The Difference Between a Screener and Assessment?

There are many different screeners and assessments for dyslexia so it can be difficult to find the best option.


Advantages: A screener is low-cost and quick. It does not require a qualified professional to administer. It gives an indication of dyslexia tendencies. It can be given at a younger age than a formal assessment.

Disadvantages: It won't a give a definitive diagnosis. It can not be used for examination accommodations. Unlikely to be enough to qualify for additional funding.

Formal Assessment

Advantages: The only way to achieve a formal diagnosis. A report provides a high standard of proof. Required for examination accommodations such as 25% extra time, a scribe or reader. Can qualify a child for additional support at school. The details in the report can help guide the instruction and communicate the specific therapies that will most benefit the child.

Disadvantages: More costly as it must be given by a qualified professional such as an educational psychologist, speech pathologist, or specialist teacher. Takes longer, 2-4 hours, which is often exhausting for the child. There is no guarantee that dyslexia will be identified as the cause of the difficulties. Can't be given until a child is 8 years old. Difficult for parents to understand the results.

What should a screener include?

When choosing a screener make sure it is not just a questionnaire but that it is research-based. Before age 7 it’s more important to focus upon the precursors of reading development, than reading ability its self, so a screener should be measuring competence in phonological processing and rapid naming.

Phonological processing: Although children may have good listening and answering (high-level skills) there is often a contrast showing a limited ability to identify, pronounce or recal sounds (low-level skills).

Rapid naming: the ability to quickly recall the names of things - usually objects, colours or letters. About half of children with dyslexia are slower at this.

Background Information from teachers and parents such as a family history, delayed speech and repeated ear infections as an infant.



Reputable Screeners

  • Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Literacy Skills 8th Edition (DIBELS) (Free)
  • Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR)
  • Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI)

What should a formal assessment include?

A formal assessment will usually include up to 10 sub-tests.

  • It will start by gathering comprehensive background information such as a family history of dyslexia, samples of work from school and information from teachers, such as whether the child has already had any support.
  • There will be a more comprehensive test of phonological processing examining many different aspects of a child's phonology, e.g. elision, rhyming, blending.
  • An intelligence test (IQ) may be included which often includes a test of memory or pattern recognition.
  • Processing speed is measured by rapid naming (RAN) of objects, numbers or letters and reading speed. Working memory (often called Digit Span).
  • Assessment of phonic knowledge often using nonsense words to look at the skill of decoding. Can they recognise isolated phonic patterns that become increasingly more advanced, e.g. t, sh, oi, qu, tion
  • Several tests are used to measure different literacy skills. Lists of single words to read and spell (also called encoding), listening comprehension by verbally answering questions, this is contrasted with reading comprehension which is often assessed by finding a missing word (Cloze).  Oral reading fluency (passages), handwriting (timed free writing for 5 or 10 minutes), basic tests of numeracy, cognitive ability (block design) and vocabulary.
  • The assessor will often check to see if a child can write their own name and address. They will observe the child when given tasks that involve recalling a sequence of information, by asking the child to write the alphabet, days of the week and months of the year.
  • The expertise you are paying for is not just being able to give the individual test but how the different pieces of information come together to provide an educational profile of the child's strengths and weaknesses.


Assessment costs £350-£2000 UK

Common tests used:

  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOP)
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) or WIAT which measures,
  • Test of Memory and Learning (TOMAL)

Not using the word 'dyslexia'

Some assessments that identify difficulties do not use the word ‘dyslexia’.
Words like ‘Auditory Processing Disorder’ and ‘Specific Learning Difficulty mean dyslexia type of dyslexia.

Remember that dyslexia is neuro-diverse – it affects people in different ways.