Testing SEND and EAL students

Individuals with SEN or those with English as an additional language may require additional support in order to:

  • Manage anxiety or attention (reassurance can be offered and breaks between subtests)
  • Understand or follow instructions (directions can be clarified during the practice items but no support should be offered in terms of responding to tested items)
  • Use the software (the assessor can operate the computer if the test taker prefers)

Can LADS Plus be used to screen students for suspected dyspraxia?

LADS Plus was designed to screen specifically for dyslexia. However, the use of LADS to screen for dyspraxia has been investigated by an independent group of researchers at the University of Worcester and the results were published in a paper in the peer-reviewed international journal ‘Dyslexia’ in 2009. 

In the sample of 74 students who were analysed in this study, 30 were dyslexic and 20 were dyspraxic, with an overlap of 11 students who were both dyslexic and dyspraxic. The researchers compared the accuracy of various methods of screening for identifying these dyslexic and dyspraxic students and found that LADS gave higher accuracy than other conventional approaches. However, they also found that LADS combined with a tutor administered battery of tests that included assessment of hand-eye coordination, sequencing and orientation was even more accurate. Unfortunately, these researchers did not break down their dyslexic/dyspraxic group (i.e. in analysing the accuracy of screening they did not distinguish between those who were dyslexic and those who were dyspraxic) so we do not know the differential accuracy of LADS in discriminating the two conditions. It is possible that LADS was best at picking up the dyslexic students (including the dyslexic students who also had dyspraxia) but may have missed some of the dyspraxic ones who did not also have dyslexia (a total of 9 students in the sample). Perhaps this is why the addition of the tutor administered battery of tests that included assessment of hand-eye coordination, sequencing and orientation improved the detection accuracy, but we don’t know for sure.

So it is clear that LADS Plus can deliver useful results when screening for dyspraxia as well as dyslexia. However, if you want to be sure about the accuracy of the system to pick up dyspraxics it might be a good idea include some assessment of hand-eye coordination, sequencing and orientation in your screening, e.g. by asking questions about these skills when students are interviewed.

Screening adults with English as an additional language

LADS Plus is suitable for screening most adults for whom English is an additional language (EAL). However, there are certain stipulations.

(1) The person being screened must have a reasonable standard of spoken English, so that they would be able to understand the tasks.

(2) Particular care needs to be taken when interpreting the results obtained by EAL adults, because their relative lack of experience of reading and writing in English can lead to more unusual patterns of scores.

For example, where the results show a normal or above average score for non-verbal reasoning but a low score for verbal reasoning, this could well be because the person has limited spoken vocabulary in English. In such cases the non-verbal reasoning measure is clearly the more reliable indicator of intellectual ability. In cases like these, the person will often show major difficulties on the word recognition test because they cannot distinguish between real words and non-words quickly enough. Under other circumstances this result would be strongly suggestive of dyslexia, but in EAL cases is not by itself such a clear dyslexia indicator because the person is probably lacks experience of reading English. For EAL adults, the areas that yield particularly useful information in terms of dyslexia identification are the word construction and memory tests. If these are giving positive indications then the overall probability of dyslexia is likely to be high, even though English vocabulary skills are weak.