Article at a Glance
- Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability affecting approximately 20% of people.
- A dyslexia assessment can identify whether someone has dyslexia as well as the underlying reasons for their difficulty learning to read.
- By identifying whether someone has dyslexia, as well as the underlying cause, an assessment can help guide treatment.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia affects approximately 20% of people. In other words, it is fairly common. So what is it? Dyslexia is an unexpected underachievement in word reading, reading fluency, and/or spelling. The individual’s reading ability is unexpectedly low given their age, intellectual ability, and educational history.
As an individual with dyslexia myself, I find it remarkable that anyone can visually scan a page, converting sequences of abstract symbols into language, and do so while instantaneously processing the meaning of 4 (or maybe more) words at a time. As someone who still reads one word at a time, it was not until I was in my mid twenties before I realized anyone on the planet could do that. It is amazing! Frankly, it is far more remarkable that some people can than others of us can not.
There is a commonly held belief that those with dyslexia see letters backwards or that the letters jump across the page when they read. While some may experience this, it is not the case for the majority of those with dyslexia. In fact, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability as it affects the way those with the disorder process language. For most, it is related to their ability to process sounds in words and for others it is related to their ability to remember the way “words” look (also language) and/or their ability to quickly process the associations between the abstract symbols and what they represent (i.e., language).
What is a Dyslexia Assessment?
There are three important things a dyslexia assessment should include. One, the assessment will show whether or not someone has dyslexia. In other words, the assessment will show whether their reading development is unexpectedly low given their age, intellectual ability, and educational history. To determine this, the psychologist will review the clients developmental and educational histories, measure their intellectual ability, and assess their reading skills.
If the individual has dyslexia, the assessment should also identify the underlying neurocognitive deficits that are contributing to their learning difficulties. This includes measures of phonological processing (i.e., processing the sounds in words – rhyming, sound discrimination, blending sounds, segmenting sounds), orthographic processing (i.e., remembering and recalling “visual word forms” or the way words look), and rapid naming (i.e., making rapid fire associations between text symbols and what they represent).
And finally, for those with dyslexia, this assessment information should guide treatment recommendations. Just because two people have dyslexia does not mean they struggle with reading for the same reasons or that their treatment should be the same. This will depend in part on the severity of the reading disorder, the underlying neurocognitive weaknesses, the individual’s age, their goals and interests, and multiple other factors. A psychologist should take all of this into consideration in making recommendations that are tailored to the individual needs of their client.
Why is a dyslexia assessment important?
There are a number of benefits to getting a good dyslexia assessment. One, an assessment and diagnosis is sometimes needed in order to access necessary services. However, it provides more than that. Because an estimated 80% of what happens in school is language-based, those with language-based learning disabilities may inaccurately assume that they are “stupid” and school is not for them. This could not be further from the truth and helping a young person to understand their brain just learns differently, and they possess wonderful gifts (because they have dyslexia) that will help them to be wonderfully successful in life, is very important. In fact, whether or not a young person perceives themselves as a capable learner may in fact be the secret sauce for success. I know, in my years of experience, this mindset has made all the difference in the world between those who overcome their learning disability and those who do not. Further, a good dyslexia assessment, that uncovers the nature of an individual’s learning difference, will provide a road map for what a young person needs (i.e., treatment recommendations) in order to reach their full potential.
Of course, if you believe your child may benefit from a thorough dyslexia evaluation, please reach out and schedule a consultation with me.