Dyslexia and ADHD: The Importance of Psycho-Educational Assessment

Written by: Rebecca L. Marshall, Ph.D.
Dyslexia and ADHD: The Importance of Psycho-Educational Assessment

Parents of children struggling in elementary and middle school often wonder whether their child has dyslexia or an attention deficit.  Psycho-educational testing is important for differential diagnosis of cognitive and academic difficulties, as well as for the development of a treatment plan to help a child succeed in school.

Children who are performing poorly in school will often be formally evaluated for academic interventions at school.  However, some students are not identified as needing additional help or assessment at school if they are managing to achieve passing grades, even while struggling with a developmental reading disorder or an attention problem.  Children who have good visual memory skills, for example, may be able to memorize words and appear to be learning to read early in elementary school even when they have not developed core skills essential for reading decoding.  Typically these students who are not identified early will begin to struggle significantly as they advance academically and need to keep up with an increased reading load and other academic demands.

The most common core difficulty in developmental reading problems such as dyslexia is a problem with phonological processing.  Children with phonological processing difficulties struggle to manipulate parts of oral and written language, including identifying and segmenting the individual sounds and blends within words.  Children who struggle to read fluently often have difficulty with rapidly naming letters and objects.  Developmental reading problems, however, may occur in the context of other core cognitive problems.  Psycho-educational testing, therefore, is essential to determining how to remediate developmental reading problems for an individual student.

Children and adolescents with significant attention problems, including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), often show variability in reading skills.  There is a relatively high incidence of ADHD in children diagnosed with dyslexia.  Children and adolescents with ADHD who do not also have a developmental reading problem are likely to show significant variability across time in their reading skills.  In other words, they may show good reading fluency and comprehension skills on a given day at school, but they may show very poor performance on a different day.  Formal assessment of a child’s difficulties is therefore important to determining how teachers and parents should intervene to help an individual student succeed.

Emotional health has been found to have a big impact on performance in school.  Evaluations of learning difficulties should include an assessment of emotional factors that may affect a child’s school performance.   At the Summit Counseling Center, we provide screening assessments for attention, academic, and emotional problems, as well as comprehensive evaluations for specific learning disabilities.  Through these psycho-educational evaluations, we identify how students may achieve their full potential.  Please contact psychologist Rebecca L. Marshall, Ph.D., at the Summit Counseling Center (678-893-5300) for more information.