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Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) provides help for higher education students who have to meet extra costs while studying because of their disability or ‘specific learning difficulty’. Many of the students who claim DSA funding have been identified as dyslexic. A significant number of these students appear to be assessed for dyslexia for the first time after they start their higher education studies. I am interested in why this occurs and therefore decided to undertake a small-scale piece of ‘action research.’
I felt it would be interesting to examine in more detail approximately how many students were identified for dyslexia after starting their Higher Education studies. From the DSA ‘needs assessments’ completed at one assessment centre, I selected all of those that were related to dyslexia in one academic year. I then selected a random 100 students and noted when they had first been assessed for dyslexia.
• 24 had been assessed at primary school
• 10 at secondary school (between age 11-16)
• 10 during their level 3 studies (A levels or BTEC courses) – of these 8 had changed their place of study at age 16.
• 52 were assessed for the first time at University during their undergraduate studies
• 4 were assessed after completing their undergraduate studies and had just started postgraduate courses or a PHD programme. Continue reading this article… »
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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 Continue reading this article… »
On the final day of this brilliant conference, I heard keynote speeches from Kate Cain and David Saldana,
The format of the conference allows for groups of speakers to present their research or ideas for 20 minutes, clustered into themes. I went to a session like this on learning and memory. Here are some of the insights:
1. Carol Leather (University of Surrey) has found that good organisational planning is a factor for those adults with dyslexia who rate themselves as successful. This confirms the usefulness of intervention she frequently uses in workplace support.
2. Elpis Pavlidou (University of Edinburgh) is interested in why dyslexic children don’t become fluent and automatic in their learning. She thinks it is something to do with them not being good at the implicit abstraction in some tasks. She makes a good case for ensuring that learning is more active and explicit. However, her research results are based on the rather artificial measure of differences in reaction time to the different stimuli she presented. I am always really wary of drawing real-life conclusions from this sort of research, though Elpis’s presentation was very engaging and a good example of active learning!
The highlights from today for me have been:
1. The intellectual challenge of trying to make sense of and interpret some really difficult presentations on research from genetics (Julie Williams and Bruce Pennington). I will need to read through my notes with a little more leisure to say any more… (and ask our webmaster who does a bit of genetics himself …to explain)
2. Laura Shapiro from Aston University making a lot of sense about the changes in cognitive risk factors for reading difficulties as a child develops. While waiting to speaak to Laura afterwards I was privileged to listen in on a discussion between her and Kate Cain about links between their research. I am looking forward to hearing Kate talk about reading comprehension tomorrow. Continue reading this article… »
I am at the 8th International Conference of the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) this week in Harrogate.
I gave a short talk on my reading research. You can download the powerpoint if you click here, though it doesn’t do justice to some of my off the cuff remarks! Sue Partridge BDA conference
A few random thoughts…
1. Why is the majority of the research on dyslexia I have heard presented so far based on a a narrow definition of dyslexia as phonological processing difficulties and reading deficits; related to children or higher achieving university students; and based on large sample quantitative findings…? Do they miss something on individual differences?
2. Do researchers pay too much attention to statisitical significance in reporting their findings and not enough on validity and test error in the assessments they use?
More tomorrow from Day 2 of the conference.One Comment »
This article was written in 2011, when e readers were relatively new. Now look how they impact on our reading habits!
Who will be the first to produce an e book reader with the facility to colour tint the screen? For them, potentially, the market of:
- 10% of the population as a whole
- 60% of people who are dyslexic
…… who find reading black text on a white background difficult.
There are a growing number of e book readers on the market. There are numerous models ranging in price from under £100 to over £200. The most popular are the Amazon Kindle and the Sony available from Waterstones [no longer available]
Manufacturers are keen to develop an e book which is slim, small and has sharp contrast between the black text and white background. As yet no one has produced an e book reader where the reader can change the colour of the background colour, to improve text stability and readability and reduce visual stress. Disappointingly, the author of this article did not even receive an acknowledgement from Sony when she e mailed them research data about visual stress, caused by reading black text on a white background.
However there is some good news.
- The Kindle 3 and Sony both have a facility for reducing the contrast between the text and the background, which may reduce visual stress for some people.
And, arguably, more important ……
- The Kindle 3 has a text to speech facility and a headphone jack. This, together with the built in dictionary, could make it a useful addition to the range of assistive technology available for people who are dyslexic.
With access to articles on the internet, together with drop down menus and images, Kindle 3 may be a valuable research tool for students. It also offers a change of format to single column, again retaining pictures, which can also be used in a portrait or landscape format. A stylus can be used to aid tracking and there is also a virtual ruler to assist.
The Sony e book reader is pleasing to the eye, light and slim and has a number of useful study aids like highlighting, annotating, note taking, drawing and eraser facilities, but without the addition of text to speech, it may fail to grab the attention of students and readers who are dyslexic. Possibly a market missed, Sony! Figures vary, but it is generally accepted that at least 10% of the population are dyslexic.
We, at Dyslexia Positive, would welcome information from people who are dyslexic about their experience of using e book readers.One Comment »
Mind’s Eye Spelling
Mind’s Eye spelling is a visual spelling strategy. I first used Mind’s Eye Spelling with a mature dyslexic learner with auditory processing difficulties. For years he had tried to spell words, unsuccessfully, by sounding them out. Using Mind’s Eye Spelling he was able to learn how to spell specific words and more importantly could remember how to spell the words.
Write the word the learner wants to spell.
Ask the learner to split the word into chunks. Do not worry about syllables.
dyslexia dy sle xia
With the learner looking at the word, get the learner to say the whole word and then say the letters in each chunk. Ask the learner to do this several times, getting them to say the chunks in different orders, for example:
- say the letters in the last chunk (x,i,a)
- say the letters in the first chunk (d,y)
- say the letters in the middle chunk (s,l,e)
With the learner still looking at the word ask the learner questions about the letters in the different chunks, for example:
- What is the first letter of the middle chunk?
- What is the last letter of the first chunk?
- What letter comes after x?
Ask the learner if they can see the word in their head. If they can’t, continue with steps 3 and 4 until they can. When they can, ask them to close their eyes and visualise the word. Ask them to say the letters in the different chunks and ask them the same type of questions in step 4.
With their eyes still closed ask the learner to spell the word out loud. If they get it correct, ask them to spell the word backwards. When the learner can do this ask them to open their eyes and write the word down.
- It is important to allow the learner time to absorb each chunk.
- Provide prompts where necessary.
- Do not try and get the learner to learn too many words at once. For some learners one word per week may be enough.
A diagnosis of dyslexia is significant, for all concerned. As specialist assessors, we already know that full diagnosis is compromised, if the functionality of vision is impaired. However it seems to me that lots of us have never been given the opportunity to understand in more detail. Only through better understanding can we really inform and improve our practice, and articulate these issues to learners and often cynical bystanders. Even the medical profession are often unaware of the implications of visual interference, with regard to reading efficiency, whether or not any individual is dyslexic.
I recently visited Aston University’s Vision Sciences Department, during a learner and vision clinic. They specialise in finding and treating eye problems associated with specific learning difficulties and headaches. As a not-for –profit operation, they offer an excellent referral point, throughout the academic year. Most of us, as part of assessment, look for the symptoms of visual stress and experiment with overlays, to diagnose. Aston Vision Sciences would generally suggest a 3 tiered approach, which I would advocate we translate into our own practice; Continue reading this article… »
|Differences between subtest scores for 13 to 18 years old|
|Diamonds and Matrices||15 – 18||19 or above|
|Vocabulary and Verbal analogies||17 – 22||23 or above|
|Differences between subtests for 19 years and older|
|Diamonds and Matrices||12 -15||16 or above|
|Vocabulary and Verbal analogies||14 -18||19 or above|
Adapted from table 6.6 from the WRIT Manual (Glutting, Adams and Sheslow, 2000, p.76)
To calculate a learner’s visual and verbal aptitude it is necessary to add the standard scores of the 2 subtests within each domain. For example to calculate a learner’s visual aptitude score you must add the standard scores for the matrices and diamond subtests together.
However some learners may score significantly better on one subtest than another within a domain. This poses the question to assessors “Is it safe to combine the learner’s subtest scores to generate a domain score?”
On page 76 of the WRIT manual relevant differences between subtest scores for statistical significance are provided. The differences are listed at 2 levels of statistical significance; p<.05 and p<.01. “P” is an estimate of the probability that the result has occurred by accident. Therefore the smaller the value of “P”, the greater the statistical significance. Differences at the .01 level would normally be considered significant by statisticians.
“Caution may need to be employed in interpreting domain standard scores when significant differences are found between subtest standard scores ” (WRIT Manual page 50). However they do not clarify whether it is safe to combine the scores at either the .05 or the .01 level to generate a domain score. Hence it appears to be left to the assessor’s discretion to decide whether to combine statistically significant subtest scores and to comment on the statistically interesting difference.7 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »
In many FE colleges Functional Skills have now replaced Key Skills and Basic Skills. The access arrangements for Functional Skills appear to have taken a step further in removing the disadvantages faced by dyslexic candidates sitting formal examinations in FE. As well as extra time, dyslexic candidates (subject to need and normal way of working) are allowed to make full use of assistive technology and a word processor with the spell check facility turned on.
The access arrangements enable dyslexic candidates to demonstrate they can:
- Independently communicate in a purposeful context using written text without actually having to physically write by hand.
- Independently decode and understand written language without having to sight read.
In Functional Skills English, the writing component allows the use of voice recognition technology or a word processor with the spell check turned on. The reading component allows the use of a computer /screen reader. The Basic Skills Adult Literacy test does not allow the use of assistive technology.
The access arrangements for Functional Skills Mathematics are primarily the same as the access arrangements for Basic Skills Adult Numeracy. Dyslexic candidates are allowed the use of a human reader and scribe.
However, the format of certain elements of Functional Skills tests are less favourable to the needs of dyslexic candidates. The online version of the reading component places a greater demand on working memory than the paper based version. With the paper based test, a computer/screen reader cannot be used. A dyslexic candidate may use a reading pen for the paper based version, but reading pens tend to more appropriate for the reading of individual words rather than complete documents.
The Functional Skills Mathematics tests are wordy and, unlike the Basic Skills Adult Numeracy tests, often require a candidate to show/ or explain a process. It is not sufficient just to find the solution. Many dyslexics can find the solution to a problem more efficiently than non dyslexics, but experience difficulties in demonstrating/ or explaining how they arrived at the solution.
To conclude, the access arrangements for Functional Skills are more practical and allow dyslexic candidates to demonstrate their skills. Unfortunately the format and requirements of certain elements of the tests are likely to create more barriers for dyslexic candidates.
N.B All access arrangements are subject to evidence of need and must reflect a candidate’s needs and normal way of working.
For full guidance on access arrangements for functional skills please refer to pages 46 to 51 of the “Access Arrangements, Reasonable adjustments and Special Consideration General and Vocational qualifications, JCQ (2010/2011) or use the following link:
4 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »