What do dyslexics look for when diagnosed?

Quick answers

When dyslexics are diagnosed, some key things they may look for include:

  • An explanation of what dyslexia is and how it impacts learning and reading
  • Testing and assessment results that confirm the dyslexia diagnosis
  • Information on strengths and weaknesses related to dyslexia
  • Tips, strategies, and support services to help manage dyslexia
  • Assurance that dyslexia does not reflect low intelligence or laziness

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that impacts reading, writing, and language processing. Individuals with dyslexia have difficulty decoding words, reading fluency, spelling, writing, and phonological processing. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that is neurobiological in origin and not the result of low intelligence or poor teaching. Approximately 5-20% of people have dyslexia. When formally diagnosed, dyslexia is considered a learning disability under special education law.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Some key signs and symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • Difficulty learning letter names and sounds
  • Struggling to decode unfamiliar words
  • Very slow and effortful reading
  • Poor reading fluency and accuracy
  • Difficulty spelling words correctly
  • Trouble learning rhymes
  • Confusion with left/right directions
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Challenges memorizing facts
  • Oral language delays

The severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person based on factors like age, intelligence level, education, and interventions received. Many bright and talented individuals have dyslexia.

Causes and Risk Factors

Research suggests dyslexia is caused by differences in brain structure and function related to processing language. Genetics play a strong role, with family history being one of the biggest risk factors. Dyslexia appears to run in families and often several members may be affected across generations.

Other risk factors that may increase a child’s chance of having dyslexia include:

  • Being male – dyslexia is more common in boys
  • Prematurity at birth
  • Delayed speech or language development
  • Chronic ear infections as a young child
  • Exposure to toxins like lead or smoking during pregnancy
  • Developmental disorders like ADHD or autism

Getting a Dyslexia Diagnosis

If dyslexia is suspected, the first step is to have the individual assessed by a psychologist, educational diagnostician, neuropsychologist, or learning specialist. This professional evaluation is key both to confirm a diagnosis and pinpoint areas of weakness related to reading, writing, and language skills.

Here are some key things dyslexics and their families may look for during the assessment and diagnosis process:

Comprehensive Testing

A dyslexia evaluation will include a battery of tests to measure skills like:

  • IQ testing – to rule out intellectual disability as a cause of reading struggles
  • Oral language skills – vocabulary, listening comprehension, expression
  • Phonological awareness – identifying letter sounds and manipulating them
  • Decoding and word recognition
  • Reading fluency for accuracy and rate
  • Reading comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Writing skills

This extensive testing paints a picture of the individual’s reading profile with areas of strength and weakness identified.

Review of Records and History

The diagnostician will also gather a thorough medical, educational, and family history. They will review past school records, report cards, hearing and vision screenings, and any prior evaluations or interventions. This information helps establish whether reading issues have been longstanding or related to external factors.

Specific Diagnosis

Based on the testing results and background history, the evaluator can determine if the criteria for a diagnosis of dyslexia are met. Key factors confirming dyslexia include the presence of a phonological processing deficit, reading and writing difficulties not explained by other factors, and persistent struggles despite effective instruction and intellect within the average range. Co-occurring conditions like ADHD or speech/language disorders may also be diagnosed.

Written Report

A comprehensive written report summarizes the assessment procedures, provides background information, documents the areas of difficulty, confirms the diagnosis, assesses cognitive strengths, and makes recommendations for accommodations, teaching strategies and supports. This is a critical document for the dyslexic individual and family as well as schools.

Explanation of Results

It’s important that the diagnosing professional reviews test results to explain dyslexia, how it impacts that specific child, what their individual strengths are, and why certain accommodations are recommended. This helps dyslexics and families understand the diagnosis and better advocate for needed services and supports.

Common Reactions to a Dyslexia Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with dyslexia can be an emotional process with many different reactions. Here are some common feelings individuals and families may experience:


Finally having an explanation for longstanding reading and academic struggles provides validation. A diagnosis confirms difficulties are due to a real condition called dyslexia, not laziness or lack of ability.


The assessment process itself can be stressful. Receiving a dyslexia diagnosis comes as a relief by providing answers, a plan, and hope for improved school performance with proper support.


Some feel a sense of grief or loss related to how dyslexia may impact aspects of the child’s life and self-esteem. Confronting the lifelong implications can be difficult.


Parents may feel guilt over not recognizing dyslexia sooner or not providing early intervention. Teachers may feel they failed to adequately teach reading skills.


The diagnosis allows access to legal accommodations and therapies. Parents can advocate more effectively for their child’s needs. Knowledge is power.


Learning to navigate life with dyslexia can feel overwhelming initially. There is a lot of information to take in on evidence-based instruction methods, accommodations, and more.


Many newly diagnosed families feel hopeful they will now get their child proper help through special education services, tutoring, and support. The future looks brighter.

Seeking Help and Support Post-Diagnosis

Once dyslexia has been identified, recommendations will be made to help manage the condition through school accommodations, tutoring, technology aids, and other means. The diagnosing professional can point families toward appropriate resources and next steps. Here are some tips:

Learn About Dyslexia

Research credible information online or through books, videos, and support groups to become an expert on dyslexia. Knowledge is key to navigating the journey ahead.

Connect with Other Dyslexic Individuals

Find role models and join local or online dyslexia communities. You are not alone! Learn what helps others thrive with dyslexia.

Get Evidence-Based Instruction

Seek individualized instruction from a qualified tutor or reading specialist trained in Structured Literacy and Orton-Gillingham methods tailored to the needs of dyslexic learners.

Advocate at School

Share the diagnosis report with your school and request an IEP evaluation if needed. Learn about your legal rights under IDEA and Section 504. Push for appropriate accommodations and dyslexia-friendly teaching.

Try Assistive Technology

Text-to-speech, audio books, and other tools can help bypass the decoding weakness in dyslexia and unlock access to content. Find what works best for your situation.

Address Mental Health Needs

Coping with dyslexia can take an emotional toll. Seek counseling or join a support group. Treat co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression. Help build a positive self-image.

Focus on Strengths

Most dyslexics have unique strengths like spatial reasoning, mechanical aptitude, entrepreneurship, creativity, and high emotional intelligence. Nurture these talents.

Outlook for Dyslexics

While dyslexia is a lifelong condition, the future looks bright when the proper support and intervention is provided. Here are some encouraging facts:

  • With evidence-based instruction tailored to their learning style, dyslexics can learn to read and spell at grade level.
  • Many successful CEOs, inventors, artists, and leaders have dyslexia and leverage their creativity and big picture thinking.
  • Technology allows dyslexics to excel including audio books, dictation software, text-to-speech, and organizational apps.
  • Protective federal laws require schools and colleges to provide accommodations for dyslexic students.
  • Adult dyslexics can find success in their careers by utilizing their strengths and accessing job accommodations.
  • Famous dyslexics like Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, and Leonardo Da Vinci became highly accomplished by thinking outside the box.

With the right attitude and support, a dyslexia diagnosis does not have to hold anyone back from personal and professional success. It simply means the brain learns differently and needs educational delivered in a customized fashion. The future is bright when dyslexics get what they need to thrive!


Being diagnosed with dyslexia can feel overwhelming at first but also comes as a relief explaining academic struggles. By better understanding dyslexia, connecting with others, getting evidence-based specialized instruction, using accommodations, focusing on strengths, and tapping into supports – both children and adults can overcome reading challenges and excel. With proper help, dyslexia is just a different way of learning that has both weaknesses and advantages. The diagnosis becomes an asset, not a liability.

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