I help a young teenage boy learn English at a non-profit organization where I am a volunteer. The boy is considered at-risk youth as he's the child of immigrant parents and of low socioeconomic status.

English is the third language he is learning and French is also mandatory in his school (public school).

I noticed from the beginning that the kid has some learning difficulties and though I am not in a position to diagnose the kid, he does show symptoms of dyslexia. However, I have some training in special education and I suggested that he should get evaluated for specific learning disabilities. He's a smart kid but is really struggling with spelling and he has problems remembering things (e.g he still can't remember the word "well" in the answer "I'm well, thank you", when asked "How are you?".

Every time I report to my supervisor, I make sure to tell her my observations and after repeating myself a few times the supervisor reluctantly reassured me that she would inform the boy's mother.

On the most recent lesson, I spoke with one of the psychologists - my supervisor had already left - and told her the exact same things, that the boy would greatly benefit from being evaluated if it means getting the help he needs in school.

The psychologist's response was more or less that these problems tend to get overdiagnosed and that she is worried that the boy would be stigmatized for no reason. He already has low self-esteem and so on.

I disagree with the delay in informing the mother and I would like to politely insist they recommended her son got evaluated by a professional to at least exclude a learning disability (even if not severe).

How can I convince them that they need to act sooner rather than later and talk to his mother about it?


I was at a meeting yesterday. I spoke openly about the boy's learning difficulties since we all had to discuss our students' progress. My main points were that a) he'll be more stigmatized for not being on the same level as the other kids rather than for having dyslexia and b) that exactly because he's bilingual and English is his third language, he needs to be evaluated for possible dyslexia. The psychologist's response was that it's best to avoid labels ("he is dyslexic") and that we (looking at me, though) should be careful about this concern becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. I decided to just do what I can on my part (by studying and finding resources for teachers) to help him and be as effective as I can but convincing the psychologist and my supervisor is probably pointless. I could insist to an annoying degree but it seems that the more I insist the more stubborn they become about it.


2 Answers 2


It's important to lay out the information to both your supervisor and psychologists that early diagnosis of dyslexia is way better then late diagnosis and some data to back it up: Michigan Medicine University of Michigan,Dyslexia center of Utah and a Hungarian study on NCBI The importance of early diagnosis and intervention in children diagnosed with reading disorder. Case studies.

I would also try convince them that he will be stigmatized only as long as he has problems with reading; an analogy with braces, kids with braces are usually singled out until their teeth straighten but after that they are no longer singled out while if a kid doesn't wear braces he will eventually get singled out as someone with crooked teeth and having to wear braces later in life gets progressively harder for self esteem.

No matter what happens it's important that the mother knows both sides of the story; Why you think he should be diagnosed earlier and why the psychologist thinks otherwise, and after that she should decide.

  • 4
    Perfect answer. I was taken aback when I read that they didn't want to act on a potentially serious problem today due to the "stigmatization" that may occur. Reading is a lifetime endeavor.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 4:53
  • 1
    Thank you very much for this answer. You're so right and I will use your example when I talk to them again. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 10:29
  • @BrentHackers The evaluation would take place at a government facility that specializes in evaluating and diagnosing learning disabilities and it's free but it takes a bit of time to get an appointment. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 13:41
  • @BrentHackers As reprehensible as that notion is, you're probably right.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:45
  • I have updated my question. Thank you all for helping. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:40

I'd like to give you my perspective; I was labeled, but never officially diagnosed, with dyslexia around the age of 6. I had extra English lessons and struggled with English in general throughout school and still to this day, although granted not at all severe.

If a child is in that grey-area of "dyslexic or not" and you're talking about something wrong with them, you use the word illness, and say they can't do something. You will seriously damage their confidence and ability.

I have no doubt diagnoses and treatment early on works for severe cases. But if it's not that serious the single best thing you can do is to be positive, to inspire and to motivate; because at the end of the day that's what most of dyslexia treatment is anyway.

  • Alright. Thanks for this point of view on the matter. The boy does lack phonemic/phonological awareness but I decided not to pressure this further and just do what I can to help him. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 20:40
  • @Tycho'sNose Yeah while I don't agree with the psychologist, what he has said isn't wrong either, people aren't always open to changing their mind and any attempts will just back up their own decisions more. Drop the subject, help the kid the best you can, and hope he drops his 'guard' and changes his own mind.
    – Greg
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 8:53

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