When Should a Child Be Evaluated?

Some signs of dyslexia are evident in preschool-age children. Preschool evaluations can focus on phonological awareness and word retrieval. However, Dr. Cruger recommends waiting until children are around six years old to pursue an evaluation, when they have received formal reading instruction. If at that point a child is still struggling to recognize rhymes, common letter clusters or simple words, she should be checked out.

It’s typical for parents to be told, when kids are struggling in first or second grade, that no intervention is necessary until the third grade, when kids are expected to be fluent readers. But Dr. Shaywitz points to research that shows that for children who are dyslexic, the gap between intelligence and reading ability is already clear in first grade, and the sooner children get help the easier it is for them to close the gap.

Dr. Shaywitz argues that a diagnosis that identifies a child’s strengths as well as weaknesses can be a big boost to a child’s self-image, since in first grade kids are already comparing themselves to their peers and worrying that there’s something wrong with them. A diagnosis also opens the door to help and accommodations that can make a huge difference.