Answering all the top questions you may have about dyslexia tests for children. During the on-line "Dyslexia Mum" community meet-up, I was joined by Katie Burt, from Evolve Dyslexia Solutions. Below are her answers to questions about formal dyslexia assessments.
Katie is available for dyslexia assessment bookings for children. Contact her at Evolve Dyslexia Solutions with any enquiries.
I am a qualified specialist, dyslexia teacher and assessor. I'm also a qualified primary school teacher. So I've worked in schools as a teacher and a teaching assistant for approximately 14 years, and during that time I've worked with lots of children with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, PDA, and lots of other additional needs.
I've also got lots of personal experience with dyslexia. My own 3 children who have a combination of dyslexia, autism, and ADHD. And I'm also dyslexic and autistic myself, which I think is actually really important. Because I understand the children and I also understand from the parents point of view, how it feels when you're getting your child diagnosed with dyslexia.
The first thing to do is quite important, go and chat to your childs teacher. This could be during parents evening, or you might book a separate appointment or catch them after school. It's important to see what they've noticed and if they have noticed that your child is struggling. Maybe with spelling, writing or reading or that your child is a long way behind other children within the class.
The Dyslexia Association have got a particularly good checklist on their website that's split into preschool age, primary, secondary, and adults. It is a good list to look at and a good indication that an assessment may be necessary.
Is your child complaining at home, saying that they behind, and not doing as well as the children in their class. How does your children feel? Are they really upset about reading or writing, or spelling? Are they upset that they have spelling tests and they keep getting them wrong? Have a chat with your child about how they feel about classwork.
Lots of schools do tend to do dyslexic screening tests, or they tell parents to go and get a screening. They're often quite unreliable. I've seen many where they say that the child has a very low possibility of being dyslexic, and actually, that they are dyslexic.
There's a few reasons for this, one is that it's not done by a specialist teacher in class. Secondly there is a chance that some children just literally just keep clicking the button just to get through it quickly. Obviously they can also guess, so they could get higher grades than actually is their real attainment.
Once you've decided that an assessment is a good idea. Before the assessment you expect all assessors to send out a questionnaire for home and for school.
They should cover a few things:
This is very different for each assessor. I've got a classroom at the bottom of my garden, where I do all my assessing. It means I've got no distractions at all, no children, no animals coming in, other people do it differently. Some assessors will go into school and do it. Some will do it at the child's house. Since Covid, it's now the option of doing it online, and many assessments will be done online.
When I assess I have a visual timetable again. Different assessors may not do this, but I think it's quite important for the children to see how they're doing. We then put smiley faces on to show that they've completed a section.
I always offer breaks, generally 3 to 4 breaks. Some children choose not to have any, to work through and finish quicker. 15, 16 year old's have chosen to do that. Most of the time the breaks are really popular, it's a long time to sit down.
The breaks are a nice time to get to know the child. We sometimes play games, hungry hippos or connect 4. Some children enjoyed drawing. but the thing that's most popular is that I have lots of animals. I find that children normally enjoy feeding and stroking them.
This varies a lot for different assessments. I always say up to 2 weeks, generally it's quicker than that. But I say, 2 weeks. The longest I've heard is 6 weeks, it really depends on the assessor.
The report will contain a clear decision, saying whether your child is or is not dyslexic. It will explain the reasons why or why not. It will then go into detail about their ability. So their strengths and difficulties within visual ability and verbal ability. Memory is often a difficulty with dyslexia. So there's a section about memory, their working memory and short term memory. Then their attainment. So this covers reading, writing, spelling, possibly maths.
If your child's going to the transition to maybe a junior school or high school. It's important to look around different ones before and take the report with you and speak to the same code. Then you can get a good idea before signing up to a particular school, of what things that they are likely to do and how they will support your child.
It does depend slightly on where you live. There are limited budgets in schools and it's becoming less and less common that schools do the assessments. Sometimes they will get in a specialist teacher to do an assessment. But it's not actually a diagnostic assessment.
Sometimes people are lucky, and they do get the school to fund an assessment. Yet the wait can be quite long.
It is always worth asking your school if they will fund an assessment. If they do, check that it is a full diagnostic assessment. Yet generally more and more often it has to be done privately.
School budgets are worked out by the number of pupils, and they are given a set amount per pupil. Each local authority does it slightly differently. But there will be an SEN budget. Generally that's not based on the number of children with an SEN condition at the school.
Schools do have an amount of money to put towards assessments. The problem is generally there are a lot of children with needs. So the school ends up having to go to fund things for those most in need.
Children don't generally ask me why they are being assessed. If they did, I would say, you're seeing someone who is going to help your school teachers. So they know how to help you learn, to give you help with reading and spelling. It's quite a personal thing, and some parents will choose to tell their children others don't. That's why I never mentioned it in an assessment
There is nothing legal saying that the schools have to do everything on a dyslexia assessment report. Yet schools have to do everything, if a child has got any ECHP.
Learn more about ECHP Plans at the Dyslexia Association.
Adhd, alongside dyslexia is something like 40%. Autism, Dyspraxia is possibly about the same. I do see a couple of people with just Dyspraxia, but not many. ADHD seems to be the most common, then next followed by autism. Obviously there are many people who have just got dyslexia.
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