Dyslexia Assessment Procedure

Dyslexia Assessment tools  

 A screening tool does not replace formal standardised testing but they can play a useful part in a full diagnostic assessment as additional evidence

  • Test materials must be the most recent edition available
  • Test materials must be appropriate for purpose. Does the test actually provide information on the skill being assessed?
  • It must be age appropriate and standardised


  • It must cover a broad range to establish a full profile of skills, strategies and abilities
  • Assessors must make reference to confidence bands
  • Assessment result records should be completed in full and include date of test and assessor’s name
  • Test scores must be viewed with skill and judgement in relation to each individual young person
  • The aim should be to provide reliable information to enable the assessor to make informed decisions and recommendations that meet the needs of the individual pupil being assessed
  • This must include a mix of quantitive, qualitive and observational assessments in order to achieve as full a picture of the young person as possible.


Main areas of investigation        


Background information

This is fundamental to accurate assessment and should include:-

  • Exploration of family history
  • Appropriate medical and developmental history
      • Speech and language difficulties
      • Developmental milestones
      • Vision and hearing
      • Family history of dyslexia
      • English as first language
  • Consideration of social, family and home circumstances which may impact on learning
  • Pupil interests, hobbies, aspirations and perceived strengths are all important
  • School reports and any earlier assessments should be investigated and considered. Check the PPR
  • Class/subject teacher input is important to understand how the pupil performs/copes in different subject areas.
  • Information from teacher questionnaire and staff “round robin” are essential parts of the whole picture
  • Elimination of other possible explanation for difficulties

Cognitive Abilities

These fall into the following categories:-

  • Short term and working memory assessment.  This is the ability to store and use information and the ability to hold and repeat information stored for a short time. It includes visual and verbal abilities. 


  • This is key to performance of a wide range of tasks and abilities.
  • (AWMA)
  • Verbal abilities(BPVS) 


  • This is the ability to explain the meaning of increasingly difficult words out of context and the ability to understand and use language that is heard or read.
  • Receptive language
  • Non-verbal abilitiesThis involves logical thinking and problem solving. Assessment of visual perception and the ability to understand what is seen and shows an aptitude for learning through experience


  • (A short test in DST)

Phonological awarenessThis is the ability to identify sounds in spoken language.


  • It is crucial for literacy development
  • (Phab)


  • Processing speed:-(Phab + DST rapid naming) (Copying, hand eye co-ordination, bead threading, visual short term memory in DST, AWMA and Dyscalculia Assessment ) 


  • This is the speed an individual can process visual information
  • Visual
  • This is the speed at which language can be retrieved and articulated. It will impact on rate of learning and time to complete tasks
  • Phonological  


    • Single word readingThis shows word knowledge and decoding skills without context clues and assesses sight words
    • (YARC +DST)
  • Non word readingThis is the ability to use phonemic decoding skills in reading


  • (Phab + DST)
  • Reading comprehensionThis is the ability to monitor meaning while reading and includes the ability to hold and recall information as it is being read
  • (Yarc)
  • Listening ComprehensionThe ability to understand and gain meaning without the demand of decoding
  • (With and without a reader)
  • SpellingThe ability to write or name the letters in a word accurately. Analysis of errors can provide insight as to how words are tackled and where the difficulty may lie by analysing whether sound or visual based strategies are used
  • (Vernon + Diagnostic dictation+ free writing piece and DST)
  • Free writingThe ability to organise thoughts and then write in a structured, planned way with knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling in context at an acceptable pace and legible handwriting
  • (Patoss timed writing piece)

It is important that the assessor observes first-hand how this is carried out

  • Note TakingThe ability to listen, remember and then record accurately. Also assesses spelling ability


  • (Diagnostic dictation)
  • NumeracyThe ability to work and understand with numbers with consideration of the skills expected for age


  • (Dyscalculia assessment / numeracy competency + Maths teachers’ comments)


Further Assessment Areas


  • Motor ControlThe ability to control coordinated movement. This includes fine motor skills and gross motor skills
  • (DST bead threading, balance. Pupil questionnaire and Learning style – kinaesthetic)


  • Visual StressRefers to reading difficulties, light sensitivity and headaches from exposure to disturbing visual patterns. It can be responsible for print distortion and rapid fatigue when reading. The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person. The symptoms can occur despite normal vision.
  • Observer should look out for
  • (Eye test, class observation, teacher comments)
  • Repeating lines
  • Using a finger to read
  • Losing the place
  • Repetitive eye blinking
  • Untidy written work that does not use lines effectively
  • Inability to copy accurately from board or books
  • Slow reading rate



  • Attention and concentration (class observation)– attention control- ability to inhibit a response- procrastination- organisation skills


  • – remembering the task
  • – day dreaming
  • – motivation
  • – impulsivity
  • A class observation should consider the following traits:-


If these appear to be substantial and pervasive the assessor should refer to a professional with expertise in this area


  • English as an Additional Language (EAL) 


  • Prior to any assessment consider the impact this may have on test results
  • Fluency in English
  • UK standardised tests may be inappropriate
  • Cultural, linguistic influences


However the following may be useful

  • Rapid naming test in in first language
  • Reading speed in first language and in English
  • Use of non-words in English
  • Timed writing piece in first language and in English
  • Note if pupil translates from English to first language for processing and then back into English before responding as this will result in additional load for the pupil


  • Preferred Learning StyleReflection on what made the learning in a particular subject easier to remember and understand


  • VAK + Howard Gardner- multiple intelligences)
In the light of the various criticisms levelled at misuse of Learning Styles, those who engage with the concept may query whether the various theories and models serve any purpose at all.  Although the following proposals will not escape criticism, they may provide a basis for future development of Learning Styles usage.

  • An understanding of Learning Styles theory may encourage teachers to utilise a broader range of teaching strategies – thus providing for all learners a more diverse learning experience – which will increase the potential for brain interconnectivity.


  • Use of Learning Styles questionnaires may increase students’ self awareness – and hence make a contribution to their effectiveness as learners through raising their levels of motivation and self esteem.


  • A basic level of understanding of Learning Styles by students could be part of an empowering process that encourages learners to take ownership of their own development.


  • Learners who have previously written themselves off as failures may be encouraged to make a fresh start if they believe that they can now exercise some control over their own learning.


Drawing Conclusions              

  • It is essential that the interpretation of scores from the many assessments is carried out by the assessor.
  • The pupil’s responses, as well as approaches and strategies within a test situation, all impact on the ability of the assessments to accurately measure precise skills effectively.
  • The scores themselves are only the “bones of the story” NOT the whole picture.
  • Test scores must be viewed with skill and judgement in relation to the individual case
  • The qualitive data should be added to the assessment results before drawing any conclusions.

“from this full picture we must finally REFLECT on underlying

theories of dyslexia to support our conclusion.”

  • Dyslexia or low underlying ability? – We must sift through all the evidence carefully and be certain that a specific learning difficulty is present before giving the diagnostic label of dyslexia.
  • A fairly even profile of scores across a set of results would suggest that the difficulties experienced are NOT specific. A low underlying ability profile :-Comprehension will be weakShort term memory may be good Working memory will be poor
  • Vocabulary and use of language will be poor
  • BUT
  • Writing skills will be weak
  • Visual reasoning will be weak


A diagnostic report has no value unless it includes recommendations that match individual needs as a result of the findings of the assessment.

It is important that this should include promotion of independence as a learner. There should be due consideration of the following:-

  • Strengths
  • Prior knowledge
  • Weaknesses
  • What is achievable
  • Past learning history
  • Current concerns and needs
  • Aims, interests and aspirations of the pupil
  • Context and situations requiring support
  • Future needs
  • Staff involved
  • What is reasonable and achievable?

This would include:-

  • Specialist teacher support
  • Classroom support
  • IT
  • Exam arrangements
  • Home strategies
  • Transitions – future considerations
  • Further referrals if appropriate/required

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