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.

46 comments

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Maricruz F

    My granddaughter has been diagnosed with dyslexia and she struggles in school. She is in 3 rd grade this year and has developed anxiety and panic attacks. She is extremely fearful of failing her state exam STAAR. Currently dyslexic student accommodations include reading questions and answers only. I don’t understand how this helps our students if they can’t fully understand the story or passage. Laws need to change!!!

    • Corissa A

      Unfortunately my daughters has got the short end of the stick I am severely dyslexic my oldest daughter who is in second grade I keep trying to have them test her for dyslexia and I keep getting the runaround telling me that they don’t do the testing that I have to take her somewhere to get her tested I don’t have the money in her insurance will not pay for it so therefore I am now going to use this as a forceful way to get her tested thank you so much for this.

      • Linda Whitman

        Oh my goodness…if you are in Texas, then they are violating laws! They must at least evaluate her. We have the 2018 Dyslexia handbook in Texas which clearly explains they must evaluate with parent request or state in print why they refuse. The evaluation is a look at all the data that you can present, and having dyslexia in the family is important data, along with the state mandated K-2nd grade reading assessments given 2-3 times a year, and the mandated dyslexia screening in K and 1st, and all other teacher tests and reading inventories.
        They need to review this data. If there is enough evidence with reading weaknesses in comprehension, fluency, word attack skills, spelling, writing, and other aspects, then they need to conduct a full assessment for dyslexia. Do not accept the answer that you have to pay for it! I am a family advocate and retired Texas administrator, and public schools cannot make you pay for dyslexia testing.

  • Val

    My daughter has an existing IEP for ADHD and medical reasons in Michigan. She is receiving special ed supports in a mainstream classroom and OT services. It appears that dyslexia testing would be most appropriate for her. However, the school says they are not able to provide that testing, though symptoms of it have been noticed/documented.
    Does the law require schools to assist parents with outside testing costs if they cannot provide the testing themselves or within the Intermediate School District?
    Can my daughter’s current IEP help give teeth for further, appropriate, testing for dyslexia? What are my options if the school cannot accommodate?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Federal law requires public schools to provide testing for special education services without cost, but does not require that the testing be tied to a specific condition or label. However, the school is required to provide services appropriate to the child’s needs –so for example, if there is an IEP in place for ADHD issues, but the child has difficulties with reading or writing that are not being addressed, then further testing would be warranted.

      You can find more information about specific requirements at the links posted above.

      Keep in mind that a formal diagnosis is not required in order to receive help from a Davis Dyslexia provider. In general, if your daughter has symptoms of dyslexia and wants help to address those, then a Davis program would be targeted to those needs, whether or not there is a formal diagnosis.

      In our experience, when schools are reluctant to provide specific testing, it is often tied to a lack of appropriate services to go along with the testing results. In other words, the school does not want to test for dyslexia because they aren’t prepared to offer meaningful help for dyslexic students, so a diagnosis would potentially require them to fund outside services — and they don’t want to be placed in that position.

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