Misdiagnosis plays a role in the over-subscription of special education children. Take the dyslexia diagnosis for example: “Although dyslexia may be the most common learning “difference” or disability, in our practice it is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions that leads to school struggles” (Eide Blog, 2007).

Dyslexic children are perceived by teachers as lazy, careless and sloppy. They have misunderstood reading and writing problems. Their problems are confused with attention deficit disorder, where “… ADD or ADHD may be the only other practical alternative on a teacher’s, parent’s, or physician’s list of possibilities.” Dyslexic children have information processing problems and not attention deficits.

“Children with dyslexia may also be misdiagnosed with Aspergers, usually in the setting of sensory sensitivities, shyness or gaucheness, and late talking. Even some of the gifted traits may work against them, as clinicians or other professionals may mistake talent development for a “restricted pattern of interest.”

Children with dyslexia are also diagnosed as depression cases, or even mentally retarded.

Teachers, SLPs and school psychologists are key to the misdiagnosis of dyslexia. SLPs will pick up on the phonological processing aspects but not dysgraphia. Teachers will pick up on academic problems but not the underlying processing problems causing reading, writing and spelling difficulties. Psychologists make interpretations based on standardized test scores where processing problems are understood as confounding test scores. Learning disability is the default diagnosis.

Misdiagnosis is not always a significant problem where relevant instruction is given (e.g., spelling instruction for dyslexia). It becomes a significant problem when non-disabled children are placed in special education (e.g., limited English children).

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