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Dyslexia: Diagnosis and Therapy

Dyslexia: Diagnosis and Therapy
By: Tracy D. DeStazio

According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), by definition, dyslexia is a caused by a “different wiring of the brain.” It includes difficulties in acquiring and processing language, and results in issues with reading, writing and spelling.

Dyslexia affects one in ten individuals, and according to the IDA, many “remain undiagnosed and receive little or no intervention services.”

“I feel the greatest challenge for parents of dyslexic students is the pursuit of a diagnosis and answers,” says Traci Barrientos, a dyslexia therapist at St. James Catholic Elementary School in Gulfport, St. Patrick Catholic High School in Biloxi, and the Dynamic Dyslexic Design School (3-D) in Ocean Springs.

“Approximately 80 percent of children in special education programs are there because of a reading disability,” she said. “Experts estimate that, of those children, 80 percent are dyslexics.” It is likely that many of them are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

“Teacher training in what dyslexia is, and how it is remediated, is virtually non-existent,” Barrientos continued. “Most teacher preparatory programs spend very little, if any, time training teachers to recognize the signs of dyslexia.”

Does my child have dyslexia?

Darlene Cole and Stella Fioranelli Moses, both therapists with Mississippi Dyslexia Centers (MDC) and both teachers at North New Summit School in Greenwood, Miss., describe several indicators that may point toward dyslexia.

“If your child struggles with reading, rhyming, and sound-letter recognition, or has trouble recalling information, or often complains that reading is too hard,” then it might be time for testing. A family history of reading problems may also be reason for obtaining dyslexia testing.

Most parents, Barrientos explained, end up having to pay for testing out-of-pocket, and “often parents get taken advantage of by well-meaning diagnosticians and tutors” that don’t always know how to diagnose. They often “advise a ‘wait and see’ approach, all the while the child falls farther and farther behind.”

“Many professionals meet the state qualifications for testing, but have little knowledge of dyslexia,” Barrientos said. “Students with high I.Q.s are frequently misdiagnosed or missed altogether. As they progress through the school system, they never seem to catch up and appear to be average to low-average performers. However, these same students can be extremely gifted.”

You’ve received the diagnosis…now what?

“It is very important to seek a highly qualified educator who is a state-certified dyslexia therapist,” Barrientos advised. If you cannot find one in your area, she suggests looking for someone with specialized training recognized through the IDA.

“This organization has varying degrees of certification,” she explained, “and will list the qualifications of registered specialists in your area on their website.”

Most students need three or four years of dyslexia therapy — a minimum of three to four times a week for one-hour sessions — to complete a program.

Dyslexia is not the end of the story

Since there’s no known cure, both children and adults affected must learn coping strategies in order to achieve success in academics and life beyond.

One of the most powerful tools dyslexic children have, though, are their parents. Having a parent fighting for your success can single-handedly change everything. Barrientos gives an example of a young tenth grade student who, although having a high I.Q., read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level.

“Had it not been for his amazing parents’ determination, this student would have never realized what a gifted student he really is,” Barrientos said. “I am confident he will go on to receive a college education and will have a very successful life.”

Tracy D. DeStazio is a freelance writer and editor living in Biloxi. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 23 years and they have three children. As typically happens when writing articles for Parents & Kids, she is touched and inspired by stories of amazing kids and their wonderful parents, living right here in Mississippi!

Online Dyslexia Resources: 

The Mississippi Dyslexia Centers:

Dyslexia Center, Mississippi College:

The Mississippi Dyslexia Therapist Association (MSDTA) maintains a roster of dyslexia therapists organized by county: 

The Mississippi Dyslexia Handbook (MS Department of Education) defines dyslexia and describes a dyslexia therapist’s qualifications in MS:

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) website includes a self-assessment for dyslexia and many resources including referrals for qualified therapists: 

Yale Center for Dyslexia –  and

Information courtesy of Darlene Cole, Stella Fioranelli Moses, and Traci Barrientos.


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