Reading Disability Checklist for Parents

Boy reading book at desk
Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images

It is important for parents to advocate for their children, especially when it comes to getting services for their children. The IDEA requires that districts respond to parents' requests to evaluate their children.

The most commonly diagnosed problem for children who receive services is "Specific Learning Disabilities," which are problems due to reading and/or math difficulties. These can include difficulty with decoding text and difficulty with processing language. A reading specialist can often identify a child's weaknesses because of their extensive experience with young and emerging readers.

Often, however, parents don't have a good idea of what to look for to be sure their child gets the support they need.  Sometimes, when a child is compliant and cooperative, teachers will simply pass them on to the next grade. Having a sense of where your child is in terms of reading skills will help.

Determine whether your child has weaknesses or strengths in reading. If you answer yes to more weaknesses, chances are your child has a reading disorder/disability.


  • Grade appropriate word recognition. A good resource to judge this is to use a recognized sight word inventory, like the Dolch Sight Word Lists.  
  • Good visual tracking when reading -  your child doesn't lose his/her place as they read a text. 
  • Compentence with silent reading. The child can answer recall comprehension questions when asked to read a passage. 
  • Enjoys reading
  • Reads fluently with inflection that reflects typical speech or story telling. 
  • Reading rate seems appropriate for the child's age.
  • Reads accurately - reads a large (96% or higher) percent of words correctly. 
  • Good scanning or skimming skills
  • Able to re-tell what was just read and predicts what may happen.


  • Confuses words (and, an) and letters (b for d, p for q.)
  • Often loses place when reading, requires finger tracking
  • Difficulty when silent reading, vocalizing or subvocalizing the words. 
  • Doesn't enjoy reading
  • Reluctant Reader
  • Reading is slow and lacks a natural cadence or inflection.
  • Lots of word substitutions, omissions and invented words
  • Has difficulty skimming or scanning for pertinent information
  • Cannot re-tell parts of the story, prediction skills are weak.


Once you have evaluated your child's reading skills using the strengths or weakness checklists, see if you have more strengths or more weaknesses.  If it is clear that your child struggles with a number of the skills (word recognition, eye tracking, silent reading, comprehension, etc.) you will want to consult with your child's teacher. Some questions might include:

  1. Is Johnny significantly behind his peers in acquiring reading skills?
  2. Is Johnny choosing age and grade appropriate books? 
  3. Is there some support you ca provide to Johnny to support his success? 
  4. Does Johnny have difficulty maintaining focus in the classroom (in other words, it may be an attention and not a reading problem.)

Act! Write a letter to your principal or the special education authority in your district, name your concerns and ask to have your child evaluated. That will start the evaluation process.