Dyslexia Assessment: How to Support Students with Screening and Diagnosis

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Helping a student to get a dyslexia assessment can set them on a path to achieving their full potential. And with the proper accessibility tools and support at hand, disability services can make a significant difference for dyslexic students at university. So, to help with navigating this area, in this post we’ll offer an overview of the dyslexia assessment process along with information on the tools that can help.

What is a Dyslexia Assessment and Why is it Needed?

Dyslexia is a language-based Specific Learning Difference. But a diagnosis does not reflect a student’s academic ability. Instead, it sets a student on a path of increasing their access to course materials and achieving their academic potential. 

As an initial stage in understanding whether a student has dyslexia, a screening can be helpful. For example, Birkbeck College offers free screenings to students who think they may have symptoms. And if the screening shows a positive result, they’ll get support for a dyslexia assessment. 

Along with gaining a formal diagnosis, a dyslexia assessment can reveal a student’s potential strengths and weaknesses with language processing. And this can help to assess their accessibility needs. Any assessment must be carried out by a British Dyslexia Association (BDA) approved and experienced specialist teacher or psychologist. And, by assessing competencies in reading, writing, spelling and performance, a student with confirmed dyslexia can work with their place of study to identify the support they need. Also, other reasons for a dyslexia assessment can include:

To Apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

Students with a dyslexia diagnosis can apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Through the DSA, they can receive funding for their accessibility support plan. And following their assessment, they may be eligible for a Caption.Ed Notes Bundle. And it’s these bundles that assessors can recommend through the DSA E-Quote Service.

To Make Reasonable Adjustments

A dyslexia assessment helps to identify the reasonable adjustments to make to let a student access their curriculum. This may include, for instance, the use of learning tools that promote reading and listening at the same time. And with its accurate captioning process, this is something Caption.Ed is perfect for.

To Apply for Exam Access Arrangements (EAAs)

EAA’s are the reasonable adjustments that universities need to make for a student during their exams. The types of adjustments made for exams may include extra time, creating an agreement to use assistive technology, or providing one-to-one tutoring where appropriate.

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Which Areas Does a Dyslexia Assessment Cover? 

Dyslexia is a language-based learning difficulty. So some of the key symptoms that can show up include problems with decoding, reading, and poor spelling. Some students may find it difficult to remember things or use verbal processing skills in the same way as others, for example. So, to assess the extent of their differences, a dyslexia assessment will review the following skills and abilities.

Phonics Skills

Phonics is the process of matching the sounds of letters and words to how they’re written. People with dyslexia very often have phonological difficulty and this can show up in various ways such as reversals. Aspects of phonics assessed include:

  • Phonological Awareness: A dyslexia assessment reviews a student’s awareness of the structure of word sounds. Tests may include NEPSY-II Phonological Processing and Sound Blending subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ III). Assessors may ask a student how they segment and blend words. 
  • Phonological or Language-Based Memory: A strong memory underpins all aspects of language ability. And many people with dyslexia can experience difficulties with working or short-term memory.  
  • Rapid Automatic Naming: Rapid Automatic Naming measures the speed at which a student can name objects, colours, or countries on a map, for example.  
  • Decoding: Decoding judges a student’s ability to decode or ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words. Examples of tests used include Word Attack subtests of WJ III and Test of Word Reading Efficiency-2 (TOWRE-2).
  • Receptive vocabulary: Assessments will also include testing levels of understanding of the meaning of words.

Comprehension and Reading Fluency

Reading comprehension is the ability to read, understand, and retain information or the meaning of words. Alongside this, reading fluency judges the accuracy and speed of reading where a student isn’t dependent on any conscious attention to the construction or pronunciation of words. Comprehension and fluency tests may include an assessment of sentence words and nonsense words.


Spelling tests measure a student’s ability to spell individual words from memory. Assessors will review their knowledge of letter-sound relationships or patterns of letters. And they’ll measure spelling across sentences and paragraphs too.

After the assessment, if a student gets a confirmed diagnosis of dyslexia they should meet with a disability adviser to discuss their needs. They can then apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) through their student funding body.

Include an Assessment for Caption.Ed in your Student’s Dyslexia Assessment

Getting a dyslexia diagnosis is a life-changing experience for a student. But, rather than looking at it as a problem, a diagnosis is an opportunity to better understand the support a student needs to succeed. Caption.Ed is one way to help and offers a perfect assistive technology tool for students with dyslexia. 

By tapping into two language processing brain functions of reading words and listening to how they sound, Caption.Ed boosts phonological awareness and working memory. This, in turn, helps to increase a student’s comprehension levels while helping them to gain better access to the curriculum. Plus, with its customised dictionary feature, students can look up any technical words and get immediate help to decode and understand the meaning of words. 

Caption.Ed is a dynamic tool available on desktop and and as a mobile app. And it works across all platforms including Blackboard, Panopto, MS Teams, and Zoom. Students who qualify for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) can get access to two exciting packages to meet their needs – the Notes Bundle and the Pro Bundle (depending on the outcome of their assessment). Note-taking is also a proven way to embed learning for dyslexic students while they refer to their notes using transcriptions. Contact our friendly customer support team to find out more.

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