Identification of dyslexia involves tests of core language, memory, spelling and reading skills, along with tests of other possible areas of difficulty, such as processing speed.
You do not have to wait for a test before taking action. A child who is struggling with reading should have help with that, whether or not that is known to be part of a dyslexic problem.
In teaching, training or coaching, it is often easier to give the right kind of support if the difficulty has been properly assessed and understood. If the blocks or barriers that are getting in the way of progress can be identified, then focused support can be given to improve things or to find ways around those blocks.
An assessment can also be important to provide reassurance, or to help decide between different options available. If someone has had difficulties for a while, and maybe even learned to hide them well, it can be hard to know what the main problem is. An assessment is often useful in these circumstances.
A diagnostic assessment is the most comprehensive kind of assessment. It is called a diagnostic assessment because it aims to identify - or diagnose - what is at the root of the difficulties that are causing concern.
An assessment will usually use standardised tests to try to measure a person’s strengths and difficulties in three key areas:
1. Key literacy and numeracy skills such as spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic.
The information from the assessment will point out gaps in skills and knowledge, may identify ‘faulty’ strategies or processes that are causing problems, and help establish the degree of difficulty.
2. Key language, memory and processing skills that are known to be associated with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties.
These are sometimes called ‘diagnostic tests’ which are focused on identifying the most typical blocks or barriers to learning.
3. More general language and cognitive skills such as visual problem solving, vocabulary and verbal reasoning.
These tests are important for three reasons. Firstly they help to interpret the first two kinds of tests by providing a reference point: it can be important to know, for example, that there is a big difference between a person’s ability to explain things verbally and their ability to explain things in writing. Secondly, these may help to identify signs of other possible barriers to learning that are less commonly seen. Thirdly, they can identify important strengths that can be developed and which can often be used to help find ways round problems in other areas.
No. Tests in area 1 are a good place to start and may be sufficient to plan a programme of support; tests in area 2 will usually help to target support, especially if some general strategies have not worked. Tests in area 3 are needed when things are more complicated or if it is important to have a formal ‘diagnosis’. If you have an assessment with Dyslexia Action, our assessors will use the most relevant tests for you.