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Dyslexia: Screening for Common Co-Conditions

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Obtaining a diagnosis of dyslexia often takes significant time and effort. Since dyslexia is a complex neurobiological condition, clinicians and educators must employ various diagnostic tools to identify signs of the disorder while remaining mindful of the possibility of co-conditions. A thorough assessment for dyslexia should factor in the underlying concerns and co-occurring conditions, including genetics and familial background, and screening for traditional reading skills.  

Value of Screening for Co-Conditions

A thorough differential diagnosis is essential in determining whether the diagnosis of dyslexia fits the situation. Some individuals require further assessments to rule out other conditions that may appear to indicate dyslexia. Ascertaining whether the reading struggles result from dyslexia, other conditions, or co-conditions can help you better prepare an intervention plan specifically targeted to that individual’s needs. Possible co-conditions may include:

  • Psychological disorders
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Physical conditions
  • Developmental conditions or delays
  • Behavioral disorders

Once you’ve established that the client or student has dyslexia and a co-condition, you can collaborate with a skilled and knowledgeable multidisciplinary team. You can craft a comprehensive and complementary treatment plan and interventions together. 

Common Co-Conditions

The powerful genetic component of dyslexia means that evaluators should explore the individual’s family history and note family members’ reading or academic struggles. New evidence suggests that dyslexia may arise due to stress-system challenges when a child experiences inherited, prenatal or childhood trauma. The possible concurrent psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression, may exacerbate symptoms of dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Adopting a universal screening process for dyslexia and other conditions, using data from multiple sources and settings, can establish a clear baseline for targeted interventions. A thorough evaluation should include an assessment of these common co-conditions and literacy assessments.

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Between 25% and 40% of individuals with dyslexia also have ADHD. Thus, evaluators must ascertain whether literacy struggles come from the adverse effects of dyslexia on attention or whether reading is a challenge due to the inability to focus on reading tasks.

Specific Learning Disabilities

Individuals with dyslexia are significantly more likely to have other learning disorders. Studies show that 26% of individuals with dyslexia also have dyscalculia, and around 30% have dysgraphia. 

Atypical Sensory Processing

Students who struggle with the perception, filtering, and organization of sensory information, whether auditory or visual, usually have difficulties with reading and learning. Some evidence shows that nearly 19% of individuals diagnosed with dyslexia also show atypical sensory processing disorders.  

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Dyslexia and autism are often co-conditions, as approximately 12% of individuals with dyslexia have symptoms of both disorders. While many autistic people have excellent reading skills, we often see reading struggles in those individuals with language difficulties. 

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

Researchers suggest that evaluators screen struggling readers for movement problems because 3% to 13% of individuals with reading disorders like dyslexia also have DCD. Assessors should particularly note struggles with fine motor skills as a potential sign.

Learn more at WPS about how to help kids in school using Tests of Dyslexia (TOD™)

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