I was asked the other day by friend ‘How do you test if someone has dyslexia?’. My first answer was to send them to an educational psychologist. After my friend explained they wanted to know what actually happened in the test I was forced to think hard. I’ve been tested for dyslexia at least three times but I could remember very little of what actually took place. So I struggled to give a straight answer. Now, having looked into it, I’m still not sure I can give a straight answer.
The first problem is that dyslexia has no formal definition. Unlike ADHD, there is no definition in the DSM-IV, the psychologist diagnostic bible. Amongst academics it is generally accept to mean a problem with reading and writing that has no obvious cause, e.g. bad eyesight. Outside academia, dyslexia is seen as a wider problem, involving poor short-term memory and motor skills (clumsiness).
When talking about dyslexia tests we must separate dyslexia screening tests from dyslexia diagnostic tests. A screening tests is designed to quick and easy to administer. Its purpose is to weed out people who aren’t dyslexic. Anyone the screening test identifies as a potentially dyslexic can then go on to full diagnostic test. This prevents time and money being wasted on full tests for people who are clearly not dyslexic. All dyslexia tests on the internet or automated tests like the Lucid Dyslexia Screening Test will only screen out people who are not dyslexic.
A full test to diagnose dyslexia requires an educational psychologist or similar to administer it. These are expensive, often several hundred pounds, though organisation such as the British Dyslexia Association can help with the cost.
Not surprisingly a reading test is an integral part of a dyslexia diagnosis. In the early days of dyslexia it was believed that reading difficulties were related to intelligence. So an IQ test would be administered followed by a reading test. If the individual’s reading level was significantly below that expect for their intelligence, then the person was dyslexic. Our current understanding is that intelligence has very little to do with reading ability. Educationally sub-normal people can learn the mechanic of reading just as well as people with normal levels of IQ.
Memory tests are often used in dyslexia diagnosis. This often takes the form of a Reverse Auditory Digit Span. In this the tester will read out between a string of digits, such as Four Six Two, and testee has to repeat the digits backwards, e.g. Two Six Four. An average adult should be able to cope with five or six digits before making mistakes where as a dyslexic might only manage two digits.
Spelling and handwriting will often be assessed by asking the participant to write a short essay. How much the student writes in the time allowed as well the level of spelling mistakes will be noted. Dyslexics are normally slower writers than children of the same age.
There is no single dyslexia test and details will vary between education psychologists, schools and countries. If you are parent thinking of having your child testing for dyslexia make sure you know what is being tested and you understand what the results mean. A good test will not tell you whether they are dyslexic or not but also what their current level of abilities are. This gives you a base line against that you can measure future progress against.
- Lucid Dyslexia Screening
- Dyslexia and Eye Tracking Problems
- Dyslexia And Gender
- The Dyslexia Myth: Nine Questions to Ask Your Child
- Dyslexia and Personality