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‘The first stage of the assessment process is to identify those children who are not making satisfactory progress and who present dyslexic-type difficulties.’
(Phillips, Kelly & Symes,2013)
The importance of the identification of special educational needs has become a major part of legislation in the last few years with the draft Code of Practice stating that, ‘The identification of SEN should be built into the overall approach to monitoring the progress and development of all pupils,’ (DfES,2013) and the most recent Children and Families Act requiring local authorities to, ‘exercise its functions with a view to securing that it identifies...all the children and young people in its area who have or may have special educational needs, and...a disability,’(2014).
However, the identification of special educational needs also remains a contentious one, with the rise in the number of children identified as having SEN increasing from 13% in 2003 to 19% in 2010 (OFSTED, 2010) indicating possible overidentification or possible misidentification in this area. As the framework for identifying dyslexia is broad and the present Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) offers general guidance as to identification, specialist teachers are often required to make professional judgements regarding the identification of dyslexia.
The working definition (Reid,2009) provided in the Rose Review is widely used in order to identify learners with suspected dyslexia and for planning subsequent interventions.
Rose defines dyslexia as the following:
- Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
- Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory, and verbal processing speed.
- Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual abilities.
- It is best thought of as a continuum and not as a distinct category and there are no clear cut off points.
- Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organization, but they 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.
In addition, Morton and Frith’s Causal model of dyslexia (Morton & Frith, 1995) allows us to conceptualise dyslexia within a three-tiered framework which provides a useful structure within which to consider the biological, cognitive and behavioural factors associated with dyslexia and the fact that all three are levels influenced by the environment. Indeed, the model allows us to remember that dyslexia has biological factors, with its identification occuring at the behavioural level, the assessment at the cognitive level and the intervention taking into account all of these factors with the aim of creating a specialist programme which optimises the overarching environmental factors.
With the identification of dyslexia by classroom teachers and parents mainly occurring at a behavioural level, observations might be made in the area of verbal difficulties. Indeed, these observations may involve difficulties in repeating polysyllabic words, the use of substitute and jumbled words, difficulty in relating verbal labels to directional concepts and lexical access difficulties.
In addition, although neurologists have a greater focus on the biological factors associated with dyslexia, parents might also be able to identify possible biological factors, such as a father or siblings with literacy difficulties. This is indeed in line with research which shows a correlation between a family history of dyslexia and an increased chance of children having dyslexia (Pennington & Olson, 2005).