The Pieces/Parts Approach to Identifying Dyslexia Doesn’t Work

I had a disturbing call from a parent of an 12 year old.

For six years we have been trying to find out why my bright daughter is not learning,” she related.  “We’ve spent thousands on testing with every type of specialist, not to mention the thousands on tutoring.  She’s in sixth grade and she’s so frustrated because she can’t keep up with her friends in class.” 

   “Everybody says she’s so bright, but when it comes to reading or writing it down, she struggles.”

   “My husband and I think she’s dyslexic; he has it in his family, but nobody in town seems to be able to tell us if this is the reason she is not learning.”

This parent has experienced what many do, the “Pieces/Parts Approach” to determining why a bright child is not learning.  Each specialist tests for legitimate reasons a child might be struggling in school.  However, if their diagnosis and therapy does not fix the problem, many times they either suggest the parents do “more of the same” or move on to another therapist.

If it’s Dyslexia, A Holistic Approach to Identification is Needed

Dyslexia is a constellation of characteristics involving visual and auditory processing, perceptual, and attention/concentration problems.  Dyslexia is a language disability, not a reading disability, so not only does it affect the ability to learn to read, write, and spell by conventional methods; it affects the ability to communicate in more subtle ways.

Individuals with dyslexia may learn to orally read, but may begin having comprehension problems, especially around fourth or fifth grade.  They may have difficulty turning information from short-term memory to long-term memory, so they learn it one day and forget it the next.

Many children who are identified as ADHD actually have dyslexia with ADHD as one part of their dyslexia. Unfortunately, their language disability (dyslexia) is never identified and all their “learning issues” are blamed on ADHD.

In order to have a proper diagnosis and proper plan of intervention and remediation, a thorough differential diagnosis should be administered, which considers the entire syndrome of dyslexia and attention deficit disorders. No SINGLE test exists that can identify dyslexia. No IQ test exists that can identify dyslexia.

Diagnosticians should give a variety of tests which examine the individual’s learning, language, perceptual, and intellectual strengths and weaknesses.  Diagnosticians may be educational specialists, speech and language pathologists, or psychologists who are trained in the field of dyslexia.  The key words are “trained in the field of dyslexia.”  Parents need to ask for a professional’s qualifications in the field of dyslexia.

Dyslexia Research Institute has developed “Questions PARENTS Should Ask When Choosing a Diagnostician”.  Go to for that list or call  (850) 893-2216 for information on testing.