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Testing for Dyslexia

There is no one single test that can be used to test for dyslexia. A battery of tests must be administered. Tests should be chosen on the basis of their measurement properties and their potential to address referral issues. Various tests may be used but the components of a good assessment should remain constant. Tests that measure reading, speaking, writing, listening, intellectual functioning, cognitive processing, and educational achievement must be administered. The expert evaluator will conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine whether the person’s learning problems may be related to other disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, central auditory processing dysfunction, affective disorders, or physical or sensory impairments.

How long does testing take?

An average test battery will take from three to six hours. Sometimes it will be necessary to conduct the testing in more than one session, particularly in the case of a young child whose attention span is very short.

At what age should an individual be tested for dyslexia?

Individuals may be tested for dyslexia at any age. Tests that are selected will vary according to the age of the individual. Young children may be tested for phonological processing, receptive and expressive language abilities, and the ability to make sound/symbol associations. When problems are found in these areas remediation can begin immediately. A diagnosis of dyslexia need not be made in order to offer early intervention in reading instruction.

Parents of school age children should request testing through the school; they are entitled by law to a free assessment. Psychologists are available who charge a private fee. The Philadelphia Branch maintains a list of diagnosticians.


Evaluation Requirements

What is an Evaluation?

• An evaluation will determine if a child has dyslexia and any other specific learning disability.

• More information about the school district evaluation process can be found at Download the Pennsylvania Guide to Special Education Services for School Age Children.

• Dyslexia and a reading disability can be diagnosed only by a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation conducted by a professional who specializes in the child’s age group.

A Comprehensive Evaluation Includes:

• Family history

• Parent input (interview, completion of behavioral rating forms)

• Teacher input (interview, completion of behavioral rating forms) from regular classroom teacher and other relevant teachers (subject teachers, tutor, special education.)

• Review of developmental history from parents.

• Review of educational history, including specific interventions and progress after interventions.

• Classroom observation, both in regular education and in situations with support/instruction beyond regular education.

• Standardized assessment measures.

• Integration of information and results

• Recommendations

What are Standardized Tests?

• Standardized tests are administered by a certified school psychologist, certified school and licensed psychologist, or certified school psychologist and licensed neuropsychologist in a one-on-one situation.

• Standardized tests are developed using national norms, and have adequate reliability and validity.

• The child’s performance on the standardized tests is compared to that of children of the same age/grade, and for behavioral factors, of the same gender.

What Domains are assessed in a comprehensive evaluation?

• Intellectual abilities

• Verbal and visual memory (short-term, long-term, retrieval facility).

• Fluency/processing speed/retrieval speed.

• Speech and language (often by a S & L specialist).

• Attention and executive functioning.

• Visual-motor/grapho-motor functioning

• Academic achievement

• Social/emotional/behavior screening (with further assessment as needed)

Academic Achievement

• Reading (phonological awareness, word recognition, decoding, oral passage reading accuracy and rate, rapid naming, comprehension with and without look backs, vocabulary knowledge).

• Writing (spelling, handwriting, grammar, organization).

• Mathematics (reasoning, calculation, fluency of math facts).

Helpful Websites

• Pennsylvania Guide to Special Education Services for School Age Children (

• Education Law Center (

• National Center for Learning Disabilities (

• Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (

• Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (

• Special Education and IEP Advisor (

• Wrightslaw (

• Decoding Dyslexia PA (
  Decoding Dyslexia DE (

• Contact your School District for a list of resources.