Find out about assessment, and what to consider when employing a non-medical helper
If you have any other questions, contact the staff at your regional or national centre, who will be happy to help.
Assessment is a formal process which is essential if you wish to apply for a Disabled Students' Allowance or examination arrangements. A full assessment is carried out by an educational psychologist or by specialist teachers with a practising certificate. It is likely to involve a mixture of discussion and diagnostic assessments to examine your learning history, profile your working memory and identify your current strengths and weaknesses. Assessment can take up to three hours. Whether or not to have an assessment is an individual decision and you can take it any time, however if you want to arrange support for your study needs you should consider arranging this as soon as possible.
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Alex has had two full assessments for his dyslexia, one at school and one at the OU. He contrasts his experiences with both.
Alex: The two tests, although very similar tests as far as testing my written speed, my problem solving, my memory, and the various tests that went on to determine whether I had a specific learning difficulty, or my dyslexia, were very similar, my impression from both of them were very different.
As a child, or as a school-age child, I found the assessment more destructive. It broke down more of my confidence than it actually helped because I had 14 pages of telling people what I can’t do.
In 2008, when I had the Open University’s assessment, it was much more about empowering me and giving me the power to be able to access the support I need to be able to reach my full potential. And so, I found it a much more empowering experience than I did the first time around.
And I was able to… although I had the same 14 pages telling me I couldn’t do things, it was about the Open University were asking me the question,Well, what support can we give you so you can get these skills up to scratch, or we can overcome these barriers for you that’s going to stop you from studying with us?
And that question, although very subtle, made the world of difference to me, so I really enjoyed the whole experience from the Open University side, although the two reports were very similar to one another.
You can choose whether or not to have an assessment. Some people with dyslexia decide not to have one as they prefer to take their own approach and explore learning in their own way. Others find assessment valuable as a means of getting the right help to develop their study skills - often by working with a non-medical helper. A full assessment can be valuable or necessary in other ways too, some of which are listed below.
Remember, you can have an assessment at any time.
If you already have an assessment and it was carried out after you were 16 years old you may be able to use it to apply for a Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) without any further assessment. Contact the DSA Office for further information: .
If your assessment was carried out before the age of 16 and you want to apply for a DSA then you will need to have an assessment to determine your current level of need. Staff at your regional or national centre will be able to offer you advice.
You may already be aware that you might be dyslexic. A teacher might have noticed signs; a family member might have a diagnosis. Whatever your starting point you may find it helpful to complete a dyslexia checklist such as the ones available from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA).
Staff from the Learner Support tteam in the regional and national centres are trained to help, and can talk through indicators and previous experience with you. They may offer to talk you through a series of questions which will help you explore your strengths and weaknesses. They can also explain to you the assessment process and what happens after assessment.
Your regional or national centre may be able to provide you with a list of assessors to contact. However, we do not employ any assessors and you will need to take responsibility for checking that they are suitably qualified.
In addition to your regional or national centres you may find the following organisations useful.
find a psychologist / directory of chartered psychologists.
We advise you to use an assessor who has a practising certificate and whose reports follow the government's DSA Working Group 2005 guidelines, which are available on the right side of the PATOSS home page. This will mean that you will be able to use your report when applying for a DSA, if appropriate.
Once you have found an assessor you may find it helpful to provide some written information about studying at the OU and the type of support we can make available.
We advise you to give your assessor the Guidelines for assessors we have developed.
The OU cannot pay for your assessment. However, you may be able to apply for the Access to Learning Fund (ALF) or student assistance fund. To find out more contact your regional or national centre.
It can be difficult to understand all the information in your report if you are unfamiliar with the language. You may find it helpful to have a glossary available to explain the terms.
The author of your report will usually offer to talk through your assessment with you. However, do remember that DAR staff in your regional or national centre will also be happy to talk over the results of your report and any implications for your studies.
Your dyslexia assessment may suggest that you work with someone to develop your study skills. When you undergo a needs assessment for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA - check to see if you are eligible) they may recommend that you receive funding for this — this person is often referred to as a 'non-medical helper'.
Randstad provides non-medical helpers for students with disabilities from universities and colleges across the UK. They are currently able to supply OU students (in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) who are in receipt of a DSA with note-takers, readers, specialist mentors and tutors. Contact them directly at Randstad Student Support and Worker Support.
Your non-medical helper should work towards the same goal as you — the development of your organisational and independent studying skills as appropriate to academic study at university level.
Your first meeting with your non-medical helper is a good opportunity to discuss important points such as
You may know exactly what kind of support you will need, based on assessment, professional advice and your previous experience of study. Do explain this to your non-medical helper as the more information they receive the easier it will be for you both to make effective use of the time available.
Make sure your helper knows that you do not require any teaching of the subject or help with the content of assignments, but you do need help to identify and develop underpinning skills.
Talk to your helper about the best way to structure your sessions together. A recommended pattern is to
Look through the suggestions below to get some ideas for topics you might want to work on with your non-medical helper.
If you feel you are being given a lecture rather than working on one of the skills outlined above then the session is not working properly. Make sure you are acquiring skills that will enhance your study in your present and future study.