School Testing for Dyslexia


Are public schools required to test children for dyslexia?


The laws and practices concerning school testing for dyslexia vary in different jurisdictions.  This page has some information concerning the legal rights of school children in the US.

Federal Law Concerning Dyslexia Testing  (US)

In the United States, under federal law, public school districts are specifically required to identify children with dyslexia and provide appropriate services to them.

These are the specific places dyslexia is referenced in the laws and regulations governing services that schools must provide:

IDEA 2004 Statute & Regulations [emphasis on the word “dyslexia” added]:

Statute: TITLE I / A / 602(30) (Definitions):

(30) Specific learning disability.–
(A) In general.–The term `specific learning disability’ means a disorder in 1 or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
(B) Disorders included.–Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
(C) Disorders not included.–Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

Regulations: Sec. 300.8 (c)(10) :

(10) Specific learning disability. (i) General. Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

In October, 2015, the Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter specifically addressing concerns raised by parents who had been told that their school could not test for dyslexia, writing:

The purpose of this letter is to clarify that there is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents

State Laws Concerning Dyslexia (US)

In recent years, many US states have enacted additional laws specifically requiring dyslexia screening in schools.  These laws cannot reduce protections under federal law, but they can create additional rights for the child and obligations for the school or district.


  • Roslyn J

    My grandson has been struggling for several years. He has ADHD and has now been tested for dyslexia. The school personnel and his parents met and they said some parts are indicative of dyslexia, but other parts were counter indicative. He also had testing by a psychiatrist after referral from his pediatrician. He did find that he needs accomodation for dyslexia but the school (in Texas) says that he is not dyslexic and refuses to make any accomodation under 504.

    What are our options to get them to give him the help he needs? It is heartbreaking to see what he is going through and my daughter is losing her mind trying to find something she can do to help him (in addition to the hours a day she spends going through his work with him).

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Please encourage your daughter to read the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. The book includes specific instructions on how to get started with Davis methods at home. These provide a set of strategies that are different from what your grandson is getting in school, but are geared to the natural thinking style of children like your grandson.

    • Hilary L

      Ask for an IEE independent educational evaluation by a psychologist, speech language pathologist or a neuro psychologist at public expense for testing for SLD and Dyslexia. If they refuse that ask for Prior Written notice on the IEE.

    • Meli

      My first suggestion would be to write a letter to the school district and principal letting him know that you are formally aking for help. I had to do this with one of my children before they would help me as well, this worked. Make sure that you include the 504 plan, and how your child’s rights have been ignored.

  • Deanna

    What are the laws in California? My 9 year old has severe dyslexia and the school will not give any diagnosis to help him.

  • Yisenia S

    I was diagnosed with back in the early 80’s as a child. I am getting push back from my child’s school in Riverside, California as to getting him tested. The three teachers he had as of preschool through now first grade have labeled my son a “problem child” thanks to the preschool teacher. After looking at various Dyslexia sites and my own history and similarities my son shows now. He shows true Dyslexic similarities. I have asked for my son to be tested and/or direct me to a place I can take him to be tested by a professional. Please help. I don’t want my son to fall between the cracks of the public school system, like I did as a child.

  • Cheryl H

    My grandson has all the signs of dyslexia but the public school system in TN says they do not test for dyslexia. If I’m reading your comments correctly, are they required to have a certified dyslexia professional test him? How do I approach them for help when I’m told repeatedly that my grandson will never do any better than he is now. He has such anxiety and worries about failure all the time.

  • Kristin B

    Our school district tests for reading challenges, but does not specifically address dyslexia. I’ve been told our state (South Carolina) does not classify dyslexia as a disability and consequently the schools don’t offer specific services for it. (This is corroborated by the article linked above that says SC just does universal screening.) My son is in special education and receives support, but he has not been specifically tested for dyslexia. When I tried to get him tested, insurance won’t pay for it because they say the schools provide the testing for free, but the schools don’t actually test specifically for dyslexia. So it’s a vicious cycle. I believe he also has dysgraphia.

  • Antoinette R

    We live in Kansas and are told Dyslexia has to be tested by a doctor. Our insurance does not cover this. I’m not sure how to get my son tested.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      If your child is in public school, the school is required to provide services for learning disabilities without charge to parents under federal IDEA provisions. This includes necessary services related to identification or evaluation to determine whether the child qualifies for such services. You can use the links in the “For More Information” section above to find more information.

  • Vanessa M K

    How can I be sure that the test my school district is administering is the correct one and that the person administering it is qualified?

  • Gale

    I’m in the state of New York and I believe my child has dyslexia. I’ve requested that the school evaluate him. However, I was told that unfortunately DOE does not evaluate for dyslexia. But they will Carryout a social history, physco-education, and a class room evaluation. How do these test evaluated him for dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There are some new bills pending in the New York legislature that may change the ways schools screen for and provide services for dyslexia. You can find a list and links to track the legislation if you go to this page – — and then enter “New York” in the search box at the top of the table.

      • Dawn

        I see Michigan has no law. With federal law are they required to test him.

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Yes, but the Child Find provisions of the federal IDEA do not require that the testing be specifically to diagnose dyslexia — only that the school identify children who qualify for special education services, and provide appropriate services. In this case, the child already qualifies for services and has an IEP. If the parent feels that the child has additional needs that are not being met within the current IEP, then further evaluation from the school might be appropriate. But parents need to ask the right questions, focusing on the specific areas of difficulty the child is having. Sometimes the issues are already being addressed under a different label.

  • LISA A

    I am a grandmother with guardianship of my granddaughter. Is there a place in the metro Oklahoma City area I can take her for a free dyslexia test?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can find “free” screening at many places — including our website at – but screening is not the same as diagnosis, and would not qualify a child to receive school-based services. A formal diagnosis requires extensive testing by a qualified professional — so parents either need to work through the public schools using processes outlined above, or arrange for private evaluation. In some cases, some or all of the cost of a private evaluation may be paid or reimbursed by insurance.

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