Dyslexia Assessments

Dyslexia assessments can be a bit of a minefield for parents, due to conflicting information available. The post below aims to give a clear explanation of dyslexia assessments and whether one may be useful for your child.

Why might my child need a dyslexia assessment? 

Is your child experiencing problems with developing reading, spelling or writing skills? An assessment can be useful in order to pinpoint the exact difficulties that your child is having and recommendations can then be made for how to overcome these difficulties.

Often children with dyslexic difficulties will have average or above average intelligence but have problems with acquiring literacy skills and with processing and retaining information. This can lead to frustration, lack of confidence and motivation as well as hindering progress if it is not quickly tackled.

What does a dyslexia assessment consist of?

A dyslexia assessment is a full diagnostic assessment which typically takes around 2 – 2 and a half hours.

During the assessment the following areas will be analysed:

Word reading, Reading Comprehension, Spelling, Free writing, Handwriting, Phonological skills, Memory, Processing speed, Verbal and Visual intelligence.

Who can carry out dyslexia assessments?

Educational Psychologists and Specialist Assessors can carry out dyslexia assessments.

The benefits of having an assessment through ‘Surrey Dyslexia Support’ are:

  •  Your child will be assessed by a fully qualified specialist teacher and assessor for dyslexia who has up-to-date training.
  • As the assessor is a current practising teacher you can be assured that the recommendations will be practical, relevant and jargon-free.
  • A private specialist assessor is typically significantly cheaper than getting an assessment through an Educational Psychologist. (£250 compared to £400+)

When is the best age and time to have an assessment?

Dyslexia assessments are recommended for those aged 7 or older.

Assessments need to be no earlier than the beginning of Year 9 in order to count towards Exam Access Arrangements for GCSEs, such as extra time.

What happens after the assessment? 

The assessment will include a full report with recommended areas to develop and  strategies linked to these. If appropriate, a diagnosis of dyslexia will be given and free follow up phone calls can be arranged with the school to discuss the report and actions following it.

Please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca from Surrey Dyslexia Support at r.crocker@live.co.uk/07549 426232 for more info.


All you need to know about the Year 1 phonics screening check


What is the phonics screening check? 

With some exceptions, all pupils in Year 1 must take the phonics check in the week beginning the 13th June 2016. The check is designed to confirm whether pupils have learnt phonic decoding to the required standard. It will identify which pupils need additional help to support their decoding skills. The check consists of 40 words divided into two sections. Both sections have a mixture of real and pseudo (nonsense) words that a pupil reads aloud to a teacher.

Phonic decoding

In Year 1 children are taught to recognise sounds in words. They use this knowledge to break down words so that they can read them.  For example, the word ‘moon’ has three sounds and can be broken down into m-oo-n. This breaking down of words is called ‘decoding’.

Which sounds will be featured? 

The words in section 1 will have a variety of simple word structures. They will feature the following:

single letters (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, I, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q(u), r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z)
some consonant digraphs (where two consonants are together and make one sound)  (ch, ck, ff, ll, ng, sh, ss, th, zz)
frequent and consistent vowel digraphs (where two letters make one vowel sound)  (ar, ee, oi, oo,or)

The words in section 2 will have a variety of more complex word structures, including two syllable words, with some:

additional consonant digraphs (where two consonants are together and make one sound)  (ph, wh)
less frequent and consistent vowel digraphs, including split digraphs (a-e, ai, au, aw, ay, ea, e-e, er, ew, i-e, ie, ir, oa, o-e, ou, ow, oy, ue, u-e, ur)
trigraphs  (3 letters make one sound) (air, igh).

Why are pseudo (nonsense) words included? 

Pseudo words are useful in the assessment because they show whether a child is able to break down an unknown word in order to read it. When they are reading independently in a real life context they will come across words that they don’t immediately recognise. Therefore, is important that they have the skills to break down words in order to read them and the phonics screening score will show whether they currently have those skills.

What is the pass mark?

In 2015 the pass mark was 32/40. It has not yet been published what the pass mark for the 2016 test paper is. If your child does not reach the required mark they will be given extra support at school to improve their decoding skills and will retake the test in Year two. Parents will be informed of their child’s result.

How can I support my child? 

Sample materials are available on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phonics-screening-check-sample-materials-and-training-video

Free phonic games are available on http://www.phonicsplay.co.uk.  Click on ‘Phase 5’

An Oxford Reading Tree phonics kit is available currently on amazon  which is good for preparation – search ‘My phonics kit’.

Book a 1:1 lesson with Rebecca at Surrey Dyslexia Support (see below)

Phonic booster sessions

During May half term and weekends in May/beginning June,  Rebecca (owner of Surrey Dyslexia Support and an experienced infant teacher) is offering 1:1 phonic booster sessions for Year 1 students. The sessions are 45 minutes long and involve

  1. A thorough phonics assessment where you be informed of exactly which sounds your child does and does not know.
  2. Phonic games played in the session to help your child to learn the key skills in a fun way.
  3. A pack of resources for you to keep and to enable you to reinforce learning at home.

Just one session can be booked or multiple sessions. Each session is £30. Please email Rebecca on r.crocker@live.co.uk for more details or to book.




How to make phonics successful for children with dyslexia

letters 2

What is phonics?

Synthetic phonics is now a key element in the new (statutory) primary national curriculum for state primary schools in England. Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and spell. Children are taught how to recognise sounds in words and blend them together to read. They are also taught how to segment (split) words into their sounds in order to spell them.

There are 44 sounds in the English language but only 26 letters to represent these sounds. This means that some sounds are represented by two or more letters e.g. /sh/ in ‘shop’.  As there are 176 spellings for the 44 sounds the English spelling system is complex and, therefore, a structured programme is necessary to develop reading and spelling accuracy (Sound Reading System).

Dyslexia and phonics

All children, dyslexic or not, need to understand the connection between the sounds in language and what letters are used to represent them. Children with dyslexia typically struggle with reading and spelling as they find it difficult to hear, recall and isolate sounds in words. This means they are likely to need additional support to master the skills of blending and segmenting.

As often the auditory (hearing) channel is weaker in dyslexics, it is important that they are taught phonics in a multi-sensory way. This means, using visual and tactile resources to support the auditory channel. It makes sense that the more senses which are engaged in learning, the more likely the material is to be retained. Children with dyslexia can have memory difficulties. When introducing a new sound, using visual images, a meaningful phrase which includes the focus sound and an action can help the sound to be retained in memory. I often get children to make their own sound cards with a picture that is meaningful for them. For instance, if they have a cat called ‘Theo’, their sound card for ‘th’ might have a picture of their cat to trigger their memory.

Making phonics meaningful

I regularly meet children who are very good at recognising their sounds when presented on flashcards, but struggle to recognise and remember these when attempting to read and spell. This is because the sounds are not yet meaningful to them so they cannot apply them in other contexts.

When children learn a new sound it is important that they hear it in real example words such as /f/ ‘flower’ and /f/ ‘fan’. Make familiar references as much as possible, e.g /f/ that’s like in your mum’s name. /f/ /Fiona/. They need to then experience reading and spelling words with that sound straight away so that it becomes meaningful.

A structured approach

As there is so many sound-spelling combinations to remember it is important that a structured approach is used to ensure coverage of all the main combinations. As children with dyslexia can have difficulty with retaining new knowledge, it is important that there are opportunities for regular ‘overlearning’, whereby students get to engage with words using previously learnt sounds.To summarise, it is not true that dyslexics can’t learn through a phonetic approach. All children need to learn the links between the sounds in words and how they are represented. However, for the sounds to be retained, a structured multisensory approach is necessary, with lots of opportunities for ‘overlearning’.