rushed or disorganized manner.

Intervention should also include progress monitoring, to ensure that services are effective. No two children are exactly the same, therefore support should be tailored to the child’s unique needs and learning differences. Difficulties with oral language, written expression, memory, processing speed, and attention also often overlap with dyslexia. This requires additional goals and teaching strategies to best support your child’s learning.


How Can EarlyBird Help?

EarlyBird at Home, EarlyBird’s newest offering, is an intervention program for children ages 4-9 that develops phonological awareness and language comprehension skills that are foundational and essential for reading. A loveable toucan named Pip takes learners on an engaging, gamified adventure as they develop crucial literacy skills.

A dedicated literacy expert from our team will also check in with your family weekly to best understand what will help more your child forward. Children with dyslexia benefit from the exact skills taught in the EarlyBird at Home program. Learn more.

Interested in helping your child improve their phonological awareness? Try this at home activity. Want more phonological awareness practice? Our new program, EarlyBird at Home includes comprehensive reading intervention for children ages 4-9 years old to improve their phonological awareness skills.

American Psychiatric Association. (2021, August). What is a specific learning disorder?
Emily Mora
Emily Mora is a Literacy Specialist with EarlyBird Education. She is a licensed speech-language pathologist who specializes in literacy and language disorder diagnosis and treatment. Emily also serves as Education Director for Decoding Dyslexia North Carolina.

Get your child started on their reading journey with EarlyBird at Home