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No single test
Why test?
Should the school test?
When to test?
The testing process
Which tests?
Who should NOT test?
Who should test?
Cost of testing
Texas Dyslexia Handbook


[Testing for Dyslexia]

Testing and Assessment

No Single Test

IMPORTANT: Dyslexia cannot be officially diagnosed using one single test. That's because dyslexia can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound.

Also, dyslexia can impact many different areas.

That's why a Dyslexia Testing Specialist will use from 10 to 12 tests to investigate every area that might be impacted by dyslexia.

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Why Test?

If you're already convinced that your child (or a student) has dyslexia, do you have to get them tested? No. But I do recommend it – even if that child is being home schooled – and here's why.

Although dyslexia is the most common reason a bright student will struggle with reading, spelling, or written composition, it is not the only reason. And until you know for sure why a child is struggling, you won't know the best way to help.

For instance, the programs you use to improve the skills of a child with dyslexia are quite different than the ones you use for a child with a non-verbal learning disability, often called NLD.

So the most important reason for getting an accurate diagnosis is to help you pick the right tutoring program to help that child. A program that is supported by rigorous, independent, scientific research.

That way, you won't waste precious time (and money) on the wrong type of tutoring, program, or therapy.

Also, a properly written diagnostic report will allow a student with dyslexia to receive classroom accommodations through a 504 Plan.

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Should the School Test?

Many people know that public schools are required to test children who live in their service area, whether those children attend that public school or not.

But what you may not realize is that most public schools do not test children for dyslexia. They test them to find out if they are eligible for special education services.

There is a huge difference between eligibility testing and diagnostic testing.

Federal education law does not require public schools to test children for dyslexia. Schools only have to test to find out if a child is eligible for special education services, and if so, under what category. If a child with dyslexia is eligible, they will be placed in a category called Learning Disability.

So before you allow the public school to test your child, ask them this question: "Will you be testing my child for dyslexia?"

You may be shocked at their answer.

Some public schools will give one of the following excuses for NOT testing a child for dyslexia. They might say that dyslexia is just a catch-all term and there’s no test for it. Or that your child is too young to test. Or that only a doctor can test for dyslexia. Or they might even say that dyslexia is the same thing as a learning disability.

If you hear comments like that, do not allow them test your child for dyslexia because not one of those statements is true.

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Dyslexia is not LD

Most children with dyslexia are not severe enough to meet the school’s criteria, and the legal definition, of a learning disability.

In fact, according to the research, only one in ten children with dyslexia qualifies as having a learning disability. That means nine out of ten children with dyslexia are either never sent for testing, or when they are tested, they do not qualify as having a learning disability.

So only children with severe dyslexia qualify. But so do children who are struggling for other reasons. That’s why it is not true that dyslexia is the same thing as a learning disability.

And that’s also why most children with dyslexia are not receiving special education services. Only those who qualify as having a Learning Disability receive special education services.

Yet children who do not qualify (because they are not severe enough) will continue to struggle tremendously in the areas of spelling, writing, and reading if they have dyslexia.

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Dyslexia is not Medical

If you ask a public school to test your child for dyslexia, they may tell you that dyslexia is a medical issue, and that only a doctor can test for it.

But if you ask a doctor to test your child, the doctor will probably tell you that they do not test for dyslexia.

Doctors do not test children for reading, writing, and spelling issues because those are not considered medical issues. They are educational issues. So a doctor will probably refer you back to the school or to an educational psychologist.

Many educational psychologists are former school psychologists, and most of them only test for a learning disability. But dyslexia is not the same thing as a learning disability. So that type of testing is not appropriate.

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When to Test?

A child can be professionally diagnosed with dyslexia as early as five-and-a-half years old.

Although most public schools are reluctant to test children before third grade, and often encourage parents to wait and see if their child will "outgrow" his or her reading, spelling, or writing difficulties, research shows that waiting is the worst thing you can do.

If it's dyslexia, a child will not outgrow his or her difficulties. And it takes less time to fix the reading and spelling difficulties when dyslexia is discovered at age six than when it is not discovered until age 9 – or 19 – or even older.

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Testing Process

A Dyslexia Testing Specialist must have enough evidence of dyslexia ahead of time to justify putting a child through the testing process.

So the tester will meet with the parents for at least two hours to gather a complete genetic, developmental and educational history on the child. The tester will want copies of the child’s report cards, as well as reports from any other testing that may have already been done. He’ll also want to know if the child has received any type of tutoring or speech therapy.

The tester will also ask to see samples of recent school work to see if it contains the classic mistakes that people with dyslexia make.

As a last step, the tester will ask what the child is really good at because dyslexia is an unusual combination of both strengths and weaknesses. So the tester will want to find out if a child’s strengths and gifted areas also match the dyslexia pattern.

If the tester uncovers any issues during the interview that are not related to dyslexia or ADD, the tester should stop the process and refer the parent to a neuropsychologist for a complete evaluation.

Only if there is enough indirect evidence of dyslexia at the end of the parent interview would a professional tester agree to test the child.

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Which Tests?

There is no single test that can prove or disprove dyslexia. And dyslexia can vary from mild to moderate to severe to profound.

That's why a dyslexia testing specialist will use a combination of 10 to 12 tests to investigate every area that could be impacted by dyslexia.

It is more important that every area be investigated than the names of the specific tests. That's because many tests have been developed that can be used to investigate each of the following areas.

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Dyslexia makes it very difficult to memorize random facts (like multiplication tables), or to memorize a sequence.

That’s why a child will be asked to write something that requires memorization – either their address, the alphabet, the days of the week in order, or the months of the year in order.

Memorizing a sequence, or random facts, is very difficult for a someone with dyslexia.

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Auditory Processing

Many people still believe that dyslexia is due to a visual processing problem. Yet research has proven that most of their difficulty is due to auditory processing problems.

That’s why tests of phonemic awareness, auditory memory size, and word retrieval – which is the ability to quickly and accurately retrieve words from auditory memory – should always be given.

A weakness in one or more of those auditory processing areas is a hallmark of dyslexia.

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Phonics is not the answer for children with dyslexia. That’s why they can learn phonics in isolation, but they are not able to use that knowledge to sound out an unknown word.

Phonics teaches children to associate letters with sounds. But to be able to use phonics, a child must be able to memorize and have good auditory processing skills to be able to hear each sound within a word. Both of those areas are weak in people with dyslexia.

That’s why a symbol-to-sound and a sound-to-symbol test should always be given. Those two tests will find out if a child can look at printed letters, letter pairs, or vowel teams and make the sound they represent. And if, when presented with a sound, they can write down the appropriate letter or letters.

Children with dyslexia have great difficulty on symbol-to-sound and sound-to-symbol tests despite being exposed to phonics for many years.

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Reading Words

Some people still think that a child with dyslexia can not read at all. But that is not true. People with dyslexia can read up to a point. But they usually hit a brick wall in reading by third to fourth grade (if not sooner) because their dyslexia forces them to use very different strategies when they read. Their unusual strategies will start to fail them by third to fourth grade.

Yet children with dyslexia are so smart that they can fool you for awhile. They get very good at using picture and context clues, plus a predictable story line, to guess at the words.

That’s why if you take words they can read in a story, and put them on flash cards, they often, will not be able to read the words. That’s also why they can read a word on one page, but they won’t recognize the very same word on the next page.

Even if they’ve been taught phonics, they can’t use it to sound out an unknown word. That’s why they hate hearing you say, “Sound it out.” In fact, the inability to sound out an unknown word is a classic warning sign of dyslexia.

So the best way to check their reading ability is to ask them to read a list of words – or even nonsense words – out loud. That’s because a list of words does not contain any pictures or context clues.

When reading a word list, people with dyslexia look at the shape of a word instead of looking carefully at the letters. So when they make a mistake, they often say a word that has a similar shape, they insert or delete sounds (or get the sounds in the wrong sequence), they ignore or change suffixes, they really mess up the vowel sounds, and they are very confused about Silent-E.

But you’ll only hear those mistakes if they read the word list out loud.

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Reading Fluency

People with dyslexia usually read much more slowly than everyone else.

So a professional tester will also check their out loud reading rate, which is sometimes called reading fluency.

They will ask a child to read a story out loud for one minute. It will be a grade-level story, but one that they have never seen before, and the story will not have any picture clues.

The tester will compare the number of words the child can read correctly in one minute to the published reading fluency benchmarks.

Children with moderate to severe dyslexia will usually have a reading rate that is much lower than the benchmarks listed on the Dibels website,

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Dysgraphia, Copying from the Board

Dysgraphia is a fancy word for extreme difficulty with the physical act of handwriting. Most people with dyslexia also have dysgraphia.

That’s why they have such an odd pencil grip, why they have difficulty getting their letters to sit on the line, why they form some of their letters with such odd beginning and ending points, why they often have difficulty putting letter tails below the line, why they hate cursive, and why they have extreme difficulty copying from the board.

In fact, that’s another important test for dyslexia. First have a child read something that’s on the board, then watch while they try to copy it onto paper.

Due to their poor visual memory for printed words, a child with dyslexia will have to glance up at the board every one or two letters, then look down and stare intently at what they are writing. Their head is constantly going up and down while they are copying, and when they look back up at the board, they may have a hard time figuring out where they left off.

That's why they sometimes lose their place, and make mistakes even when copying words that they can read.

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Writing Sample

A writing sample is just three or four sentences that a child composes and writes without any help or feedback.

Written expression is the weakest skill of all in someone with dyslexia because it requires them to integrate many weak skills. That’s why children with dyslexia usually hate to write, and it often takes significant coaxing to get them to write anything.

Their writing sample will usually reveal their difficulty with spelling. But some children hide their spelling difficulties by only using simple one-syllable words that they’re sure they know how to spell. In that case, you’ll notice that their sentence structure is quite repetitive. Each sentence may start with the same phrase, such as “I like to paint. I like to draw. I like to play soccer.”

Or you may discover that they don’t yet understand the concept of a sentence. They may run 3 or 4 sentences together without any punctuation to break them up. Or their sentences may start with lower-case letters, end with the wrong punctuation, or may be fragments instead of complete sentences.

You may also notice that the words they write down are much more basic, or less sophisticated, than the words they use when they talk.

That’s why a writing sample is so revealing, and why it should always be included when testing someone for dyslexia.

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Who should NOT test?

Parents, please be aware that using the right tests is only half the battle.

A person who is not an expert in dyslexia may give the right tests but may not know how to correctly interpret the results.

That’s why testing should be done by a professional who is an expert in dyslexia, and who has also received intense, specialized training in how to accurately give and score the tests, and to interpret the results.

Unfortunately, most school psychologists have not had that type of training. To find out, ask them this question: “What specialized training have you completed that qualifies you to test a child for dyslexia?”

In fact, you should ask that question before you hire anyone to test your child.

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Who should test?

To receive a free list of Certified Dyslexia Testing Specialists in your area, or a list of questions you should ask before you hire someone to test your child, click here to send us an email, then type in your city and state.

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Cost of testing

Testing done by the public school system is free, but as you know, most public schools do not test children for dyslexia. That means a parent will have to hire a professional to do the testing.

The cost varies tremendously from state to state. So you’ll have to call the professionals on our referral list and ask what they charge.

It may cost less than you imagine. That’s because no one becomes a Dyslexia Testing Specialist to make a lot of money. They do it because of their compassion. They often know from personal experience what happens to kids who have dyslexia but are never identified and never get the right type of help.

By the way, since dyslexia is not considered a medical issue, testing for it is not covered by medical insurance. Nor will the school pay for it because schools are not required by law to test children for dyslexia.

So a parent should be prepared to pay for the testing themselves.

It is the best investment a parent can make in their child’s future.

To receive a free list of Certified Dyslexia Testing Specialists in your area, or a list of questions you should ask before you hire someone to test your child, click here to send us an email, then type in your city and state.

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Texas Dyslexia Handbook

Texas Dyslexia Handbook

Texas was the first state in the nation to pass a dyslexia Law. Over the years, that Texas law has become a wonderful model for other states to follow.

The Texas law recognizes the importance of early intervention. Any parent or teacher can request a free dyslexia assessment for any kindergarten, first-grade, or second-grade child who struggles with reading, writing, or spelling.

If the assessment test confirms dyslexia, that child then works intensively with a dyslexia specialist, who uses one of the "research-based best practices" reading programs designed specifically for children with dyslexia.

The child usually receives classroom accommodations on a 504 Plan, too.

The dyslexia program in Texas is completely separate from special education, because Texas knows that early intervention will close the academic gap more quickly, and less expensively, than the "wait to fail" special education approach.

To download the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, go to:
Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, Inc.
2059 Camden Ave. Suite 186
San Jose, CA 95124








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