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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dyslexia Screeners: What's the Best Option?

Finding the best dyslexia screener can be a vital step for schools as well as parents, but sifting through the many options can be time consuming and challenging. I began the rigorous process of evaluating 13 different options and found the experience both interesting and surprising. While some instruments offer Likert scale questionnaires, others assess a student's cognitive or achievement abilities. The two screeners (which will remain nameless) that I thought would likely be the best, were disappointingly inadequate. A table below illustrates a summary of my findings, and I will let you come to your own conclusions.

The Table (below) Compares the 13 Resources by a Number of Factors:
  • Age: The age range of eligible participants.
  • Cost: The cost of the assessment/screener.
  • Administration Time: The time it takes to take the test.
  • Test Type: The format of the test.  
    • Questionnaires: About half of the instruments were Likert scales that obtain participant's preferences or degree of agreement with a statement or set of statements. These instruments result in a total score that reflects a likelihood of an individual having dyslexia.
    • Assessments: A handful of instruments are administered by a trained teacher or professional and given directly to the student or individual.
  • Who Takes Test?  Who takes the questionnaire or assessment? - the student/individual with dyslexia, the parent or a teacher.
  • Research: Whether there is reported research.  Some questionnaires and assessments offer documented clinical research on their sites.
  • What Does it Measure? What cognitive, achievement or other areas are measured by the instrument.  Not all the instruments reviewed are measuring the same variables.  Some look at risk factors, while others are look and key cognitive processing areas or specific areas of achievement.
  • No Required Training: Although some instruments require no training at all, others require instruction or specific qualifications to even purchase the materials.
  • Score Provided: Some instruments provide a specific score that is placed on a continuum and has a documented meaning.  Others just provide qualitative summaries.
  • Fun & Engaging: Whether the instrument is enjoyable for the test taker.
  • Monitors Progress: Whether the instrument monitors progress over time.  
  • Normed: Whether the instrument compares scores against the performance of a statistically selected group of test takers who already took the test.
What are the Features of a Great Dyslexia Screener for School-age Children?
After reviewing the 13 dyslexia screeners below, there were a few key features, I believe, are important to consider.  A screener should be:

  1. accessible to both parents and teachers.
  2. administered directly to the student - if they are old enough.
  3. fun and engaging so that a child can maintain attention.
  4. administered with ease.
  5. created by a reputable company.
  6. based on clinical research.
  7. offering a report of the findings.
  8. presenting a way to monitor progress.

My Personal Preference:

If you are looking for a simple questionnaire that discloses a suspected likelihood of dyslexia and provides a simple report of strengths and weaknesses, the Davis Dyslexia Screener is a decent option. But if you want a comprehensive assessment that is easy to administer, is backed by research, does not require training, is fun and engaging for the students, and investigates a student's abilities in the key cognitive areas that are impacted by dyslexia, Dyslexia Quest is by far the best option.

What do you think of dyslexia screeners? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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