Home » IO2 – Understanding – Testing – Interpretation: Cross-Border Practices in Dyslexia Assessment

IO2 – Understanding – Testing – Interpretation: Cross-Border Practices in Dyslexia Assessment


Focus group reports such as this should not be taken as an exact science. Although a broad range of opinions was canvassed from five different countries within the continent of Europe, there remains the opportunity for development: a larger number of countries could be investigated, more diagnosticians could be asked, feelings could be sought over a longer period of time to account for changing opinions and reflected alterations to one or another answer due to new information, changes in context, or even differences in mood among respondents. Alternatively, all participants in the focus groups could be interviewed by one researcher rather than one researcher per country, to account for different ways of asking the questions, seeking the answers, and recording the results.

Nevertheless, where care is taken to account for any inexactitude of results, and where those conducting the focus groups are mindful of their responsibilities to account for the situational and environmental nature of the studies, fascinating and useful data can be extracted from such inquiry.

This document records and collates three categories of information:

  • Diagnosticians’ understanding of and responses to different “official” definitions of dyslexia;
  • What elements of dyslexia those diagnosticians are testing for, and how they test for them; and
  • How they interpret these different elements of dyslexia.

The first category will show whether diagnosticians from around Europe see dyslexia in the same way; the second category will show whether they’re testing for the same things, in the same ways; and the third category will show whether, in testing for the same (or different) things, they understand these things in a consistent way from country to country. It is a threefold approach, consisting in understanding, testing, and interpretation.

Part One


Part Three


In other words, where a person is tested for dyslexia in (for instance) Croatia, is the understanding, testing, and interpretation of those tests the same as it would be if that same person were tested for dyslexia in (for instance) Romania? If it is not, it becomes of paramount importance to create a means of translating and aligning these dyslexia assessments so that – on the one hand – a person’s dyslexia diagnosis does not become irrelevant or unacceptable as she moves from one region in Europe to another; while – on the other hand – politicians and those in positions of authority can finally put in place coherent plans for dyslexia testing, intervention, and accommodation.

Part One: Understanding

To gauge cross-border understanding of a general definition of dyslexia, diagnosticians and assessors from around Europe were asked to say how far they agreed or disagreed with different influential organisations’ definitions of dyslexia; and to what extent they believed these definitions were similar or otherwise. While the presentation of the focus group statistics and results varied slightly, strong pictures did emerge from these questions.

For instance, in the UK (perhaps unsurprisingly), the British Dyslexia Association’s definition of dyslexia was viewed as the most accurate; while internationally (including the UK), the International Dyslexia Association’s definition was viewed favourably.

List of abbreviations:

BDA = British Dyslexia Association
Rose = The Rose Report (influential UK report on dyslexia)
BPS = British Psychological Society
EDA = European Dyslexia Association
IDA = International Dyslexia Association
ADA = American Dyslexia Association

UK = United Kingdom
Ro = Romania
Sp = Spain
Nor = Norway
Cro = Croatia

The definitions of dyslexia that were discussed were:

BDA: A learning difference which primarily affects reading and writing skills. However, it does not only affect these skills. Dyslexia is actually about information processing.
Rose: Difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
BPS: Accurate and fluent word reading and / or spelling develops incompletely or with very great difficulty.
EDA: A disorder mainly characterized by severe difficulties in acquiring reading, spelling and writing skills.
IDA: A neurologically-based condition that affects reading accuracy, reading fluency, and spelling. An unexpected difficulty in learning to read.
ADA: Gene-conditional assessments transmitted by inheritance in humans. The deficient sensory perceptions are affected by genetic processes in the brain.

Part Two: Testing

It may seem intuitively obvious that where testing for dyslexia is different from country to country, where tests are looking for different things, and where the threshold for “being flagged” in a test is different in different regions, then the numbers of recorded dyslexics in any one region – and indeed what these people are being recorded as – may vary. It’s therefore important to understand what it is practitioners in different regions are looking for, and how.

Part Three: Interpretation

Once it’s been established what it is that assessors and diagnosticians are testing for, it becomes important to establish what they understand by these things. For example, if two diagnosticians are each testing for “visual perception”, but one interprets this to mean “seeing letters backwards” and the other interprets it to mean “seeing words moving on a page”, then it would be unwise to conclude that they’re really testing for the same thing. It’s also crucial that we know how much importance assessors put on the different elements they might be testing for. If one assessor sees “visual perception” as extremely important but “working memory” as relatively unimportant, while another thought the reverse, it would be equally unwise to conclude that “dyslexia” meant the same to both people, even if they both included the two elements in their evaluations.

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