DSA Reports for University Students

(N.b. COVID 19 guidance: Given recent easing of Lockdown rules, it is now possible for me to administer diagnostic assessments, as long as this is in a strict, socially distanced environment. The environment in which I offer assessments has been adapted to address risks as required by current government guidelines. A full risk assessment has been completed. Anyone who needs an assessment to access support at university next year, please email me through the contact me page to find out details or to make a booking.

I am a Level 7 Assessor of Specific Learning Difficulties and I hold a current Practising Certificate through my professional organisation, PATOSS. This means I am qualified to, and do, assess students of all ages, including university students, for the Specific Learning Difficulty, Dyslexia. My diagnostic reports – done at any age – comply with the format accepted by universities.

I am also qualified to diagnose an SpLD affecting academic work that may not be dyslexia, but may instead be related to motor-coordination and/or attention difficulties and this can also be considered as evidence for support at university. It should be noted, however, that only a medical professional can diagnose Dyspraxia or ADHD.

Students with Dyslexia (or Dyspraxia or other SpLDs) can access appropriate support at university in their studies in the UK under the Equalities Act. To do so, they will need a full diagnostic assessment in the format required by universities. (Previously, this needed to have been done no earlier than 16 years old but this is no longer the case).

Once a Diagnostic Report is complete, the student submits it to Student Finance England (SFE) and/or the university, who will then invite them to book a Needs Assessment interview, if the report evidences an SpLD. This will take place in a convenient local centre, usually within a university but not necessarily the one the student will be attending. It will be done by someone who is trained in the types of current assistive technology and study support tutoring available to help students compensate for the impact of SpLDs at degree level study. They recommend which specific study support is required, so that SFE can consider funding levels and communicate decisions to the student.

In order to qualify for extra time, computer reader, use of word processor or other Access Arrangement to compensate for dyslexia or other SpLD in exams at university, a full Diagnostic Report is required, rather than a screening test that might have been done at school for Access Arrangements. This is the case even where no SFE funded additional support is required or given but where Access Arrangements are awarded.

A few universities provide or subsidise diagnostic assessments, so it is wise to contact the specific university initially. Often however, students are required to arrange and pay for their own assessment report and if they later qualify for funding by SFE, that may cover some of the cost of the assessment. It is a good idea to look on the SFE website to find out more, as the process is updated every year.

As well as being the route to things like extra time, use of word processor, assistive technology or study support, a diagnostic report at this stage of education helps a student understand their individual learning profile, including strengths they may not have understood, and shows them how they can use their strengths to compensate for any weaknesses. This can build confidence that any work or assignments with which they may be struggling, should lie within their capability, if they learn how to compensate for specific weaknesses.

A diagnostic assessment takes about 2 – 21/2 hours, face to face. Students fill in a background questionnaire beforehand about health history, when they first noticed difficulties, any tutors or additional support they have had, and the things they experienced difficulty with at school. This history is critical to the diagnosis of a sustained underlying issue. A summary of initial findings can be given at the end, with questions from the student answered.

(N.b.1 Medical evidence of a medical, physical, sensory or emotional condition can also be used for Access Arrangements and appropriate support at university, so in those cases, enquiries should be made to the university or SFE to find out exactly what is required. This website is referring specifically and only to when there is a SpLD.

(N.b. 2 The process above applies to university students. School and college students can get extra time or other Access Arrangements for GCSE and A Level without a full diagnostic report. For these exams, teacher reported evidence of need in class/ exams and relevant test evidence of the specific processing weakness or resulting literacy difficulty, signed off by the qualified assessor who administered the tests and who is employed by or has an ongoing relationship with the school or college, is required.)