Accurate Diagnosis

Students who are suspected of having dyslexia are entitled to an assessment, regardless of whether they are in a public, private or charter school.

Accurate diagnosis is the key to receiving evidence-based intervention and appropriate accommodations. Accurate diagnosis of dyslexia will pinpoint the problem and help children get the appropriate evidence-based reading instruction to be successful in school. Importantly, diagnosis is required for students to qualify for accommodations in school and on high-stakes tests such as SATs, ACTs and state exams.

“Seeking a learning specialist and having my concerns validated with an official diagnosis of dyslexia gave my confidence a much-needed boost….These tests are an important first step that provide a concrete explanation from which you can proceed to investigate your learning issues with less fear and more clarity.” –Blair Kenney, Yale ‘08


Parents should be aware of two important Federal laws: 1) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; 2) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

  1. Section 504 entitles children with a disability such as dyslexia to a public education comparable to that provided to children who do not have a disability.

  2. IDEA is more specific, mandating “a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment” to dyslexic students attending public schools. As part of IDEA, students with dyslexia must receive services designed to meet their needs free of charge. It is important that parents know that “dyslexia” is mentioned specifically in IDEA.

    According to the IDEA, the determination of whether or not to test a child for dyslexia is made jointly by the child’s parents and a team of qualified professionals, which must include: 1) The child’s regular teacher; and 2) At least one person qualified to conduct individual diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, or remedial reading teacher.

    Together, this team will review the child’s achievement in the areas of oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation and mathematics problem solving. The IDEA says that if the child is receiving appropriate instruction for his grade level, but isn’t making progress in meeting age or state-approved grade-level standards in these areas or is exhibiting strengths and weaknesses within the areas, the group will determine an appropriate method of evaluation for a specific learning disability such as dyslexia.

    The IDEA lays out that once it has been determined that the child is not achieving at grade level, the team must decide to either use documentation from observation and monitoring of routine classroom; or have at least one professional member of the team conduct an observation of the child in his or her regular classroom setting. At this point, parental consent will have to be obtained, and an evaluation referral will need to be made.

** Italics indicate words paraphrased from the IDEA for the convenience of our readers. **
To read the IDEA's regulations on identification in their entirety, click here.


In order to obtain the appropriate diagnosis, parents may need to enlist the help of experienced parent advocates or even attorneys experienced in special education law.

Click here for more information.

Click here to read how Blair Kenney's diagnosis gave her a greater understanding of her learning style.

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