School Testing for Dyslexia

Question:

Are public schools required to test children for dyslexia?

Answer:

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.

61 comments

  • Concerned-sis

    We live in Texas and my sister is in 1st grade. She had to repeat this grade due to learning troubles since kinder. Doing online learning most of this year she has met and surpassed the learning levels she needs to be at. She is back in school for the last 9 weeks but they continuously test her and say she is behind? She has no trouble with homework btw, but they were about to test for dyslexia without telling us, can they do that??? And now they want to hold her back again!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Texas law requires screening for dyslexia in early grades; you can learn more about Texas practices here: https://tea.texas.gov/academics/special-student-populations/dyslexia-and-related-disorders

      But testing or screening for dyslexia is a different matter than grade placement. As your sister has already repeated first grade once, it is unlikely that repeating again would be a good solution. Is homeschooling an option in your family? It sounds like your sister did better with online learning — there could be many factors involved, but it could be that the classroom is too distracting or discouraging.

      There are several Davis Facilitators in Texas and some also currently offer online programs. You can find a list at https://www.davismethod.org/loc/texas The Davis program takes a different approach than standard teaching and remediation, by addressing some of the underlying causes of dyslexia. The program also provides rapid, short-term positive results. These do require support and follow-up at home, but the facilitator remains available to provide support as needed.

      The Davis program is also geared to the important end goals of building strong word recognition skills, reading fluency, and good comprehension. That is what reading is all about — but sometimes schools get bogged down in testing pre-reading skills, particularly phonetic decoding. For example, a child might be reading and enjoying books at grade level without a problem, but do poorly on tests of reading nonsense words. Many dyslexic children have great difficulty using phonics in isolation — they really need to read real words in context. So too much focus on phonetic strategies can backfire.

  • Batya

    Hello, I’m hoping someone can direct me on how to have my niece tested for dyslexia in Florida. Does the school do the testing? Is there a government program to call? I spoke with her school and no one could give me a direct answer.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Florida doesn’t currently have laws for concerning dyslexia screening or testing beyond the federal law described on this page — but there have been some bills introduced in the Florida legislature that would change things. You can find more information by going to https://www.dyslegia.com/2020/12/2021-new-pending-legislation/ and using the search box on the page to look for “Florida” — then click the “Legiscan” link by the bills to go to a page with more detailed information.

  • Kathleen G

    My daughter has suffered for years with clear indication of dyslexia. She was on an IEP for 1-3rd grade but not directly for dyslexia just for support on reading and math to get on grade level. I had brought up my concerns about dyslexia on multiple occasions and they said yes there ere signs but they felt she would grow out of it. They removed her from the IEP in 3rd grade saying she tested out of the program . However, I am seeing indications in 5th grade that she is still having problems with poor spelling, poor handwriting, remembering sequences, and difficulty memorizing, The school district tells me they do not have resources for testing and I must get her private testing to get help. a clinical therapist that had seen my daughter in the past noted she Didn’t see any suggestion that my daughter needed to be tested. Where do I go and how do I get my daughter tested so that she can get support ? I see her struggling everyday and want to help her

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kathleen, Please keep in mind that formal diagnostic testing is needed only if you want support from the school. You can choose to focus your resources doing battle with the school, or you can choose to seek outside help on your own. The school does have legal obligations, but the problems you are seeing now might not be severe enough for your daughter to qualify for school services (which typically are aimed at children performing in the lowest 20% percent).

      If you are interested in exploring a Davis program, a formal diagnosis wouldn’t be needed — Davis Facilitators provide their own screening. You can use the directory at http://www.davismethod.org to find a Facilitator near you, or to look for one who provides online services.

      Children do not “grow out” of dyslexia, but all children do grow, learn, and change as time goes on, and that means that the severity and symptoms of dyslexia change as well. Schools tend to focus on early reading and decoding skills, which show up in early childhood. The issues you see of persistent difficulties with spelling, handwriting, and sequences are the sort of persistent symptoms of dyslexia that do persist over time if not addressed — but Davis tools can definitely help with those issues.

  • 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 – https://www.dyslegia.com/2019/01/2019-pending-legislation-table/ — 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 https://www.testdyslexia.com/ – 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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