Why Don’t Public Schools Test for Dyslexia?

In Florida, the public school system does not usually specifically test children for dyslexia but instead tests for a general “Specific Learning Disability.” This generality is confusing and is often surprising to many parents because dyslexia is a type of specific learning disability.  While the trained school personnel should test for dyslexia, and some do, others do not.  A main reason public schools don’t test for dyslexia is because of the definition of how kids qualify for special services. They have a general definition to qualify for special education services.

The Florida Learning Disability Definition

In Florida, a Specific Learning Disability is a general term defined as, “A disorder in one or more of the basic learning processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest in significant difficulties affecting the ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematics. Associated conditions may include, but are not limited to, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, or developmental aphasia. A specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of a visual, hearing, motor, intellectual, or emotional/behavioral disability, limited English proficiency, or environmental, cultural, or economic factors.”

The International Dyslexia Association Definition

The International Dyslexia Association definition is very specific and states, “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.  It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

One definition is specific and the other is broad and since public schools offer a broad array of services, they use the broad learning disability definition.  Since the public school learning disability definition includes the words dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, they accept diagnoses from private school psychologists to help your child qualify for special services. In addition to any testing (from the public school or private psychologist), your child has to show a ‘need’ for services.  A diagnosis alone does not qualify a child for services.

Dyslexia Diagnosing and Treatment

Diagnosing dyslexia primarily falls upon psychologists and dyslexia treatment is from specially trained public school and private educators who are experts in teaching students to read and spell.  The majority of students with dyslexia respond well to Orton-Gillingham based reading instruction which is a special way to teach children with dyslexia.  This approach teaches students the six most common syllable types in a multisensory, systematic and direct approach.  The average student with dyslexia takes 18-36 months of one-to-one teaching to reach grade level.

We offer both dyslexia testing and treatment.  Call to discuss your child.