How is dyslexia formally identified in children?

Although you may spot indicators of dyslexia in your child, dyslexia can only be formally identified through a diagnostic assessment carried out by a certified assessor.

If you suspect that your child is dyslexic and has additional needs then your first step should be to consult your child's teacher or the school's Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) to discuss your concerns.

A school doesn't need a formal diagnosis to begin to put support in place for your child and shouldn't delay in providing appropriate support and/or interventions.

If after your child has received additional support you still have concerns about your child's progress then the next step is a diagnostic assessment.  Through consultation with the school's SENCo these assessments can either be requested by the school through your LEA, or you can arrange and pay for an assessment privately.

Screening tests

Screening tests can help to give an indication of possible dyslexic difficulties, some are delivered by computer and others can be carried out by a teacher. These can help to outline strengths and weaknesses which can then inform a teaching strategy. They do not provide a formal identification of dyslexia.

Diagnostic assessments

The most detailed and comprehensive type of assessment is a diagnostic assessment. These can be carried out by a certified person qualified to assess such as a:

  • Chartered Psychologist specialising in Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) registered with the Health Care Practitioners Council (HCPC)
  • Specialist Teacher/Assessor with AMBDA (and an Assessment Practising Certificate (APC) if it is for the purpose of DSA).

Once a person has been formally identified as dyslexic then they are considered to have a recognised disability covered by the Equality Act 2010.  

Assessments can take time, so schools shouldn't wait for a formal identification of dyslexia before putting additional support in place.

Diagnostic assessments are also needed for those wishing to claim the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) for University, but the report must be carried out over the age of 16.

EHC Plans

If your child needs more assistance than a mainstream school will normally provide, they can then apply for an EHC plan. This is a legal document which outlines a child's special educational, health and social care needs and the extra help that will be given to meet those needs. This will require an EHC Needs Assessment which will be carried out by the Local Authority.

  • Diagnostic assessment support

    British Dyslexia AssociationThe BDA offer diagnostic assessments conducted by Specialist Teacher/Assessors with current Assessing Practising Certificate (APC) or Psychologists registered with the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC).

    Dyslexia Direct Offer tutoring and assessments in the London area. They also offer free advice sessions.

    Dyslexia Research TrustBased in Reading and co-founded by Professor John Stein, the DRT run research projects for adults and children. They also provide assessments to help with support, examination or workplace needs, and specialised visual assessments for children and adults. 

    The DRT also have a helpline for any enquiries.

    Helen ArkellHelen Arkell have their own team of highly trained Specialist Assessors (HASAs) who are professionally qualified to assess, report, and diagnose dyslexia.  They are also able to advise on all aspects of dyslexia and literacy/numeracy.

    Studying with dyslexia blog: Why am I nervous about my child getting a dyslexia diagnosis? This is a great blog post exploring the common fears surrounding a diagnosis of dyslexia, as well as the benefits of having a diagnosis.