To get to a dyslexia diagnosis, I was assessed by a neuropsychologist and a speech pathologist. The neuropsychologist identified that I had a reading and writing disorder, and the speech pathologist gave me more details on the language issues I was facing, and provided strategies to address them. This was all really useful, but also really expensive – I paid out-of-pocket expenses for the assessments.
Getting the proper assessments for dyslexia or another learning difficulty in Australia needs to be done by specialists – speech pathologists, neuropsychologists, occupational therapists, educational psychologists, or other psychologists who specialise in this area. You can see these sorts of professionals through services such as community health centres, public hospitals, sometimes via your university or, with a referral from your GP, you can go private. There is likely to be a waiting period whether you go public or private. Whatever you decide, your first stop should be your GP.
Your GP will be able to help you work out what your next steps could be, they can tell you the options that are available in your area, and give you the referrals that you will need. Seeing people who are in private practice is not covered by Medicare and not completely covered by private health insurance.
An assessment for dyslexia should be from a multidisciplinary team. And, for a recognised clinical diagnosis your assessment needs to be from a neuropsychologist or educational psychologist. The following are suggestions depending on your age, your needs, and whether you’re investigating this for a child.
Paediatrician – If it’s a child being assessed, a paediatrician will assess their stage of development compared to other children who are the same age.
Neuropsychologist or an Educational psychologist – These professionals assess cognitive abilities such as working memory, short-term memory, maths skills, and some language skills.
Speech pathologist – A speech pathologist assesses a person’s understanding and expression of language including oral language, reading and writing. They can also be part of post-diagnosis therapy to improve the areas of difficulty that have been identified, and provide strategies to manage challenges in the classroom.
Occupational therapist – An occupational therapist assesses fine motor skills and coordination: how well you can hold a pen. This is a good area to check because some people with dyslexia will also have dyspraxia – that means poor motor skills – which can impact pen control and create difficulties with handwriting. An occupational therapist can also be part of therapy after diagnosis.
Clinical psychologist and counsellors – Sometimes, the frustration of dyslexia and learning difficulties can mean that there are also behavioural issues, and co-occurring mental health difficulties. If that’s the case, there needs to be some work to build self-confidence, boost resilience and develop coping strategies. This is where the psychologist and counsellors come in, they can help to assess what’s behind the difficulties and be part of therapy.
No matter what, your GP is the place to start. They can help you find out more about options in your area and, if it looks like it’s going to be a long wait to get an assessment, they can direct you towards resources that can help in the meantime. You shouldn’t just stop and wait before acting. It’s important to work actively on developing the sorts of skills you’ll need to accomplish, achieve and succeed in life.
Primary and secondary school
Your child’s teacher is a really important part of getting an assessment for your child, and helping any therapies to become part of daily life. Make an appointment with your child’s teacher; they see your child in the school environment every day, which makes them invaluable in identifying your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. Having talked to the teacher and gotten their thoughts, it’s time to see your GP and get a referral to a paediatrician who can recommend the most appropriate assessments for your child.
Your child’s school should also be able to provide access to an educational psychologist, speech pathologist and occupational therapist. There can still be a long waiting list, and there may be a cost. Alternatively, you can try the specialists that your GP recommends.
TAFE and university
If you would like to get an assessment and you are at TAFE or university, then you should start with your GP and tell them about your areas of concern. Your GP can tell you what specialists are available in your area and provide you with a referral. Those will most likely be to a neuropsychologist and a speech pathologist. Your university might also be able to help here. Some universities that have psychology or speech pathology departments may be able to provide you with a lower cost assessment.
In the workplace
If you would like to get an assessment in your adult years, then you should start with your GP and tell them about your areas of concern. Your GP can tell you what specialists are available in your area and provide you with a referral. That will most likely be to a neuropsychologist and a speech pathologist. Once you have an assessment, you could speak with your HR department to find out about what support they can offer you at work.
It can be stressful to think about talking to the HR department about your assessment. Think carefully about what is best for you in your particular circumstances, and talk to your GP or another health professional that you trust to get their advice too.
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Disability Support Services at your TAFE or University – for assisted technology, classroom and assessment accommodations
On-campus counsellors – confidential counselling service provided by TAFE and university
Employee Assistance Program – free and confidential counselling service provided by some employers
Your work Human Resources department should provide you with support and assistance.
There are different rebates available through Medicare for the assessments you need for a diagnosis. Talk to your GP to find out what the rules are.