The diagnosis of Dyslexia is generally undertaken by an educational psychologist or a specialist teacher who has obtained additional qualifications in this area. However, diagnosis only has meaning if it leads to a different approach to the education of the child. Diagnosing Dyslexia and then doing nothing different in the classroom is as daft as diagnosing a broken leg, then failing to plaster it, leaving the person without a crutch and a lift home. What matters to the person with a broken leg will be the plastering of his leg, which prevents movement and pain, the crutch to help mobility and participation in society and the lift home because it’s an act of kindness and demonstrates consideration to his/her needs.
There is no divine law of the universe that says classroom practice can only be adjusted after advice from a psychologist who has diagnosed Dyslexia. If we saw someone struggling to walk, would we say they couldn’t be helped until they are diagnosed as having a broken leg by a doctor? Wouldn’t the sensible approach be, to deduce that they might have a broken leg? Then try some strategies like tying a stick to the bad leg to lessen movement and improvise a crutch.
For a child that is experiencing literacy difficulties, but they are good at lots of other things it would be useful to use the following checklist. By all means refer the child to an educational psychologist if they seem to fit lots of the indicators. What would be really useful would be to see what effect changes to the way the child is expected to engage with learning materials has. To experiment by adjusting approaches, finding what works and what doesn’t. Reflective teaching in essence, is what will really matter to the child. This is where the educational psychologist can be useful, they can ask perceptive questions and guide the process of learning about the child's learning.
- Dyslexia checklist
- Did you worrythat s/he spoke later than other children of his age?
- Is there a family history of literacy difficulties?
- Is the child good at things that have a strong visual element? But inexplicitly poor in other set tasks?
- Is there evidence of laterality confusion? Check this by: Asking which hand s/he writes with, which foot s/he takes penalties with, ask them to look through a cardboard tube, which eye do they hold it up to? Hand them your watch, which eye do they hold it up to? Does everything happen with the same side or are some things done left sided and others right sided?
- Can the child follow a number of instructions in sequence? For instance, “go to the living room and get my slippers, then bring them to me.”
- Is there evidence of reversals when writing?
- Does s/he have particular difficulty with literacy or one area of literacy, such as spelling or reading?
- Is the child noticeably inconsistent when reading, recognising words then being unable to read the same wordlater in the day/book/page ?
- Can the child spot when a word is spelt correctly when offered a range of spellings for the same word?
- Does the child spell the same word in different ways on the same page? If asked the difference between the various spellings can they identify them?
- If you observe the child when engaged in literacy tasks is there a noticeable difference between on task time than when they are engaged in other tasks, such as drawing, practical activities?
- Is the child able to talk out an answer or story but produces little when asked to write it?
- Do people describe the child as clumsy?
- Can the child add a rhyming or alliteration word to a sequence of rhyming or alliterating words?
- Is the child on a much easier reading book than most of his/her close friends?
- Is the child in a much lower spelling group than their close friends?
- If you observe the class during a note taking or copying activity is there a marked difference between the child and the rest of the class?
- Is there a noticeable difference in work output if the child is given help with planning their work?
- If the child is taught strategies to develop sequencing skills, does this have an effect on their work output and general happiness at school?
- Has the child begun to resist writing because they are bad at it?
- If you observe the child during a copying from the board activity, do they appear to be looking up at the board much more often that the children around them? Suggesting a weak short term visual memory.
- Has the child responded to a handwriting development programme?
- Have you noticed that the child has lost confidence over time in an educational setting.