Detecting Dyslexia, p.3
With school-age children, struggles over homework can also be telling. Maria Barton of Larchmont, NY, remembers her frustration with her then first-grade son, Elisha. "By page two he couldn't remember a word he'd read on page one," she recalls. In addition, Elisha confused letters and was unable to hold on to vowel sounds. For a while, Barton thought he wasn't concentrating. Bewildered that her son "just couldn't get it," she approached his teacher, who agreed that Elisha's reading skills were problematic. After doing research herself, Barton had her son privately tested; he turned out to have dyslexia.
You Detect a Problem -- Now What?
Susan Hall, like Barton, also had to take matters into her own hands. When her son Brandon was in first grade, Hall volunteered to come into the class to help with a project. She sat with a group of five children that included her son and listened as each child took turns reading aloud. "This was a turning point for me," she recalls vividly. "When I saw how Brandon read compared to the other students and how embarrassed he was, I knew something wasn't right."
When Hall asked the teacher what could be done to help him, she replied that it was just a "developmental lag" and that "he'll catch up." A few months later, Hall complained again about her son's progress and suggested that he be tested. This time she was told: "I couldn't possibly refer him for testing; he's not a year behind."
Responses like this are unfortunate because time is too critical to waste. Still, talking to the teacher should be your first step if you suspect your child has a learning disability. "Ask for your child to be evaluated," Dr. Shaywitz advises. If the teacher rejects your request, write a letter to the school principal specifically asking that your child be evaluated. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a public school is required to provide free testing upon a parent's written request.
The goal of the school evaluation is to determine only whether your child qualifies for special education services. To get a specific diagnosis, you have to pursue private testing. (Hall, who didn't know at the time that it was her legal right to obtain testing through the school, took Brandon for a private evaluation.) A full psychoeducational assessment, which generally costs between $1,000 and $2,000 in a major metropolitan area, can be administered by a private evaluator or a hospital- or university-affiliated child-study center or learning-disability clinic.