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Testing for Dyslexia
Q: My five-year-old daughter may have dyslexia. I'm a certified K - 9 teacher with some special-education classes and from my research, I'm sure that this is the problem. What tests should be done? How will I know if the testing is done properly? How can I get information on teachers that specialize in this area? Where can someone get training to teach students with dyslexia? The district I'm in doesn't have anyone that is trained specifically for this.
A: If your daughter is indeed dyslexic, early identification of this difficulty will give her the best chance of catching up to her peers quickly. An excellent, free resource available to parents and professionals about dyslexia and other learning disabilities is Learning Disabilities: Information, Strategies, Resources. You can get it by going to LD Online or calling toll free 1-888-GR8-MIND.
According to this resource, some of the early signs of learning disabilities that show up in a preschool child include:
Speaking later than most children
Slow vocabulary growth; frequent inability to find the right word
Difficulty rhyming words
Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, and shapes
The core deficit in children with dyslexia appears to be difficulty with something called phonological awareness. Phonemes are the smallest units of spoken language. For example, the words "hi" and "she" both have two sounds or phonemes. Phonological awareness is taught first through oral play with words.
When a young child is tested, it is critical that at least part of the testing focuses on phonological-awareness skills. There are many tests currently in use today that tap this area. One of the most common ones is the CTOPP (the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing). A version of this test is designed just for five- and six-year-olds. Other areas that should be addressed in an evaluation of a young child include memory, attention, other language skills, and the common skills associated with kindergarten learning, including identifying the letters of the alphabet, naming colors and shapes, being able to listen to and respond to a story, etc.
You can call the International Dyslexia Association at 1-800-ABCD123 and the Learning Disabilities Association of America at 1-888-300-6710. Both organizations have nationwide branches and offer support and guidance about the evaluation and treatment process. In addition, have a look at two excellent books for parents: Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats and What's Wrong With Me? Learning Disabilities at Home and School by Regina Cicci. Both books have a wealth of information that should help. Good luck!
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.