Dyscalculia diagnostic assessment


I would expect a full diagnostic assessment to include:
Pertinent background information (where available). For example, any information on IQ, school reports, a (maths) teacher report, text books used by the student, exercise books.:
Core skills, for example, subitising, place value, counting forwards and backwards, maths vocabulary and associated symbols:
Core knowledge, for example, basic facts (recall and strategies), the four operations (add, subtract, multiply, divide):
Cognitive skills, for example, short term and working memory, cognitive style (and flexibility), estimation:
Affective issues, for example, anxiety:
Word problems:
A standardised maths score showing how the student's performance compares to his/her peers.

I would expect to see data, often comparative (standardised) alongside clinical observations. (see 'More Trouble with Maths' 2nd edition (2017) by Steve Chinn, Routledge for more detail and a range of tests) For me the process is not just about finding what can and cannot be done, but how it is done and that includes attitudes, strategies and error patterns. Much depends on the relationship established between the assessor and the subject (person). The key is the clinical approach and thus investigating why the subject is doing what he is doing. The assessor should know the tests and procedures completely so that he/she can focus on what the subject is doing, noting all those non-verbal behaviours that make an assessment human.

I would also expect the assessment to identify performance levels, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, explanations as to why these are as they are and, most importantly, advice on interventions.

How long does it take?

Children and adults who know they are not successful at maths may well have a low time tolerance for any activity, which includes testing, for doing maths. In my experience, and using some 40+ years of teaching experience, I can get around one hour of peak attention. This is helped by using a mix of formal and informal procedures. I consider it a professional responsibility to get the best out of the adult or child so that I know what is the optimum performance. Where the assessor has continual access to the subject, for example, as a teacher, then the testing can be done in stages. Where the subject is with an assessor especially for diagnosis then this is usually for one session only. Then the relationship between assessor and child/adult becomes critical. When assessing children, I insist on a parent being present, but invisible, so that they can see all the behavioural clues that are an essential part of any assessment. Screeners tend to be on line and all that important behavioural information is unavailable.

Who can request an assessment? (school EP, private ST or EP)

Essentially anyone who has a legitimate concern can request an assessment. It is helpful to have evidence to back up the request. There are an increasing number of SENCos (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) in schools who can carry out assessments, but do check that they have an APC (see next section). Psychologists are often in short supply.

Many decades of experience as a provider for special needs coupled with all the experiences of being a parent of a child with special needs have taught me that parents need to have extremely effective advocacy skills … and persistence. Where can you find private assessments if needed?

A search on the web for dyscalculia assessors produces few results. Unfortunately, there are still only a handful of assessors who specialise in this task. Organisations that may help in suggesting assessors include:

A useful source of background information about qualified assessors (particularly the APC) for special needs is at www.sasc.org.uk/FAQ.aspx

Do you struggle with Maths?

Take our quick Dyscalculia Checklist questionnaire

See the checklist