How Do I Test My Child for Dyslexia?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that interferes with language processing, negatively impacting reading, writing, and spelling. Test your child for dyslexia by administering phonological awareness tests, decoding tests, reading fluency and comprehension tests, and rapid naming tests.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that interferes with language processing, negatively impacting reading, writing, and spelling. Test your child for dyslexia by administering phonological awareness tests, decoding tests, reading fluency and comprehension tests, and rapid naming tests.

Dyslexia is a linguistic learning difficulty that can be hard to detect in a lot of cases. However, following a dyslexia test, evaluators can quickly determine if your child has this condition, allowing you to provide the support needed as soon as possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that interferes with language processing, negatively impacting reading, writing, and spelling. It’s a relatively common condition — experts suggest that around 10 percent of people have it to some degree or another. 

People with dyslexia often have trouble decoding words into letters and recognizing the different sounds in words. This condition may also affect grammar, reading fluency, and comprehension, as it interferes with language as a whole. A child with dyslexia may even have trouble understanding directions, remembering names, and pronouncing words correctly. 

It’s important to know that dyslexia isn’t a mental disability, as it doesn’t affect intelligence. Still, while children with this condition can be utterly brilliant, many find school challenging due to their hindered writing and reading skills.

Dyslexia lasts for a lifetime, so it’s impossible to outgrow it or cure it. However, through special accommodations and emotional support, it can be easily overcome. Many children achieve academic success thanks to strategies that help in decoding language in an easier way.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

It’s hard to compile a complete list of all the symptoms of dyslexia, as it can manifest in various areas related to language. However, there are some signs that are common among children — especially in a school setting.

For example, children with dyslexia often have trouble keeping up with their peers’ reading fluency and also struggle to take notes from the board. Spelling and pronunciation errors are also common at this stage — even more so when it comes to new, recently learned words.

Children with this condition may also reverse written letters and numbers, leading to frustration when reading. In the same vein, they may also omit or repeat short words, such as ‘and’ and ‘but.’

Outside of school, children may struggle with rhymes, directions, and telling time. Difficulty decoding signs and logos may also be observed, along with trouble understanding the rules of a game.

Children with dyslexia may also have trouble:

  • Finding the right word to say
  • Staying entirely focused on stories
  • Telling left from right
  • Understanding jokes
  • Interpreting social cues

Naturally, these symptoms can quickly lead to frustration while also affecting the social lives of children with dyslexia. Many of them have a hard time making and keeping friends, so it's crucial to provide an emotionally supportive environment.

What are the causes of dyslexia?

Research hasn’t yet uncovered an exact cause for dyslexia. However, experts suggest that it may have to do with genetics. This condition can sometimes run in families, as siblings of children with dyslexia have a 40% chance of having it as well. Additionally, almost 50% of their parents will also have dyslexia.

Fundamentally, dyslexia causes the brain to function and develop differently in areas related to language. This causes challenges when reading, speaking, and spelling while also complicating some social interactions. 

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

If you notice any of these signs or you find that your child’s linguistic skills aren’t up to par with those of their peers, it might be time to check with a specialist. School districts usually have experts qualified to perform an evaluation to check for dyslexia and similar conditions.

This evaluation may also be performed at private institutions, where you’ll find psychologists and language specialists. The objective of this test is to rule out possible alternative causes such as environmental factors or hearing and seeing impairments.

The evaluation should be taken as early as possible to keep children from falling below grade-level benchmarks. After a diagnosis has been made, doctors will provide you with a remedial plan to assist with your child’s struggles.

Keep in mind that the evaluation doesn’t only include your child, as the parents will also have to provide information regarding certain topics. For example, family history, school attendance, and previous interventions are crucial factors that will be considered when diagnosing dyslexia.

How do doctors test children for dyslexia?

A thorough diagnosis of dyslexia includes a series of tests that aim to eliminate any dyslexia-unrelated factors. While the exact tests used will vary depending on the person conducting the analysis, there are four general types:

Phonological awareness tests

Phonological awareness tests consist of asking the child to segment words and guess empty syllables, among other exercises. They aim to detect problems in speech, as these can later impact reading and spelling.

Decoding tests

Decoding words is a key skill that allows us to recognize new words by tying them to already familiar ones. By making the child read certain words aloud, the evaluator is able to discover whether or not they’re decoding correctly instead of memorizing.

Reading fluency and comprehension tests 

A telltale sign of dyslexia is the hindrance of the child’s reading fluency. Often, schools can’t measure this correctly, so the evaluator assesses this by making them read passages aloud and answer questions about them.

Rapid naming tests 

Rapid naming relates to how quickly one can assign names to letters, numbers, and objects on a page. Children with dyslexia are usually slower when it comes to naming objects, negatively impacting reading, writing, and speaking.

Other tests that evaluators can choose to perform include:

  • Language-based memory tests, which test the child’s ability to recall sounds and syllables
  • Receptive vocabulary tests, which test if the child understands the words heard
  • Phonic skill tests, which assess the child’s ability to understand how each letter sounds both individually and when paired with others


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What do I do if my child has been diagnosed with dyslexia?

Fortunately, children with dyslexia can easily overcome this condition when provided with the correct environment. After a positive diagnosis, the evaluator will provide you with a remedial plan to support your child correctly.

Most of the time, this will consist of modifying the schooling environment. For example, experts may recommend trying out one-on-one lessons with a qualified teacher. Similarly, small groups may also work in some cases.

Many schools today offer special treatment for children with dyslexia and similar conditions, so the transition won’t be as hard as you may think. Plus, thanks to new assistive technologies such as speech-recognition software, support for dyslexia is better than ever.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022

Child Mind Institute: "Understanding Dyslexia."

Dyslexia Canada: "Diagnosis."

International Dyslexia Association: "Frequently Asked Questions," "Testing and Evaluation."

National Health Service: "Dyslexia."

Understood: "Skills that can be affected by dyslexia," "Types of tests for dyslexia," "What is dyslexia?"