What is Dyslexia and what can we do about it?

michelleHummPresenter: Michelle Humm, PhD.
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Dr. Humm helped parents, educators, and other clinicians learn to identify signs and symptoms of dyslexia, dispel commonly held myths about dyslexia, and discussed the research regarding the etiology/genetics, neuroanatomical underpinnings, neuropsychological profile, and common comorbidities of dyslexia. Dr. Humm discussed research supported interventions for individuals with dyslexia and common comorbidities as well as appropriate accommodations for the classroom. Finally, she discussed long term outcomes of individuals with dyslexia.


  1. M.Roman says:

    I have a 5 years old niece that write her name backwards. I want to know if this is one way of learning the process or any condition.

    • Michelle Humm says:

      In the normal developmental process of learning letters and writing, many children write letters or words backwards. It should be corrected each time she does it to ensure she does not practice the incorrect writing, and if it persists, it would be important to have a more comprehensive evaluation to determine the presence of other areas of weakness and then need for intervention.

  2. D. Minsky says:

    What are the testing tools used to diagnose dyslexia and a screening test for rapid naming?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      The CTOPP-2 is the best for phonological processing, although there are other batteries of tests that would evaluate for that, as well as WIAT-III, KTEA, WJ, and GORT for reading/academic achievement. Many batteries included a rapid naming test, including the CTOPP, the academic batteries mentioned above, the new WISC-V, the NEPSY-II, and the DAS-II, for example.

  3. NJCTS says:

    Am I understanding that a Speech-Language Pathologist can diagnose Developmental Dyslexia?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      If they have specific training in dyslexia, an SLP could diagnose according to the International Dyslexia Association, as long as they conduct the appropriate battery of tests (.e.g, phonological processing, language, academic achievement). More often, i see SLPs working as part of a broader team to evaluate for dyslexia (offering expertise in phonological processing and broader language). That is not to say that school districts will recognize a diagnosis of dyslexia coming only from an SLP, so it is important to ensure that parents know the rules in their particular district.

  4. NJCTS says:

    What would be the accurate Educational Classification (CST)…my experience with districts has been that they do not recognize symptomatlogy of Specific LD, because there was no discrepancy on psych and reading assessments. With a classification of Communication Impaired, can the dx of Dyslexia be used?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      My understanding of the NJ Dyslexia laws is that in school it would be classified as Specific Learning Disability, not dyslexia specifically, but the interventions should be specific to dyslexia. I don’t think schools typically classify kids with dyslexia under communication impaired, at least that I have seen.

    • Michelle Humm says:

      And with regard to requiring a discrepancy, a discrepancy between IQ and reading is no longer required to diagnose dyslexia. So it may be helpful to consult with statewide advocacy groups (Decoding Dyslexia of NJ) to insist the the district re-visit this issue for this child.

  5. NJCTS says:

    Explain what phoneme awareness is and how that is determined and developed if necessary.

    • Michelle Humm says:

      Phoneme awareness is a skill in which individuals can identify the smallest units of sound in a word (e.g., the word cat has three sounds, /c/ /a/ /t/, the word train has four sounds /t/ /r/ /long a/ /n/) and can manipulate those sounds (e.g., say farm without saying /f/, combine these sounds to make a word: /sh/ /e/ /l/, what is the third sound in the word split). For many children, they develop these skills fairly automatically, but for children with dyslexia, they need to be explicitly taught and using multisensory instructional techniques is particularly helpful.

  6. NJCTS says:

    During Q&A about a parent reading a page followed by student, you mentioned that there are books that are set up for that particular situation. Can you recommend any?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      The website “we both read” (www.webothread.com) is one source that offers these types of books.

  7. NJCTS says:

    My son’s struggles have negatively impacted my relationship with him, because we have to battle every night over homework and studying. What can do I about the impact of dyslexia on our family?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      Of course, ensuring that the homework is targeting appropriate skills (i.e., not well above a child’s reading level) is critically important. Additionally, accommodations in school may help with that, such as homework reduction. Often, enlisting the help of tutor to assist with homework completion can be very helpful to protect the parent-child relationship. Even asking for help from a different family member can help with that.

  8. NJCTS says:

    You talked about “compensating” for dyslexia. What is that and what does it look like?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      Individuals who have compensated for their dyslexia often have average range scores in untimed single word reading, nonsense word decoding, and/or even reading comprehension. However, when their reading fluency is evaluated, they are reading very slowly and not automatically, and often the characteristic errors are present. Perhaps in their written work they make many spelling errors on words they have not memorized, or struggle with organization in their writing. If you further evaluate their phonological processing, it is often weak. They may be struggling with other related classes, like foreign language, or they may spend much longer on their work than their peers. Those children may still have dyslexia and should be given interventions and accommodations to meet their needs and help them be successful.

  9. T.Paul says:

    What happens when a CST won’t “allow” testing or does not have the “tools” needed to test for dyslexia?

    • Michelle Humm says:

      If a CST representative says the don’t have the tools to test for dyslexia, but by law they are required to test if there are dyslexia risk factors present, then usually they will pay for an outside evaluation. We regularly do those types of evaluations at CNNH, and I’m sure there are other places in the community that your school district refers to for external evaluations.