(I wrote last week about our decision to evaluation for dyslexia and this week I just wanted to continue the discussion. In the end, it may look very much like a commercial for Lexercise. And I suppose in a way it is! But I’ve been asked how we went about having our daughter tested, and I wanted to share our good experience with others.)
A possible learning disability is scary no matter who you are or how you’ve chosen to educate your children, but I think it can be especially intimidating for a homeschooling parent. When you homeschool, nobody sends home a note or calls for a conference to discuss concerns about your child’s reading difficulties. There’s no one else to decide for you if a particular learning issue need special attention. If YOU, as the homeschooling mom or dad fail to recognize and respond to warning signs, there’s no one else to blame but yourself.
That can be pretty frightening.
But sometimes parents of children in public school can feel like they’re walking just as blindly. I’ve heard the stories of parents who suspected problems that school officials either didn’t see or didn’t choose to acknowledge. When a parent has concerns about their child’s learning, how to find answers and where can be very perplexing questions.
A persistent parent may get some kind of evaluation for their child through the public school system, though it’s not always an easy or uncomplicated process, nor does it always result in a definite diagnosis. I know personally a family who sought for answers through their local school system for years before finally seeking help at private testing centers at significant personal expense. For them, the public schools were little help.
Legally, homeschooled children have access to the same services provided to kids in the public schools, including, sometimes, dyslexia assessments. Since these services are FREE, conventional wisdom would argue it’s the obvious route to take when seeking help.
But most authorities in the area of special needs homeschooling will advise against seeking help through the public school system if at all possible. Most homeschoolers cherish direct involvement in their children’s education, but bringing the public school system into things can have a pretty dramatic effect on a parent’s control and their power in the decision making process. It’s also important to keep in mind that in some states when a child is determined by the school system to be “special needs”, they immediately come under a different set of rules in a legal sense. Suddenly that child’s education may be subject to certain regulations which could greatly impact the homeschool.
So what do you do, particularly when you feel like the FREE option is not the BEST option?
In our case, I began with an internet search for local dyslexia evaluation centers.
And I was stunned at the lack of options available to me! Perhaps cities like Indianapolis, Cincinnati, or Nashville, all within a 3-hour drive, could have offered me more choices, but the options locally were pretty slim. While there are numerous reading and learning centers that offer some basic testing and tutoring, there are very few that promise to provide an official diagnosis.
And those that do are incredibly expensive!
One center I researched would offer an initial evaluation for a price of $300. Only then would they tell me if my child was eligible for more in-depth dyslexia testing which would then cost an additional $600, including no therapy or tutoring of any kind. In fact, I could not find a center that would offer any kind of official dyslexia assessment for my 10 year old daughter for less than $600.
Let me interject here to say that while I’m not currently a member myself, (it’s one of those things I keep meaning to do,) the HSLDA is an amazing organization, and I’ve heard direct testimony from people who were able to get some financial assistance to help with the cost of testing for their struggling learner. For that reason alone membership in the HSLDA could be well worth it for some.
But it just so happened I stumbled across a blog post by Kris Bales at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. (Do you not LOVE the name of her blog? Why didn’t I come up with a name like that??) Her post wasn’t even about dyslexia, at least not exclusively, but it was there that I read for the first time about Lexercise.
And I couldn’t have been more excited to find such a thing existed!
For starters, Lexercise offers a free online dyslexia test. It’s awesome first of all because it’s free, but also because it can alleviate some fears for a mom or dad who worries their child might have a learning problem, but aren’t really sure. Or in a case like ours, it can help confirm a parent’s concerns by telling them a child probably needs further evaluation.
After the free dyslexia screening, Lexercise offers a full dyslexia evaluation with a reading specialist via webcam. While the evaluation is more expensive for an older child, ($595 for kids 15 and up,) testing for younger children is $295. While we were deciding when might be the best time to do it, Lexercise offered a special $50 off if we scheduled Doodle’s assessment within the week. We took advantage of the deal and so were able to have her evaluated for just $245!
Now I realize that isn’t pocket change. In our own home there have many times when $295 might as well have been $5000! But I also knew Lexercise was offering a service at less than half what it was going to cost us anywhere else. And, thankfully, God graciously provided the extra money we needed to see it done.
I’ll be honest in saying the whole idea of using a webcam petrified me in the beginning, being the technologically-challenged individual I am, but the folks at Lexercise were great to walk me through the setup process over the phone and we also did a sound and video check several days before to make sure everything was working on my end. It proved to be a much, much easier process than I could have imagined.
And doing the evaluation via a webcam makes so much sense. For one, it eliminates a lot of the overhead that accounts for much of the high cost of a more traditional testing center, but it also allows a child to be tested within the comfort and security of their own home. That was something that had worried me about visiting a learning/testing center. I wondered how much a strange new environment would affect my daughter’s nerves and her ability to respond to a specialist, who would also be a total stranger to her. But doing the assessment right at our kitchen table, where we do most of our schooling, was a perfect fit for Doodle.
Tori, the specialist who worked with my daughter, was wonderful with her throughout the evaluation, which lasted about an hour and a half or so, after which Doodle was given a bit of “homework” for me to submit later via email, so Tori could also analyze some of her writing. A few days later we received a detailed report including the test results and a diagnosis and my husband and I were able to discuss the report and ask questions in a follow-up video conference.
It was an incredibly good experience and though it was not without expense, my husband and I have felt it was well worth every dime. Though you should obviously research testing centers in your area if you suspect dyslexia, also consider giving Lexercise a try.