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The complete question

My 11-year-old daughter was tested for dyslexia but was not diagnosed as being dyslexic. However, her ability to decode unfamiliar words, effectively use blending, and reading speed continue to be below her grade level and peers. What tests can we have a professional do to determine what is the problem since the school won’t retest her?

Expert answer

Very often bright children are penalized and fall between the cracks; that is, although they do not learn the necessary strategies for reading, they are able to memorize enough words to avoid detection. Your daughter appears to fit into this category. The problem is that as your daughter progresses in school, she will be faced with many, many more new words, many long, technical or unfamiliar words and with many rare words — the bottom line is that memory no longer is adequate to know all of these words.

Your daughter should be tested. In my book, Overcoming Dyslexia, I describe in some detail the types of testing and rationale for testing. Basically, her ability to read words accurately and fluently and to comprehend words are essential components of a test battery. You should ensure that her fluency — ability to read rapidly as well as accurately — are tested (this is often overlooked). Tests of her ability to get to the sounds of spoken words are also important as are measures of her vocabulary. This could serve as the core of a test battery, other tests can be added, depending on her individual history and pattern.

She should be tested. If on the basis of her testing, in addition to her history and observations of how she reads aloud, she is not a fluent reader, she should get help soon. She can be helped and the help should not be delayed.

You should also keep in mind that your daughter may be helped by the accommodation of extra time if she is a slow reader.

— Dr. Sally Shaywitz

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