If you think that your child is dyslexic, the sooner you get that child tested the better. Research clearly shows that the sooner children with dyslexia receive appropriate help the better their long-term outcome is likely to be. Just as important, the sooner you and your child understand that being dyslexic doesn’t mean a person is stupid and may even go along with certain strengths and talents, the better your context and confidence will be when dealing with the extra work needed to learn to read, spell, write, etc., that the dyslexic child typically faces.
Unfortunately, even though early testing and action are critical, most dyslexic children still wait months or even years before they receive testing to identify their challenges and point toward steps to help them. Recently, we surveyed 146 dyslexic individuals on the pathways that led to their identification. What we found was shocking. After they were first noticed to show signs of dyslexia:
• Less than one third (30%) had been tested and identified by 6 months.
• Less than one half (44%) had been identified at one year.
• Almost 40% had to wait 2 or more years after their first signs of dyslexic challenges before they received appropriate testing, and almost one third had to wait more than 3 years!
• Finally, almost 90% of the children who had to wait more than 3 months for identification experienced harmful effects from their delay in identification, ranging from an almost universal loss of self-esteem and school underachievement or failure, to highly serious social and emotional challenges.
Why is it taking so long for so many dyslexic children to receive the testing that can clarify the nature of their struggles and point toward the steps that will help them to learn and succeed in school?
Almost half the people in our survey pointed to the high cost of dyslexia testing as a major reason for the delay in their child’s identification. The traditional way of determining a child’s dyslexia risk is by comprehensive face-to-face testing with a specialist. Such testing typically costs thousands of dollars, and its quality can vary widely depending upon the skill and training of the assessment professional. Many smaller communities may not even have an appropriately trained professional. In fact, one quarter of the parents in our survey felt that a qualified professional was not available in their local community.
Fifty-five percent of the parents blamed the confusing or just plain bad advice they received from friends, family members, teachers, or doctors. Things like “it’s too early to tell”, “she’ll just grow out of it”, “give him some time”, “I didn’t like reading, either”. So they waited. And waited. At the time, waiting seemed smarter than spending thousands they didn’t have for testing they weren’t sure their child needed. Then a year or two or three slipped past and their child’s struggles had only worsened.
However, the factor most often mentioned by parents was simply confusion. They didn’t know what to do or where to turn for answers to the problem their child was facing. One third of these parents approached their school for testing, and were told it wasn’t necessary. So they waited, and worried, and wondered what to do. And their child suffered the consequences.
Fortunately, there’s now no longer any reason to wait to determine your child’s risk for dyslexia. Dyslexia screening tests are now available that can provide high quality answers to some of the most important questions that parents need to answer, like:
• “How likely is our child to be dyslexic?” and if so,
• “What should we be doing to help?”
While these screeners lack some of the benefits of full assessments, like the ability to require interventions or accommodations from schools or testing services, they have the advantages over full assessments in being highly affordable and immediately accessible, wherever and whenever they’re needed. And most importantly, they can help your child get started immediately on the road to a successful future, and avoid the harms that come from just waiting and wondering.
We’ll talk more about the features that characterize good screeners in other blogs. You can also learn more about our accessible, affordable, and accurate Dyslexia Screening Test App from Neurolearning, and how it can help you and your child avoid harmful delays in dyslexia risk identification, by visiting our website at neurolearning.com.