One major concern many parents have is that they can’t get their child a formal diagnosis for dyslexia until their child is in the third grade. Many parents start to see their child struggling with reading long before this, but they can’t get a formal diagnosis until third grade, thus they have to wait until their child is in third grade to get the school to provide their child with the proper interventions. By the time their child can get a diagnosis, their child is nearly completed with their formal reading instruction and expected to read regularly to complete schoolwork.
"Often, by the time they get a diagnosis, they usually have experienced three years of peers telling them they are stupid, parents telling them they are lazy. We know they have reduced self esteem. They are really struggling," said Nadine Gaab, a researcher in connection to a new dyslexia study at Children's Hospital Boston.
Soon children may be able to be diagnosed at younger ages. Instead of waiting until the age of 7 or 8, Gaab’s research has been able to diagnose dyslexia as early as 4 or 5 – the same time that children respond best to reading interventions.
To diagnosis dyslexia in younger children, Gaab scanned the brains of 36 preschool children while they performed a number of spoken language tasks. This method was used because early signs of dyslexia can include rhyming difficulty, mispronouncing words, or confusing similar-sounding words.
What did they discover? When children who had a family history of dyslexia performed these tasks, there was less activity in the areas of the brain that are also less active in older children and adults that have dyslexia. Meaning – the same brain activity is present in dyslexics that are older and dyslexics that are at the age of 4 and 5. Meaning – dyslexia can be diagnosed at a much younger age than previously realized.
This study still needs to be further researched, but, fortunately Gaab and her team have been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand the study.
In response to this study, April Benasich, director of the Carter Center for Neurocognitive Research at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, said: "There is evidence to suggest that what is thought to be reading failure is there before the kids fail."
If this study can replicate and expand, dyslexia diagnoses will be available before a child begins to struggle in school and before they lose confidence in themselves and their reading ability. In the near future, children may be able to be diagnosed at the age that their minds will be most receptive to reading interventions.