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Dyslexia: Picking the right assessment.

Dyslexia: Ensuring you pick the right Assessment for your child.

It is not uncommon for parents to tell me that their child already has a
diagnosis of dyslexia because school have carried out a screen that tells
them their child is at risk of dyslexia. I then have to carefully inform the
parent that they don’t have a diagnosis but a test has been carried out to
see whether their child is at risk or not. It is also not uncommon for me to
hear from parents that schools have carried out a screen of their child
which indicates them NOT to be at risk, but the parent still remains
concerned and knows deep in their heart that Dyslexia or some kind of
learning difference is there, but they have nowhere left to go because
school has carried out its only test and therefore school must be right.

In desperation or in an attempt to support their child and ensure they are
doing their best getting the right intervention, many parents will be
prepared to pay for a private assessment. Not being able to assess him
myself, as a parent I did exactly that for my own child. It was implied by
school on more than one occasion that I had a boy who was a May baby, and
that perhaps he just wasn’t academic. I knew though in my heart of hearts
that there was more to him than this. He was so verbally articulate and
sparkly, he was able to talk in detail about the things he had seen done and
heard… put a pen in his hand and he just couldn’t function and what he
would be able to tell you would look messy, unorganised and was not a
reflection of his understanding and ability. I sought an independent
assessor and I was lucky because I knew what I was looking for in an
assessor, I knew what qualifications they needed and I knew the money I paid
for the assessment would give me the information I needed to start to move
my child’s learning forward.

I thought it might be helpful to support parents by clarifying the
difference between a screen and an assessment, as well as give you a few key
questions to ask private assessors should you feel you need to seek one to
ensure that you get exactly what you need and to ensure that you feel
confident in making the right assessment choice. It really does depend what
you want from an assessment as to how much you should spend. Some people
simply want the diagnosis and feel that this is very important, other people
wish to seek an assessment to better understand how their child learns to
ensure that they are able to maximise progress and fulfil potential.

Screens

Screens often are not standardised and look at surface stuff. They do not go
into depth. They are not diagnostic tools. They can be carried out by
anyone, no specialist qualification is needed. They should be used as the
first tier of the Graduated response in school. They absolutely have their
placed and used appropriately can be a great tool to inform intervention and
kick start progress.

Common Screens schools use are DST and the Dyslexia Portfolio.

Key points

What screens do: assist us in seeing which areas require support and help us
in knowing which interventions may support a learner make progress.

Who can administer a screen: Anyone can carry out a screen, no specialist
qualification is required.

What screens can’t do: Provide a diagnosis of an SpLD

Full Diagnostic Assessment and report.

Use standardised tests that explore the whole picture of a young person,
looking at ability, attainment and reasons for rate of progress or areas of
difficulty. This is not one assessment but a range of assessments designed
to explore several areas and enable judgments to be made on strengths and
weaknesses.

Reports written from Full Diagnostic assessments can make clinical
judgements about a young person’s learning ability and style and provide
diagnosis if necessary. They have to be carried out by a qualified assessor
or Educational Psychologist. The reports provide specific and useful details
bespoke to your individual child which can be used to understand how and why
they learn the way they do and ensure this is used to maximise progress.
Weaknesses will be uncovered through this style of assessment and an
assessor will know whether there are external factors which are impacting on
performance looking beyond the test data and holistically at the child using
observation and discussion with school and or parents also.

Conclusions and recommendations gained from these reports can be used to
support a request for an EHCP if necessary, but importantly the
recommendations will be reflective of your individual child’s needs taking
their whole learning profile into account. It could be described a as a
roadmap that explains exactly how your child needs to negotiate their way
through education to ensure they can make the most progress possible and
ensure they fulfil potential.

Types of assessment assessors use. WRIT, WRAT, CTOPP, GORT, TOWRE, WISC,
DASH, Symbol Digit Modalities

ASSESSORS:

Have to hold a level 5 qualification

This means that have completed a Post Graduate certificate or diploma in
SpLD (a one year course) which has given them Specialist teacher status.
Once a level 5 qualification has been awarded no further CPD (Career
Professional Development) is required for the specialist teacher to keep
practising.

Assessors with a Level 7 have completed a diploma and continued for a second
year of study. They can apply for AMBDA (Associate Member of the BDA) They
can also carry out Student Disability Assessments for pupils going to
university that may require additional support, funding or equipment. (Check
out http://www.sasc.co.uk <http://www.sasc.co.uk&gt; for more details.) There is a
list of recognised and registered assessors on this website.

They can also sign off the Form 8, which is required for Exam Access
Arrangements.
http://www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/access-arrangements-and-special-considera
tion/regulations-and-guidance/criteria-for-a-specialist-assessor

Once gaining a level 7 qualification assessors can choose to gain a
practising certificate and become a member of AMBDA (Associate member of the
British Dyslexia Association) or a similar body.

When commissioning an assessment it is best to find an assessor who is
registered to a professional body such as the BDA, Dyslexia Guild (Dyslexia
Action) or PATOSS, (The Professional Association of Teachers of Students with
Specific Learning Difficulties. This way you know that they must comply with
professional guidelines and attend regular CPD and have access to support if
needed.

Why do assessments seem so expensive?

It can seem like assessors are making lots of money out of your child’s
difficulties, after all they may only spend a few hours with your child and
produce a report within a few weeks. This may seem very little for the
amount you have paid, but there are many hidden costs in an assessment that
cannot be seen.

Once the assessments are carried out an assessor will spend time looking
back through manuals to ensure that the results are interpreted accurately
and the correct conclusions are drawn. Good quality reports with useful and
current recommendations that are able to have a positive impact on a young
person’s progress will take assessors a day, maybe more to write. Much
thinking is done as part of this process. No one learner is the same and
time will be spent ensuring the report reflects and encompasses the
idiosyncrasies, needs and strengths of a young person.

Sometimes assessors work for institutes as well as privately and therefore
may be able to offer assessments at a discounted rate because they have
access to assessment materials and resources. Private independent assessors
have to purchase assessments themselves and these are hugely expensive, up
to £450 for some assessment tools. Because research constantly moves forward
assessments get regularly updated so new copies have to be purchased.

CPD is also very expensive and once again if assessors work for an
institution they may get this included as part of their role, however
independent and private assessors have to fund this themselves to ensure
they remain up-to-date and in touch with the latest thinking, methods and
approaches.

A full diagnostic assessment will be cost anything between £250 and £500
depending on the area you live, the qualifications of an assessor and
whether they work for an institute or independently.

It may also be beneficial to seek an assessor who has experience of working
in or with schools. Schools and classrooms are busy places and with the best
will and intentions teachers are in challenging positions to meet lots of
pupils needs. Assessors who have school experience will know these demands
and will be able to ensure recommendations are reflective of this and can be
managed within school budget and restrains, as well as ensure that the young
person gets everything they need to function in a classroom environment.

Questions to ask you assessor,

When or what was the last CPD course you attended?

How will the report support my child in moving forward?

Can you ensure the report will give a diagnosis if appropriate?

Can I see your practising certificate or Level5/7 certificate?

What professional body do you belong to?

Do you have a sample report I can look at?

Do you have any feedback, testimonials or parents I can talk to about your
report to see what impact they have had for other young people?

All of these questions are perfectly reasonable questions any assessor will
not mind answering and should reassure you as a parent that you are making
an informed decision and are spending your money correctly, gaining what you
need from the assessment and report to ensure that it supports your young
person in the right way.

Remember the most important thing is to have a clear purpose for you reasons
for assessment, this will assist assessors in ensuring they provide the
right service for you and your child. More and more parents are seeking
independent assessments for their children to ensure that they maximise
their potential and make progress in line with their ability. It is not that
schools are reluctant to get diagnosis, it is that schools genuinely don’t
always need the young person to have a diagnosis to meet their needs.

If you do feel your child needs a full assessment and report then I hope
this post assists you in making an informed decision and enables you to
seek the kind of assessor and assessment or screen you need for your young
person to make progress. Knowledge is power, and the more we know about HOW
a young person learns the better the odds are at them being able to reach
their potential and learning goals.

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