The first version of LADS (the forerunner of LADS Plus) was released in July 2002 following a three-year programme of research at the University of Hull to develop computer-based test materials that would swiftly and accurately discriminate adults with dyslexia from adults without dyslexia. LADS quickly became a widely-used dyslexia screening tool in a variety of educational and occupational settings, but especially in universities and colleges. Over the period 2003-2004 the LADS program underwent a number of product improvements to improve its functionality, many carried out in response to feedback from users.
LADS comprised four tests that the research programme had shown to be effective as a screening system for dyslexia in adults:
- Nonverbal Reasoning
- Word Recognition
- Word Construction
- Working Memory
The addition of the nonverbal reasoning measure to the three dyslexia-sensitive tests in the suite was designed to improve accuracy of detection of dyslexia in very bright, well-compensated dyslexics, who otherwise might ‘slip through the net’. Where LADS finds that a person is very bright (on the basis of the nonverbal reasoning test results) it decreases the time allowed per item in the word recognition and word construction tests, thus picking up bright, well-compensated dyslexics who have developed the skills to work out what the answers to these items should be, but who, because of their dyslexia, have not been able to automatise them.
In addition to widespread use in universities and colleges, LADS has also been put to good use in other settings, including prisons and young offender institutions, where there are high levels of illiteracy and individuals are often found to be socially and educationally disadvantaged with poor verbal skills. In these settings, there was concern that although LADS was able to identify those with dyslexia, its susceptibility to ‘false positives’ may be higher than desired. False positives are cases where LADS classifies a person as probably having dyslexia, when in fact, they do not. These cases will undoubtedly have severe literacy problems but these problems could be due to causes other than dyslexia, e.g. lack of schooling, low verbal ability or social disadvantage. Thus there was clearly a need for a new version of LADS that would identify dyslexia more accurately in individuals with non-standard educational backgrounds, such as offenders and immigrants.
During 2004-05, a research programme was carried out at HM Youth Offender Institution, Wetherby, in collaboration with the University of Hull and the British Dyslexia Association. The aim was to determine ways in which LADS might be modified to increase is screening accuracy when used with individuals who may have non-standard educational backgrounds. This research culminated in the successful development of LADS Plus.