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Save Your Money! Don’t Waste it on Testing for Dyslexia.

by Don McCabe, Research Director, AVKO Educational Research Foundation
http://www.spelling.org/Workshops/workshops.htm

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a question from a parent asking me, “Should I have my child tested for dyslexia?”
Before I get around to answering the question, I usually hear a lengthy description of how her child is having trouble learning to read or learning to write or learning to spell. I always listen, and then simply ask her why she wants her child tested. Will the testing help her? I don’t think so.

A typical test result answer is “Yes, your child has a moderate case of central auditory processing disorder as well as a little attention deficit and a tinge of hyperactive disorder that probably is indicative of some form of dyslexia, etc., etc., etc.” This is followed by all kinds of numbers, percentiles, grade levels, etc., scored on this test and that test and this subtest and that subtest.

Okay, now what? If the testing was done at a private clinic (they charge anywhere from $150.00 to $2,000.00), they will suggest that you bring your child to their clinic two or three times a week for lessons.

If the testing were done by the local school system, chances are that they will say that your child may have some problems in learning to read and to spell, but certainly not dyslexia. They may even insist that there is no such thing as dyslexia. They may or may not suggest placing your child into a special education program.
Now if placement of a child into a special education program would take care of the problem, I certainly would recommend testing and going along with the recommendations of the local school system’s “experts.” However, before I would do that, I would ask the school system to provide data on how many of their students leave the special program reading and spelling at grade level. So far I haven’t heard of one school system in the country that has provided that data. Why? Because what school system wants to admit to 0% of their learning disability students leave the program reading and spelling at grade level.

Okay, so what can I do?

My answer is to take them out of the school system that has failed them; teach them at home. Don’t be afraid of not having a “proper” educational background. That’s a plus, not a minus. Remember that old saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. That, of course, is an oversimplification. I was a teacher, and I thought I could. And I did. But those who can’t teach, who can’t handle a classroom filled with wiggly little kids or noisy, foul-mouthed teenagers, these teaching failures take more classes, get their Ph.D’s and teach the aspiring young and mostly docile college students how to become teachers. The very worst teachers I have had in college were those teaching education courses. If you don’t believe me, ask a teacher about the quality of teaching that goes on in the colleges of education. By the way, there are some college education instructors who are very good teachers. Some of them are even good friends of mine.
One common objection by a parent is: “But I don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

Well, that’s why the AVKO Educational Research Foundation has so many free materials and ideas on how to teach reading and spelling that are free. Two entire books can be read right on the www.spelling.org website. And others will soon be following.

One book has 62 chapters, each of which is a separate web page or group of web pages. That’s The Teaching of Reading: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College. The other is Starting at Square One which starts with the teaching (or re-teaching) of the alphabet but also teaching reading, spelling, and keyboarding as the alphabet is slowly and methodically mastered.

We all know that if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. If you think your child might be dyslexic because he has some of the symptoms of dyslexics, you’re probably right. But why waste your money on testing? Spend it on getting your child the help your child needs. If it means hiring a tutor (make sure the tutor has had some training) and you can afford it, go for it. If you can’t afford hiring tutors, do it yourself. AVKO will help you. So will The Link.

(Please see the ad on p. 3 and hear Don McCabe live at The Link “kid comfortable” Homeschool Conference in Los Angeles, June 8-11, 2006. ■