Diagnosing Dyslexia

The Ontario Human Right Commission recommended that “school boards should never require a psychoeducational assessment as a precondition for receiving an evidence-based reading intervention.” However, some parents may wish to pursue a formal psycho-educational assessment for their child.

Who provides a psycho-educational assessment?

This can be done with a psychologist in your child’s school board, or a private psychologist. Some extended health benefits can cover parts of a private assessment.

Psychologists, teachers, clinicians, and researchers use different terms to describe reading problems, which can be very confusing.  In psycho-educational assessments, private psychologists often use the terms "specific learning disorder" which comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Other similar terms are ‘specific learning disability’ or ‘reading disability.’  These equivalent terms, including the term 'dyslexia', refer to the same condition of difficulty with word-level reading, spelling, and writing. The DSM-V states that “dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities."

Ontario school board psychologists usually use the diagnostic term ‘learning disability.’ The Ontario Psychological Association (OPA) clarified that "when individuals meet the criteria for LD in the OPA Guidelines and have difficulties with word and pseudo-word reading and phonological or orthographic processing an additional diagnosis of dyslexia might be made." There is no one test for dyslexia. A series of tests must be administered. The psychologist will conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine whether the person’s learning problems may be related to other disorders, such as attention deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder, mood disorders, pervasive developmental disorders, and physical or sensory impairments. An assessment might include a case history, as well as measures of cognitive functioning, receptive and expressive language, phonological processing, and focus and attention.