Pinpointing specifics about reading difficulties can be challenging and there are numerous things to consider before diagnosing a child with a reading disorder. For instance, could it be a focus issue, a recognition difficulty, a memory problem, grammar misunderstandings, or a hearing problem? Is it a cultural issue? A medical condition gone unnoticed? How long has it been going on? Many questions must be answered and involving the caregivers, the teachers, and the child is conducive to getting the answers needed before making a determination.
In assessing anyone with a concern surrounding a possible reading disability diagnosis, there may be a need to begin with intelligence testing. It is an easy thing to get out of the way and can help determine if there is an intelligence factor within the problem a child is experiencing. It is important to note that most children with learning disabilities are just as intelligent as any other child that does not have a learning disability (Mash & Wolfe, 2005). Along with a WISC-III assessment, a Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale can be added as well – they both measure general intelligence with a focus on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract/visual reasoning, and short term memory.
Assuming that these tests are within normal range, the next recommendation would be to add a few tests that are specifically geared to reading problems. There are a million assessments that test reading skills and it can become overwhelming. One test to be considered is the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-R) which uses picture recognition as a means to measure vocabulary and non-verbal reception. A few tests geared more toward specific age groups are the Formal Reading Inventory (FRI) which tests silent reading comprehension and oral reading accuracy and the Gray Oral Reading Test-Diagnostic (GORT-D) which measures reading comprehension, decoding, cipher knowledge, and syntax. A talk with teachers and caregivers would give a better insight into what precise reading tests would give the best measures.
Depending on these results, and maybe even despite them, a Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), which specifically evaluates behaviors associated with learning disabilities could also help with insight into what may be more (or less) than a reading disability. This would help involve parents and teachers, as there is a checklist for them, amplifying the interaction they have with the child. Low self-esteem, shortages in social skills, and embarrassment can be large factors in children that have been struggling with reading. The older the child, the more suffering she or he has likely been dealing with, possibly since the beginning of his or her school career and consequently, the child may have many more issues that have arisen and reading difficulties may be a symptom of something else altogether. The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) is another test that can be used if this is suspected and assesses social competence such as communication, daily living, socialization, and motor skills.
After adequate talks with all parties involved and a chance to look at numerous factors such as the interaction of the family (how is their verbal and non-verbal communication?) and the family history (is this child in a stable home or has he been uprooted numerous times?), decisions can be made about how to best serve the child. With so many tests available, it is hard to determine which ones to choose without taking every avenue into account first. So, if you are being told your child has a reading disorder after one, simple assessment, please know there is more there to be discovered. One test may not say it all.