challenges complicate a dyslexia evaluation

What Challenges Can Complicate a Dyslexia Evaluation?

Obtaining a dyslexia diagnosis can be challenging. Part of that is the large number of factors that can easily complicate an evaluation. Understanding these challenges is the first step in overcoming them.

Inconsistent Definitions

While the broadest symptoms and effects of dyslexia are generally well understood, the diagnostic criteria may vary between organizations. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition Text Revision, the standard for many diagnostic tests, includes the disorder under a broader category of reading disorders. It requires reading, word recognition, and idea expression difficulties to persist for at least six months before obtaining a diagnosis.

Other organizations providing diagnostic criteria include the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision and the International Dyslexia Association. Additionally, schools often follow the guidelines established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Individual Expression of Symptoms

While many symptoms overlap, every individual experiences dyslexia in a unique way, making it difficult to obtain a diagnosis. The problem is that other disorders can also cause many symptoms typically associated with dyslexia.

The IDA lists difficulty with the following tasks as warning signs of possible dyslexia and may require assessment:

  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Reading comprehension and speed
  • Spelling
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Completing math problems

Additionally, social and emotional issues are common among students with dyslexia. Feelings such as anxiety, anger, and depression can hide learning differences and delay interventions. Comprehensive assessments, such as the (TOD™) Tests of Dyslexia, can help minimize this risk.

Language and Cultural Differences

Students learning English as a second language may have trouble with many of the same things as those with dyslexia. Language acquisition varies between different languages. Therefore, students who learn another language first may struggle with the structure of English even without a learning disability.

Alternatively, language and cultural differences can mask some dyslexia symptoms. Educators and assessment providers must consider these when screening for learning disabilities.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Students may have more than one condition, making identification and diagnosis difficult. For example, as many as 60% of students with ADHD also have a learning disorder, and dyslexia is among the most common comorbidities.

In addition to ADHD, auditory and visual processing disorders, atypical sensory impairment, and developmental language disorder commonly occur alongside dyslexia. Educators must remove these potential factors before they can perform an accurate assessment.

Focus on a Sole Measure

Focusing on a sole performance metric can negatively impact the effectiveness of assessments. For example, trouble with math and learning numbers may be an individual’s main symptom of dyslexia. If an assessment’s sole focus is reading skills, students experiencing numerical challenges may fall through the cracks. Assessments with a holistic approach to learning can help avoid this bias.

Effective Dyslexia Assessments

Taking a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to evaluation is often an effective strategy for overcoming these challenges. Schools that provide dyslexia assessments must choose tools that address these challenges for effective screening. Learn more about how WPS assessments help students obtain a correct diagnosis and succeed in school.

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