Information on assessments and assessors:
This is a brief – often computerised – overview of strengths and weaknesses, to try and discover whether a person might have a specific learning difficulty [SpLD]. Screenings are often the level of assessment carried out in schools, usually by non-specialists. They can be a very useful starting point, but are no more than that: they are not assessments.
2. Check sheets:
There is a wide range of check sheets, many freely available to download from specialist websites. These offer a very useful starting point in collecting evidence towards a range of Specific Learning Difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia/DCD, ADHD, dyscalculia, and visual sensitivity.
These are often a very good starting point when preparing for a full assessment, and can save time if a completed check sheet is taken to an assessment.
Reputable sources of high quality check sheets include:
Dyslexia Assessment and Consultancy: http://www.workingwithdyslexia.com/are-you-dyslexic/
There are 5 basic kinds of assessment:
- Literacy assessment [or numeracy where needed] – this is an assessment that investigates literacy skills with a view to analysing difficulties in reading and spelling/writing; and recommending support. This is another level of assessment also carried out in schools, by non-specialists or specialists.
This is the most appropriate type of assessment for the majority of primary aged pupils at Key Stage 1 and early Key Stage 2. Dyslexia cannot be definitely diagnosed before the age of at least 7, so it is best to focus on analysing literacy strengths and weaknesses for the purposes of immediate support and intervention: a full assessment can be sought later if necessary.
- Examination Access Arrangements, for GCSE or GCE – this is a specific type of assessment that does not involve assessing underlying ability, but assesses reading skills, writing skills (including spelling) and processing skills that may cause a slow speed of working for otherwise able students. From September 2013 it is compulsory for the assessor to complete what is termed a Form 8, so this is an essential question to ask an assessor before booking an assessment.
A full psychologist’s or specialist teacher’s report is NOT needed a Form 8 is. For this reason it is important to check that the assessor is fully informed and experienced in carrying out this specific form of assessment.
Such an assessment must be carried out no earlier than Year 9, and the school must be prepared to accept the Form 8. They have the power to refuse; so an independent assessment could be a waste of time and money if the school has not been approached first.
For further details contact JCQ: http://www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/access-arrangements-and-special-consideration
- Full diagnostic assessment – This is a detailed assessment taking at least 2 hours (usually more) that looks at underlying ability, literacy skills and processing skills: this is the only type of assessment that can diagnose dyslexia or other kinds of specific learning difficulties. For this reason it is the most expensive type of assessment, carried out either by an educational psychologist or by a specialist teacher assessor, preferably one with a current Assessment Practising Certificate [APC].
To ensure that a reputable assessor is being approached, it is strongly advised that assessors are only selected from reputable lists of assessors, and that the assessor’s qualifications are checked by the regulatory authority.
To find an appropriate psychologist contact:
(a) The British Psychological Society: http://www.bps.org.uk/psychology-public/find-psychologist/find-psychologist Or
(b) the Health and Care Professions Council: http://www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/professions/index.asp?id=14
To find an appropriate teacher assessor contact:
(b) The SpLD Assessment Standards Committee: http://www.sasc.org.uk/
Please note also that some learning difficulties can not be diagnosed by an educational psychologist or specialist teacher, but need a medical diagnosis, usually through onward referral by a GP. This is the case with suspected dyspraxia/DCD, ADHD, and Autistic Spectrum disorders.
For further information contact:
The Dyspraxia Foundation: http://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/
The National Autistic Society: http://www.autism.org.uk/working-with/health/information-for-general-practitioners/recognising-autism-spectrum-disorder.aspx
Visual sensitivity is assessed by specially qualified optometrists, who can be approached directly.
For further information contact:
The Institute of Optometry: http://www.ioo.org.uk/
The British Association of Behavioural Optometrists: http://www.babo.co.uk/
- Assessment for University Disabled Students’ Allowances [DSAs] – This is a specific kind of full diagnostic assessment, as above, that is carried out just before or during the time a student is studying at Higher Education level. A student with such a diagnostic assessment report is entitled to apply for DSAs that cover both equipment and tutoring to support the student throughout the HE course of study.
Only APC holding specialist teachers or educational psychologists can carry out such assessments, which are closely regulated by the DfE and Student Finance England [SfE]. For this reason, checking the qualifications and experience of the assessor is vital: assessment reports are rejected by SfE if the report fails to meet the set criteria.
For further information contact:
Student Finance England: https://www.gov.uk/contact-student-finance-england
A really useful free downloadable leaflet, updated each year is called ‘Bridging the gap - a guide to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) in higher education’, available from: http://www.slc.co.uk/media/561707/sfe_btgb_1314_d.pdf
- Workplace assessment – This type of assessment is tailored specifically for adults in the workplace. It usually consists of a two part process: the diagnostic assessment, as above; followed by an evaluation of the employee in the workplace, in order to recommend reasonable adjustments that can be made to assist the employee. Only specialist trained assessors can undertake the second stage, as they need to be fully familiar with employment and disability legislation, as well as being trained in negotiation skills.
One of the UK’s leading consultancies, based in London, is Dyslexia Assessment and Consultancy: http://www.workingwithdyslexia.com/support-for-employers/
The Ealing Dyslexia Association has a small number of local specialist assessors on its books: for details please contact one of the helplines.