Dyslexia diagnosis

ESPCF received feedback from parent carers asking for clarity about whether or not the local authority diagnoses dyslexia.

We fed this back and ISEND responded that it is moving away from using the term ‘diagnosis’ of dyslexia, instead using ‘identification’. We requested further information on the background and reason for this shift, and ISEND provided a statement, see below.

It is important that ESPCF represents parent carer voice on this issue.

  • Does it matter to you either way which word – ‘identification’ or ‘diagnosis’ of dyslexia – is used?
  • If yes/no, why?
  • Which would you rather have used in the report following an assessment?

And importantly, we’d love to hear your child or young person’s views so we can present that too.

Please get in touch and let us know: info@espcf.org.uk or call 0300 770 1367.

ISEND statement: Diagnosis vs identification of dyslexia

The new policy and guidance on Literacy and Dyslexia for East Sussex, which was developed in liaison with a wide range of stakeholders – head teachers, SENCOs, CLASS, Educational Psychology Service, ISEND engagement and participation staff, SEN standards & practice staff – uses the term ‘identification’ of dyslexia instead of ‘diagnosis’ of dyslexia. This does not mean that dyslexia won’t be ‘diagnosed’ and labelled as such in professional reports. But it helps to move away from a medical model towards an emphasis on response to intervention, which is central to our definition (see below) and in line with the key messages within the new DfE SEND and AP Improvement Plan.

Identification of a profile of strengths and needs recognises dyslexia as neurodiversity. Many dyslexic children and young people require assistive technology to enable them to access the curriculum in school independently and at the correct level for their ability. Dyslexic pupils in East Sussex told us that being dyslexic had enabled them to: find different ways or methods to approach learning; be creative and experimental; and develop good speaking and problem-solving skills. This fits well with the new Pan-Sussex approach in identifying neurodivergence as difference rather than disorder.

In East Sussex, we have a strong focus on profiling strengths and needs rather than ‘diagnosing’ a condition (a deficit model). It is believed that using the term ‘identify’ is likely to work better in helping to protect a child’s fragile self-esteem.

In East Sussex, we use the following definition for dyslexia:

“Dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the ‘word level’ and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides a basis for a staged process of assessment through teaching.”
(British Psychological Society: Division of Educational and Child Psychology, (1999)

The Rose Report 2009 helps to describe dyslexia in further detail:
• Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
• Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
• It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
• Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
• A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well -founded intervention.

A typical report identifying dyslexia might conclude:

In light of the evidence presented, it is my professional judgement that xxx meets the definition of dyslexia presented above and that it is therefore appropriate to formally identify him as being dyslexic.