A diagnosis of dyslexia is just the starting point.
How do you go about getting a diagnosis of dyslexia? There is no one test for dyslexia, because the symptoms of dyslexia vary from person to person. An online test or a screening test will tell you if you have a likelihood of dyslexia, but to get a formal diagnosis of dyslexia in New Zealand you will need to see either an Educational Psychologist or a NZCER registered Level C Assessor.
How early can dyslexia be diagnosed?
It used to be thought that dyslexia could not be diagnosed in children under 8 years of age. Current thinking is that the earlier a child is tested, the sooner they can be helped. Many of the symptoms of dyslexia (slow reading, poor spelling, letter reversals) are common to young children so it can be difficult to determine if the child really does have a learning difficulty, or whether they are just taking a little longer to get a grip on reading and writing. Dyslexia often runs in families, so if a parent or relative has had a diagnosis of dyslexia, or if they had similar struggles in school, that is taken into account, too. The methods that help dyslexic children also help other children, so even if the assessor is unable to give a definite diagnosis of dyslexia they can recommend things that will help in the classroom.
The ‘dyslexic’ label.
Some parents worry that a diagnosis of dyslexia will be labelling their child. However, a child who sees others learning to read and write easily can be quick to give themselves harmful labels, such as ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’. Being diagnosed with dyslexia is usually a tremendous relief to a person, as they realise that they are not stupid, but their brain is wired differently. Even the word diagnosis implies that something is wrong. I prefer to talk about identifying dyslexia.
Current research into dyslexia.
There has been a lot of research into dyslexia, especially over the past 15 years or so. Using fMRI scanners scientists can see just what happens in a person’s brain as they read. More and more researchers are acknowledging the positive side of dyslexia – that people with dyslexia are often creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and problem solvers. The person making a diagnosis of dyslexia should explain the person’s areas of strength and not just focus on their areas of weakness.
Advantages and disadvantages of dyslexia.
Yes, having dyslexia may mean that you find reading, spelling or writing difficult. You may take longer than others to process information. You may find it hard to remember names, phone numbers, or a long list of instructions. But when you find and work with your gift of dyslexia you can learn more easily and efficiently. People like Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg and Albert Einstein all struggled with reading and writing at school. Many of them didn’t have a formal diagnosis of dyslexia, but the indicators were sure there. The reason that these people were all successful is not despite their dyslexia, but because of it: they used their creative thinking abilities to achieve in their chosen field. A diagnosis of dyslexia is not an excuse for lack of effort, or a reason to give up. As Thomas Edison (another famous dyslexic) said “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
If you suspect that your child has dyslexia or some other learning difficulty, a formal evaluation can lead to a better understanding of any problems. An educational assessment will identify particular strengths and weaknesses. Contact me on 027 319 1978.