Could I be dyslexic? How do I find out?
Specific learning difficulties at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)
The Disability and Dyslexia Service support around 700 students with specific learning difficulties, around half of whom discover that they have dyslexia or dyspraxia while they are studying at QMUL. Here are some of the questions that we are often asked.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from students wishing to find out if they have a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia.
Q: What are ‘Specific Learning Difficulties’
A: We use the term ‘specific learning difficulties’ to cover conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, semantic pragmatic disorder and many others. This is the preferred term in the UK, (in North America the term ‘learning disability’ is often used).
Q: I think I might be dyslexic. Can I book a test?
A: Please contact the Disability and Dyslexia Service and say that you would like to request an assessment for Specific Learning Difficulties.
You will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire and return it to us.
The questionnaire will be then analysed and you will be either referred directly for an assessment, or asked to make an appointment with a specialist tutor for a more in depth interview.
All information contained in the questionnaire is strictly confidential and it will not be passed on to any other department outside the Disability and Dyslexia Service.
You can also request to meet with a specialist tutor prior to your full diagnostic assessment if you wish to discuss any queries/concerns you might have.
Q: Do I have to pay for the cost of the assessment?
A: The short answer is no; the only times a student would need to pay is if they have been de-registered or if they contact the service after March 1st in the final year of their course.
Q: What does a diagnostic assessment consist of?
A: A diagnostic assessment looks to investigate the individual’s pattern of strengths and difficulties and it is carried out either by an Educational Psychologist or a Specialist Teacher Assessor, suitably qualified in conducting assessments for Specific Learning Difficulties.
It takes around 3 hours and includes an interview and various tasks related to reading, writing, memory and information processing. The purpose of the assessment is not merely to find out whether an individual has a Specific Learning Difficulty, but also to understand the person’s learning style so that to identify the best ways to manage any underlying difficulties.
Q: Will the assessment take place at QMUL?
A: No – the assessors are separate service providers and operate from their own premises.
Q: I have been told that I might be dyspraxic? Is the process any different to that for dyslexia?
A: No. We use the term “specific learning difficulties” as an umbrella description for dyslexia, dyspraxia and other similar conditions.
Q: I think I might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Can I book a test or a screening with DDS?
A: You would need to discuss this with your doctor; in the United Kingdom only consultant psychiatrists can diagnose AD(H)D / ADD, so you would need to arrange for a diagnosis as you would any other medical condition.
Q: I have been de-registered from QMUL. If I pay for the cost of a dyslexia assessment myself but return on appeal can I claim back the cost retrospectively?
A: You could apply for money for the Financial Assistance Fund on the grounds of financial hardship; this is means-tested and your application would have no guarantee of being successful.
Q: I am not sure whether I want to tell my academic department about this at the moment. Will they be told if I am diagnosed as being dyslexic?
A: Not without your consent. While we always encourage students to disclose their SpLDs to their academic school or department, we would only contact them about a diagnosis with students’ express consent.
Q: I have received a copy of my diagnostic assessment report. What do I do now?
A: Make an appointment to discuss its findings with one of our advisers. You can do this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 020 7882 2756 or dropping into our reception office, room 2.06 in the Francis Bancroft Building. We can then start implementing any support that you will require.
Q): Now that I’ve been diagnosed with a SpLD, can I apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)?
A): You can, but only once the diagnostic report is ready. Student Finance England and the other DSA awarding bodies need full evidence of your diagnosis, so they will need the full report. Your assessor can explain more. The meeting that we will arrange with you once you have your SpLD diagnosis will implement all of the support to which you are entitled, including advice to the academic School or Department that you are based in and your application for a DSA (where appropriate) so we would politely request that you wait to hear from us in the aftermath of your assessment.
Q: Does a diagnosis for dyslexia or any other Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) automatically allow me to have extra time (or any other provision) in my exams?
A: No. Awards for 25% extra time (and other provisions) are criteria specific and must be quantified/justified by scores and confidence interval ratings. This means that you may, in some instances, get a diagnosis for dyslexia, as you meet the diagnostic criteria but not necessarily be awarded extra time.
Students also need to apply for special exam arrangements such as additional time. Please see our webpage regarding Special Examination Arrangements for more details.
Q: My diagnostic assessment report says I should have extra time in exams. Will this happen automatically?
A: No. For a variety of reasons, including the Data Protection Act, we cannot make arrangements for students without their written consent, as they may not want them or they may want something other than what the diagnostician has recommended.
As such, students need to apply for special exam arrangements such as additional time. Please see our webpage regarding Special Examination Arrangements for more details.
Q): I have an exam in the next few days. Will I be able to get extra time for it?
A): We cannot recommend any exam arrangements, including additional time, without diagnostic evidence. However, if you are diagnosed very close the exam arrangement deadline in March or close to any other exams, we can accept an email from your diagnostic assessor which confirms your diagnosis and use this as evidence to award additional time on an interim basis while we wait for your full report. In order to do this you also need to formally apply for special exam arrangements, which you can do online. More information about the deadlines for applying for Special Examination Arrangements can be found here.
Q: Do I have to complete a Special Examination Arrangements form every year?
A: No, not unless you interrupt your studies, change your course, or your requirements change.
Q: Will I automatically get extensions on my coursework deadlines now that I’ve been to see you?
A: No. We can write to tutors to request extensions on occasion if there is a valid reason, (e.g. you have been in hospital), but these are not provided automatically and are at the discretion of the academic department. Using deadline extensions is a bit like being overdrawn at the bank – easy to fall behind and very difficult to catch up again!
Q: I have an existing dyslexia diagnosis. Do I need a new one?
A: In these circumstances it would be better to talk to one of our adviser who can provide appropriate advice. As a general rule, the diagnostic assessment needs to be carried out on an adult scale (over the age of 16) and the report written in accordance with the SpLD Working Group 2005/ DfES Guidelines for Assessments of SpLDs in Higher Education. This criterion is essential to apply for Disabled Students` Allowance.
Q): Can I access specialist study skills support before my diagnostic report is finished?
A): If we have written confirmation of your diagnosis from your diagnostic assessor then we can put some interim specialist study skills support in place, subject to availability.
Q: What happens if I don’t have a specific learning difficulty? Is there any other support available?
A: If you are not diagnosed with any form of specific learning difficulty QMUL does offer generic support to all students. For example, The Language Centre offers academic English and study skills support for all students and Learning Development offer a number of different types of support, including self-help materials, One-to-One Academic Study Skills tutorials and Writing and Study Skills Drop Ins.
Q: Can you cure dyslexia?
A: Dyslexia isn’t a medical condition; rather, it is a description of someone with a different learning style. As such, you cannot ‘cure’ it, but you can develop strategies to ensure you work around any difficulties that it may present.
Q: Will it say ‘dyslexic’ or ‘disabled’ on my degree certificate?
Q: Do I have to return equipment provided through the Disabled Students' Allowance?
A: Usually you would not have to, as it is yours to keep. There are some exceptions, however, such as loan equipment provided for final year students, or equipment provided to students who do not take their place at University. Your funding body will explain this to you.
Q: Is it a good idea to disclose my disability or specific learning difficulty on job application forms?
A: Many students ask us this question. Legally, employers cannot discriminate against disabled people and it is advisable to let employers know if you have a disability that may affect your performance at an interview; for example, if you are visually impaired they will need to send the directions for the interview electronically or in large print.
Keep in mind that a potential employer may be worried about how to support a member of staff with a disability, so they’ll be looking to you for advice. If you have an existing strategy which works – e.g. if you need to use specialist software to hear text read aloud, let them know. You are then providing them with a ready-made solution.
Completing a degree course with a disability will tell a future employer that you have worked hard and shown creativity and initiative by working around obstacles. As such, a good employer should view it as a positive attribute.
Q: How do I get more information?