Dyslexia is a range or continuum of difficulties and abilities with language learning, like reading, writing and spelling.
Dyslexia is usually suspected when your child is not responding to classroom teaching of essential reading and writing skills, and so you may be thinking of getting them evaluated for a ‘diagnosis.’
Actually, what needs to happen is the gathering of information from school and home to work out why your child is having difficulty and what can be done to help. Words that are often used in this process are:
A school doesn't need a formal diagnosis to put support in place for your child and shouldn't delay in providing appropriate support and/or interventions. However, an assessment can help to ensure that the appropriate interventions are put in place.
An assessment is important for 3 main reasons:
- Diagnosis - this is identifying the likely causes of the difficulty. It can rule out (or not) other possible causes, such as hearing or eyesight deficits.
- Teaching approaches - these are critical, as a diagnosis is not helpful on its own. Using the evaluation information, specific strategies and teaching methods can be targeted to ‘meet the child where they are’, so that progress can be made and confidence developed.
- Documentation - students with dyslexia may seek Special Assessment Conditions in later school years, such as reader, writer, assistive technology, extra time and separate accommodations. Evaluations are essential for any application for these.
What does an assessment cover?
This depends upon the assessment tool the assessor uses. In New Zealand, the most common tools are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale For Children 5th Edition (WISC-V) and the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities (WJ-IV).
These tests cover a range of skills used in effective language learning, such as:
- Oral language skills
- Word recognition
- Phonological processing
- Automaticity/fluency skills
- Reading comprehension
- Vocabulary knowledge
- Language and auditory skills
- Visual skills and spatial awareness
- Speed of processing
- Short and long term memory
- Reading, spelling and mathematics
- Attention, concentration and academic fluency
Who can assess, how much does it cost, and how long does it take?
In New Zealand, an official assessment can only be administered by an registered Educational Psychologist or C-Grade Assessor. These usually operate in private practice, and there can be a waiting list for their services. An assessment can cost between $600 and $1500, depending on the assessor. The assessment usually takes 4-5 hours, spread over 2 sessions.
Of course, early identification is preferred, before an aversion to reading sets in, as the less reading a child does, the more difficult they will find it...like anything we find hard! However, an assessment is difficult to administer to a child under the age of 6.
What does the assessment report look like?
An assessor will supply you a comprehensive written report, with all the information collected. These will include:
- background history
- education history
- skills assessed as standard scores, indicating relative strengths and challenges (often in the form of graphs and/or tables)
- an indication of your child’s profile across separate skills, like a Specific Learning Difficulty in reading or writing (this will not be written as an official diagnosis)
- suggestions of recommended intervention strategies and teaching approaches for school and home
These reports can be quite lengthy, often using technical terms. It is helpful to have the assessor explain the report to you in person.
You can supply the report to your child’s school teacher, SENCo or Learning Support Coordinator, (LSC) or any other external support personnel you are engaging.
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