What Challenges Can Complicate a Dyslexia Evaluation?

Charlotte Miller

Early diagnosis of dyslexia is critical to establishing proper interventions that bolster the academic and social development of students. However, screenings have barriers that can interfere with educators’ abilities to identify students who require extra support. Understanding these challenges helps to reduce their interference with dyslexia assessments so that students can succeed in school. 

Co-Occurring Conditions

Something that can make identifying dyslexia difficult is the presence of co-occurring conditions, many of which have overlapping symptoms. Working with a multidisciplinary team can reduce the impact of co-morbidities on establishing a dyslexia diagnosis. In many cases, additional testing is necessary to rule out other conditions, such as:

  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • atypical sensory perception 
  • auditory processing problems 
  • developmental language disorder 
  • visual processing disorders

Non-Native English Learners

Dyslexia can affect people from any culture or region of the world. However, assessments tend to be in English. That puts non-native language learners at a disadvantage, especially if their native language maps sound and letters differently.

Screeners should consider the primary language of any student undergoing assessment for learning difficulties to get an accurate picture of their ability. Also, cultural differences, particularly in educational attainment, may influence language learning skills.

Using a Single Measurement

Dyslexia is as complex as the individuals who receive a diagnosis. Therefore, testing for multiple learning difficulties is crucial in establishing a proper diagnosis. The Tests of Dyslexia (TOD™) assessment offers a comprehensive evaluation of various reading and language learning skills to avoid this screening pitfall.

Conflicting Definitions of Dyslexia

Despite much knowledge about dyslexia and other learning differences, much ambiguity and confusion persists. As a result, changing and varying definitions of dyslexia are some of the biggest challenges facing educators and screeners, as they contribute to different diagnostic criteria, which can complicate efforts to maintain effective interventions.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition Text Revision includes criteria specific to learning disorders, such as poor reading comprehension, slow reading skills, and difficulty expressing ideas in writing as diagnostic criteria. According to the DSM-5-TR, these signs of dyslexia must be present for at least six months and persist through targeted reading interventions.

On the other hand, the International Dyslexia Association defines the condition as “neurobiological” in origin, affecting decoding abilities, spelling, and word recognition processes that are not the result of poor classroom instruction. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, on which many schools rely for developing standards for students with learning differences, establishes dyslexia as a specific learning disability. Further complicating the problem of competing definitions is that many school systems discourage using the term “dyslexia” out of a concern that a diagnosis will create specific legal obligations.

Assessments for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders

WPS has developed dyslexia assessments that successfully identify learning differences while addressing known screening complications. Learn more about how WPS assessment tools can help students succeed in school.