Are SLD and Dyslexia the Same Diagnosis?


My child has just been diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability in reading. Does that mean he has Dyslexia?

            Jackie, Indian Land, SC

Ask the Experts

Margie Gillis, Ed.D

Margie Gillis is the President of Literacy How and a Research Affiliate at Haskins Laboratories, which conducts basic research on spoken and written language.

The IDEA defines Specific Learning Disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.”

A child who is diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is not necessarily dyslexic; however, dyslexia is the most common SLD. Other SLDs include perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, and developmental aphasia.

If Your Child Has Dyslexia

The National Institute of Health defines dyslexia as “a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.” While dyslexia is neurobiological in origin, its diagnosis is not medical – rather, it requires an educational evaluation.

A comprehensive educational evaluation is critically important for three reasons: it diagnoses the specific nature of your child’s problem(s), it specifies a detailed plan for intervention and remediation of the problem(s), and it includes documentation of the history of the learning difficulties and can determine if your child is eligible for special services, including special education. The individual who conducts this evaluation must be an expert diagnostician, knowledgeable about the complexities of reading and learning, and experienced in evidence-based practices to treat the difficulties associated with dyslexia.

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