Frequently Asked Questions

The Northamptonshire Dyslexia Association has been supporting people with Dyslexia and their families for over 40 years.  Based on experience we have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions.

If you do not find the answer to your particular query or have further questions, please contact us on 01604 820158 (Answerphone) or 01327 703626.   Email:

Q: What is Dyslexia?

Q: What is a Specific Learning Difficulty?

Q: How soon can Dyslexia be recognised?

Q: Can anything be done before school age?

Q: How does Dyslexia present in school children?

Q: How can parents ensure their child’s difficulties are recognised? And how can they get a dyslexia assessment?

Q: What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

Q: What is the Code of Practice on Special Educational Needs?

Q: What is a Statement of Special Education Needs?

Q: Where can I find an Educational Psychologist and will I have to pay for an assessment?

Q: Do I need an Educational Psychologist?

Q: Where can I find a specialist Dyslexia qualified teacher?

Q: Can my dyslexic child get exam concessions for GCSE and A Level Exams?

Q: Can my child get exam concessions in SATS Exams?

Q: Can coloured lenses or overlays help my child?

Q: What is Dyscalculia?

Q: Is it possible to drop learning a foreign language at school when a child has difficulties with their own language?

Q: How can I tell if I am dyslexic?

Q: How can an adult get an assessment to find out if they are dyslexic?

Q: What help is there for dyslexic students undertaking a Higher Education course at university or college?


Q: What is Dyslexia?

A: The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘difficulty with words’.

It is estimated that at least 10 – 20% of the population are affected by dyslexia; with 4% being severely affected by dyslexia.

It is a difference in the part of the brain that processes language, and it affects skills that are needed for learning one or more of reading, writing, spelling and numeracy.

Although people with dyslexia do not all have the same way of thinking, there are common patterns.

Dyslexia is sometimes diagnosed in children soon after they start school.  But quite often it is not recognised until much later in life.

There is no cure for dyslexia but with the right kind of support, dyslexics can overcome their difficulties and often lead successful and fulfilling lives.

Dyslexia is one of several specific learning difficulties which come under the umbrella term Specific Learning Difficulties  (often referred to as SpLD). It means that the difficulties are specific rather than more general learning difficulties.

Dyslexia varies in different people, but can mean difficulties with:

  • Reading
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Writing
  • Organisational skills
  • Short-term working memory
  • Auditory and /or visual processing of language-based information
  • Phonological awareness
  • Oral language skills and reading fluency
  • Sequencing and directionality
  • Number skills
  • Speaking and listening skills
  • Visual-spatial skills
  • Organisational ability
  • Motor skills and co-ordination may also be affected
  • Emotions

Dyslexia tends to run in families and is NOT related to intelligence or to a person’s background, and is likely to be different for everyone. 

There are many positive attributes associated with a dyslexic profile which can be nurtured to ease the known disadvantages of dyslexia:

  • Problem solving skills.  
  • Conscientiousness and determination – can be very driven and ambitious.
  • Creativity and Innovation.    
  • Good problem solving skills.    
  • Holistic and Lateral thinking.    
  • Perception: the ability to alter and create perceptions.  
  • Able to see patterns, connections, and similarities very easily.  
  • Highly curious and a lively imagination.    
  • Simultaneous multiple thought processing. 
  • Thinking and perceiving multi-dimensionally (using all the senses).
  • The ability to see things differently than others.
  • Good powers of visualisation.
  • Intuitive understanding of how systems work.
  • Good spatial and practical skills.

Q: What is a Specific Learning Difficulty?

A: Dyslexia is one of several specific learning difficulties  (often referred to as SpLD or Neurodiversity).   It means that the difficulties are specific rather than more general learning difficulties.

Other SpLDs:  Asperger syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Dyspraxia (DCD), Dysgraphia, Audio Processing Disorder, Specific Language Impairment (SLI), Dyscalculia.  They are known to co-occur or overlap – so it’s not just about dyslexia, other conditions could be present.

Q: How soon can Dyslexia be recognised?

A: There are signs well before school age which indicate that a child may be dyslexic.

These include:

  • Delay or difficulty in the development of clear speech and/or persistent tendency to jumble words and phrases.
  • Persistent difficulty with tasks such as dressing efficiently, doing up buttons, tying shoelace etc.
  • Unusual clumsiness and difficulty with co-ordinated activities such as hopping, skipping and catching or kicking balls.
  • Poor concentration, such as difficulty concentrating on stories read to them.
  • Family history of similar difficulties.

N.B. Not all dyslexic children show all of these signs, and many very young children make similar mistakes. Dyslexia is indicated where the difficulties are severe and persistent, or where there is a cluster of such difficulties in mild form.

N.D.A. offers impartial advice and strategies to help your child.  Call our helpline to speak to one of our advisors, 01604 820158 (Answerphone) or 01327 703626.   Email:

Q: Can anything be done before school age?

A: Yes, there are many ways in which a child can be helped to develop skills, which he/she will need to avoid failure at school.

Parents will find helpful information about dyslexia in pre-school children and helpful games and resources by following this link to ‘Early Help / Better Future’ by Jean Augar.

N.D.A. offers impartial advice and strategies to help your child.  Contact us on 01604 820158 (Answerphone) or 01327 703626.   Email:

Q: How does Dyslexia present in school children?

A: One of the most marked characteristics of dyslexic children is the surprising difficulty they have at school when it is clear that they are at least as able as others who have no problems. There is also a tendency for unaccountably “bad days” when they seem unable to do what they can on a “good day”. Different age groups present problems in varying ways.

For children aged 9 or under:

In some cases, it’s possible to detect symptoms of dyslexia before a child starts school. Symptoms can include:

  • Delayed speech development compared with other children of the same age (although this can have many different causes).
  • Speech problems, such as not being able to pronounce long words properly and “jumbling” up phrases – for example, saying “hecilopter” instead of “helicopter”, or “beddy tear” instead of “teddy bear”.
  • Problems expressing themselves using spoken language, such as being unable to remember the right word to use, or putting together sentences incorrectly.  
  • Little understanding or appreciation of rhyming words, such as “the cat sat on the mat”, or nursery rhymes difficulty with, or little interest in, learning letters of the alphabet.
  • Particular difficulty learning to read, write and spell.
  • Persistent and continued reversing of numbers and letters, (e.g. 15 for 51, ‘b’ for ‘d’).
  • Difficulty telling left from right.
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet/multiplication tables, and remembering sequences such as days of the week and months of the year.
  • Continued difficulty with shoelaces, ball catching and skipping etc.
  • Inattention and poor concentration.
  • Frustration, possibly leading to behavioural problems.
  • Difficulty following instructions – verbal and/or written.

For children aged 9 to 12:

  • Problems learning the names and sounds of letters. 
  • Spelling that is unpredictable and inconsistent. 
  • Putting letters and figures the wrong way round – such as writing “6” instead “9”, or “b” instead of “d”.
  • Confusing the order of letters in words. 
  • Reading slowly or making errors when reading aloud. 
  • Answering questions well orally, but having difficulty writing down the answer.
  • Difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions struggling to learn sequences, such as days of the week or the alphabet. 
  • Poor handwriting problems copying written language, and taking longer than normal to complete written work. 
  • Poor phonological awareness and “word attack”. (See below)
  • Continued mistakes in reading, and/or a lack of reading comprehension.
  • Strange spelling – perhaps with letters missed out or in the wrong order.
  • Taking longer than average over written work.
  • Disorganisation at home and at school.
  • Difficulty copying accurately from blackboard or textbook.
  • Difficulty remembering and processing oral instructions.
  • Growing lack of self-confidence and increasing frustration.  

Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognise that words are made up of smaller units of sound (phonemes) and that changing and manipulating phonemes can create new words and meanings.

A child with poor phonological awareness may not be able to correctly answer these questions:

  • what sounds do you think make up the word “hot”, and are these different from the sounds that make up the word “hat”?
  • what word would you have if you changed the “p” sound in ‘pot’ to an “h” sound?
  • how many words can you think of that rhyme with the word “cat”?

Word attack skills

Young children with dyslexia can also have problems with “word attack” skills. This is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar words by looking for smaller words or collections of letters that a child has previously learnt.

For example, a child with good word attack skills may read the word “sunbathing” for the first time and gain a sense of the meaning of the word by breaking it down into “sun”, “bath”, and “ing”.

For pupils aged 12 and over:

As well as the problems mentioned above, the symptoms of dyslexia in older children and adults can include:

  • Poorly organised written work that lacks expression – for example, even though they may be very knowledgeable about a certain subject, they may have problems expressing that knowledge in writing.
  • Difficulty planning and writing essays.
  • Difficulties revising for examinations.
  • Trying to avoid reading and writing whenever possible.
  • Difficulty taking notes or copying.
  • Poor spelling and/or grammar.
  • Inability to remember multiple verbal instructions.
  • Recollection of what has been read.
  • Difficulties with reading at speed or under pressure.
  • Struggling to remember things such as a PIN or telephone number.
  • Struggling to meet deadlines.
  • Tendency to read inaccurately, or without adequate comprehension.
  • Difficulty with perception of language, e.g. following instructions, listening and comprehension.
  • Low self-esteem and confidence.

N.B. Not all dyslexic children/pupils/Adults will display all of these characteristics.

Q: How can parents ensure their child’s difficulties are recognised? And how can they get a dyslexia assessment?

A: Have your child’s sight and hearing checked. For sight, consult your optician and if you are still concerned get a referral letter from your GP to a specialist optometrist. (or contact the NDA for further information)  

For hearing, your GP needs to refer you to the audiology department of a general hospital.

If your child doesn’t have any obvious underlying health problems to explain their learning difficulties, different teaching methods may need to be tried, or you may want to request an assessment to identify any special needs they may have.

If you’re concerned about your child’s progress, first talk to their school teacher who should be able to watch your child more carefully and possibly do some tests to understand his/her difficulties better.

If you are still concerned, ask them to assess your child under the Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs, saying that you suspect he/she is dyslexic. Once your child is under the school based stages of the code, you should be asked into school for regular reviews to discuss your child’s progress, so make sure this happens.

You can also have your child assessed privately by a specialist dyslexia trained teacher or Educational Psychologist (EP). The N.D.A. can send you a list of local specialist teachers.  If you contact us either on the helpline 01604 820158   or email:

A: Q: What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

A: Please note following changes in the new Education Act 2014 – the term Individual Education Plan is no longer in the Code of Practice on S.E.N.D. This does not mean they do not exist, many schools now give them a different name.  It is worth discussing with your child’s school or S.E.N.C.O.

Q: What is the Code of Practice on Special Educational Needs?

A: The Children and Families Act and the new S.E.N.D. Code of Practice came into effect on 1 September 2014. 

  • It covers children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) from birth – 25 years of age 
  • Brings together Health, Education and Care into one plan

The terms School Action and School Action Plus have been replaced under the new Education Act 2014 and Schools can decide to record levels of need within SEND support in whatever way they want. For example, some schools are now describing levels of need as: School Support and School Support Plus, K1 and K2, SEN 1 SEN 2, as well as continuing to use School Action or School Action Plus.  The plan should identify and explain your child’s difficulties and set targets for overcoming these difficulties.

Covers England only (Wales have their own)

Q: What is a Statement of Special Educational Need?

A: Statements have been being replaced by an Education Health and Care plan (E.H.C.) for new applicants from September 2014. Existing statements will remain in place until the transition to an E.H.C. plan.

The Education, Health and Care (E.H.C.) plan focuses on education and health needs of children and young people (0 – 25 years).  It replaces the statutory assessment and statement of special educational needs process.  It puts children, young people and families at the centre of the assessment and planning process.  The local authority is responsible for ensuring that assessments are effectively co-ordinated.

Once it has been decided that your child has Special Educational Needs – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), your child’s teachers should plan their education in line with the guidance given in the Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs.

Q: Where can I find an Educational Psychologist and will I have to pay for an assessment?    

A: School children can be referred to their local education authority’s Educational Psychologist for assessment.  However, the N.D.A. understand that lack of resources mean there can be a lengthy wait for this process in this County.

Q: Do I need an Educational Psychologist?

Not necessarily; Assessments can also be conducted by a Dyslexia qualified teacher.

Q: Where can I Find a specialist Dyslexia Teacher?

A: The N.D.A. can provide a directory of local Dyslexia trained teachers for assessments and or private tuition, or literacy support for adults and children.  

The costs are in the region of £300 – £400. 

For further information Contact us on 01604 820158 (Answerphone) or 01327 703626.   Email:

Q: Can my dyslexic child get exam concessions for GCSE and A Level Exams?

A: Yes, depending on your child’s difficulties they may be allowed things like extra time up to 25%, a reader to read out the questions, the use of a word processor, use of an amanuensis (person to take dictation) etc.

For some concessions, a dyslexia trained teacher can now supply supporting evidence on behalf of a candidate with dyslexia and the school can make the decision. However, check with the school well before the exams so that if it is necessary to provide an assessment there is plenty of time.

Booklet on the regulations available from the Joint Council for Qualifications  (JCQ) 02076 384225 or

Note it is not necessary for a pupil to have an Education Health and Care Plan to be allowed concessions such as extra time in their exams.

Q: Can my child get exam concessions in SATS Exams?

A: Yes, dyslexics may also be allowed certain concessions in SATS exams and schools now have guidelines on what concessions they can make. Remember, however that the SATS are partly to identify areas of difficulty both for the school and nationally, so in some ways it is a test of the level the child is working at under normal circumstances. We recommend you discuss this with your child’s teacher and a school well before the exams.

Q: Can coloured lenses or overlays help my child?

A: You may have heard that coloured or tinted lenses can help a dyslexic child with reading. This is because some dyslexics find print is blurred or jumps around, a condition known as Visual Stress, Meares-Irlen Syndrome, or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. Evidence is by no means conclusive, although it is believed about 40% of dyslexics may have the condition, but certainly some children do seem to benefit from this – coloured acetate sheets laid over writing can be tried first to see if this helps. A full diagnosis of the condition can only be provided by a specialist optometrist. 

For further information Contact us on 01604 820158 (Answerphone) or 01327 703626.   Email:

Q: What is Dyscalculia?

A: Dyscalculia is like dyslexia for numbers. People with dyscalculia experience great difficulty with the most basic aspects of numbers and arithmetic. They may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures.    

See BDA leaflet Dyscalculia, Dyslexia and Maths.

Q: Is it possible to drop learning a foreign language at school when a child has difficulties with their own language?

A: Yes sometimes, so discuss this with your child’s school. However, many dyslexic people do experience great success with foreign languages and there should be no generalisation. Some languages are easier than others for example German and Spanish are easier than French.

Q: How can I tell if I am dyslexic?

Dyslexia is not considered a medical issue and forms no part of medical training. Although dyslexia is recognised under the Equality Act 2010, unlike other disabilities diagnosis is not funded by the NHS. A GP would therefore not normally be able to help with funding a diagnostic assessment for dyslexia and would not have knowledge of appropriate assessors. In a very few cases where undiagnosed dyslexic difficulties may be a significant issue in the case of serious mental health problems, it may sometimes be possible for an assessment to be funded under the NHS.

A: There are various ways of testing for dyslexia:

A good starting point is to complete an Adult Checklist on the B.D.A. website which can give an indication of whether you are dyslexic.    If the answer to a number of the questions below is “yes”, you might well be dyslexic, but you will probably need an assessment to confirm this.

– Do you find difficulty telling left from right?
– Is map reading or finding your way to a strange place confusing?
– Do you dislike reading aloud?
– Do you dislike reading long books?
– Are your spelling and/or handwriting poor?
– Do you avoid writing letters and reports?
– Do you sometimes jumble long words?
– Do you sometimes dial telephone numbers in the wrong order?
– Do you find form-filling difficult?
– Do you confuse dates and times and sometimes miss appointments?

Screening tests:

These are short tests designed to flag up the probability of dyslexic difficulties. They are not a diagnosis and do not analyse the nature of an individual’s dyslexic profile, which can vary considerably between people with dyslexia both in the nature of the particular difficulties and in their severity.

A screening test may indicate the probability of dyslexia as low, medium or high. No screening test is 100% reliable in its prediction and there may be a few false positives or false negatives. For instance, well compensated people with less severe dyslexia may not be flagged up in a screening test. The British Dyslexia Association have a range of excellent adult screening tests linked to their website   which produce a report that you can be saved or printed off. Where a checklist or screening test shows the probability of dyslexic difficulties, a full diagnostic assessment may be considered in order to inform the process of determining the most appropriate solutions.

Average cost approximately £30 – £50

Diagnostic Assessment

This is a much more in depth test which can take up to 3 hours, and is normally carried out during working hours, with the individual working with the assessor in a private room where confidentiality is assured. A detailed written report of the test results, with conclusions and recommendations is produced, which will be discussed in detail with the client at a second meeting.  This type of assessment is usually provided in an education environment, to enable concessions and support for pupils and students, and in particular for Disabled Students Allowance applications.

It measures attainments and underlying abilities, such as verbal skills, visual skills, working memory, and information processing speed. The results will indicate the types of difficulties and the report should include conclusions and recommendations for support.

A diagnostic assessment can be carried out by a qualified Educational/Occupational or Clinical Psychologist, (although those who specialise in the field of dyslexia are limited) or assessments can also be carried out by an appropriately qualified specialist dyslexia teacher with a post graduate Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties and an assessment Practising Certificate. They are able to make assessments of verbal and non-verbal intelligence but use different tests from those only available to Psychologists. Full assessments for adults would take around 3 hours and would be followed by a detailed written report with broad recommendations for support and accommodations.

The cost of these can vary, but associate tutors with a local Dyslexia Association start at around £280       

Some organisations can charge between £500 – £700

Workplace Needs Assessment  (This is different to the above, and generally the individual will already have had a diagnostic assessment – although this is not necessary always the case)

Employees who may be experiencing performance issues or stress at work which may be a result of previously undiagnosed dyslexic difficulties should discuss the matter in confidence with H. R. Occupational Health or their line Manager.

Employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that employees with disabilities are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments or support. For many office based jobs, a full understanding of the individual profile is necessary in order to offer the most effective support. Most large employers and the public sector would be expected to fund an assessment for an employee. A smaller employer may help with the cost.

Following the diagnostic assessment, or where an employee is able to show an existing adult assessment report, a Workplace Needs Assessment (W.N.A.) should then be arranged with a dyslexia specialist in order to determine the most appropriate accommodations, training and support that would be successful in mitigating any weak areas and reduce stress.

This is not something that either the individual or the employer would be able to work out for themselves.

A W.N.A. involves an assessor spending time with the employee at their main place of work, (minimum 2 hours) discussing their difficulties in relation to their job role, and in some cases, shadowing if required to enable a more detailed observation.  There is usually a meeting with the line manager and/or HR to enable other perceptions of the individual’s difficulties, and how their work or job role is affected.

A detailed report would then be produced (usually within 7 – 10 working days) outlining the difficulties that affect the job, and recommendations of the reasonable adjustments and coping strategies that could be made, such as practical advice or assistive technology (with applicable training) Invariably this would also be accompanied by one to one dyslexia coaching  with a dyslexia specialist, to enable the individual to understand their difficulties and develop coping strategies, confidence and progression.

The content of the report would include details of the job role (a copy of the job description may be helpful, together with specifications of current IT systems and computers)   

Three quotations from suppliers of the resources will be provided, together with tuition or training costs, and the duration of the sessions.

Costs can vary, but the average rate for an assessor is about £350 (this fee may be subject to travel expenses of the assessor)    

 Some Organisations may charge up to £700.00

Q: How can an adult get an assessment to find out if they are dyslexic?

A: For further information call our helpline on 01604 820158 (Answerphone) or 01327 703626.   Email:

Q: What help is there for dyslexic students undertaking a Higher Education course at university or college? Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

A: Dyslexic students in Higher Education, who have been assessed as dyslexic, can apply for a Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). Part-time students, studying at least 50% of a full-time degree course and post-graduate students are now eligible for this allowance. (Also students studying a degree through the Open University.)  For further information contact GOV.UK by using the following link

Q: Are There any Training Courses on Dyslexia in Northamptonshire, I would like to Train as a Dyslexic Teacher?

A: Awaiting further information.