Assessing EAL/ESOL students for dyslexia can be like “a stab in the dark.” It is often not possible to make a secure judgement. As well as looking for a pattern of difficulties, it is important to consider a student’s background, culture, educational experiences (or lack of them) and the impact of second language interference upon their acquisition of English.
As well as using assessment materials from “Dyslexia and the Bilingual Learner” standardised and informal tests used to assess dyslexia in adults, the Aston Index and PhAB (Phonological Assessment Battery) can provide an indication of difficulties. They can be used to test basic visual and auditory recognition and sequencing skills. They are designed and standardised for use with children, so the scores cannot be standardised if used with adults.
The oral instructions for the Aston Index tests are minimal and the majority of the students, that I have assessed at entry 3 ESOL or above, appeared to understand the requirements of the tests. In test 5 the student is required to name the upper and lower case graphemes and identify their corresponding phoneme.
In test 8 the student is required to match together pairs of letters and words. If the student experiences problems matching the pairs it suggests difficulties with visual discrimination.
In tests 12 and 15 the student is asked to arrange a series of pictures and symbols respectively on cards to match an array presented by the assessor. The student is shown an array for 5 seconds and then asked to select the appropriate cards which match according to item order and left right orientation. If the student experiences problems matching the array this suggests difficulties with visual sequential memory.
In test 16 the student is asked to distinguish between similar sounds. The assessor avoids facing the student, so the student has to rely on sound cues, and reads 2 words at a time (bun and bun or dog and hog). The student is required to identify if the words are the same or different. If the student is unable to distinguish between sounds that are the same or different this suggests difficulties with auditory processing. I have found this test easier to use than the “PhAB” Alliteration and Rhyme tests. The concept of rhyming and alliteration can be difficult to explain (particularly with students who are at entry 3 ESOL).
The “PhAB” Alliteration test and Rhyme test can also provide an indication of auditory processing difficulties. In the alliteration test groups of 3 words are read to the student, who is asked to identify the pair of words beginning with the same sound.In the Rhyme test groups of 3 words are read to the student, who is asked to identify the pair of rhyming words. If it has been established that the student understands the requirements of these tests, then difficulties in either test can suggest auditory processing difficulties.
I have compiled a list of tests that I have found useful to assess dyslexia in EAL/ESOL adult students, working at entry 3 ESOL or above, and to apply for access arrangements (as where appropriate). It does not purport to be a comprehensive list of suitable tests for the assessment of EAL students.*see table below
|Background information and cognitive processing||Diagnostic interview form for bilingual learners or adapt standard interview form + additional tasks.Digit span, alphabet and monthsWrite alphabet in own languageIf possible use a translator||Spoonerisms ( depending on student’s level of English)|
|Visual processing||Aston index:
|Cerium Overlay Assessment|
|Auditory processing||Aston index:
|Attainments in Literacy|
|Letter names and sounds||Aston Index:
|Reading||Standardised tests for access arrangements||Additional tests|
||Miscue analysis, long regular words, irregular words and non words (depending on student’s level of English)|
||Miscue analysis and comprehension questions of extended passage reading (Dyslexia and the Bilingual Learner)|
||Extended passage reading (Dyslexia and the Bilingual Learner)|
||Spelling dictation (Dyslexia and the Bilingual Learner) and spelling error analysis|
||If literate in own language ask student to write alphabet in own language and a simple sentence|
If an EAL/ESOL student’s difficulties appear to be caused solely by language issues the only access arrangements they may have are “Bilingual translation dictionaries and up to a maximum of 25% extra time. Candidates who are permitted to use bilingual translation dictionaries may also be allowed up to a maximum of 25% extra examination time, depending on need, if they have been resident in the UK for less than two years at the time of the examination. In subjects where a dictionary is not permitted, no extra time is available” (Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration JCQ, 2010 to 2011, p.26).
Aston Index and PhAB suppliers’ list
- Aston Index can be purchased from “LDA” at https://www.ldalearning.com/product/cognition-and-learning/dyslexia-and-literacy/teaching-resources/aston-index/admt00362
- Phonological Assessment Battery can be purchased online at “GL assessment” at https://www.gl-assessment.co.uk/products/phonological-assessment-battery-phab/
NB: you should receive an email asking you to confirm whether you want to subscribe.