In my role as an APC assessor, I have found there are many common errors that are made when submitting a report for a submission for APC, when marked against the marking criteria.
The fifth common error is not using the visual screener, which is part of marking criterion 3 which states:
A range of background information has been gathered from a variety of sources and that this has been used to inform the assessment and the diagnostic decision.
One useful piece of background information is that relating to a student’s visual abilities, in order to differentiate between visual problems and specific learning difficulties. Visual screeners can contribute useful information which can be captured in the Additional diagnostic evidence and information section of the report. Even if no visual difficulties are mentioned in the preliminary information gathering, a visual screener carried out by the assessor may bring issues to light which would otherwise be overlooked. For example, a child may notice letters moving on the page, but not think to mention this as it is perfectly ‘normal’ for them. As a result, this information would not be available to the assessor who has not administered a visual screener.
Purpose of a visual screener
The one I use is the visual screener (Dr Jim Gilchrist, Caroline Holden, Jane Warren), as disseminated by SASC, and its purpose is to:
- assist the assessor in exploring the possible role of a range of visual difficulties in explaining reading, writing or other difficulties experienced by the individual;
- promote awareness of vision professionals – promote importance of clear & comfortable vision;
- enable the assessor to make an informed decision about whether or not to refer the child/adult seen to an optometrist or other vision or medical professional for further investigation of the symptoms reported;
- give the assessor the information required to write a referral letter, if required.
- The purpose of a screening protocol is NOT to: facilitate a diagnostic explanation for any visual symptoms reported.
The questionnaire includes a number of questions addressing different aspects of possible visual difficulty. There are two sections to the pre- 16 years questionnaire: one for parents/carers and one for the child. Where involved, teachers could also provide corroboration, in the classroom context, of any issues noted.
Parental involvement in and permission for the use of this pre-16 years screener is necessary.
Reporting on visual screeners
If no difficulties are noted and no further action is required, this is still stated to demonstrate you have considered this aspect. Where there are indicators of visual difficulties (discomfort and disturbance), these must be noted but not diagnosed and the assessor should describe routes to further assessment with a qualified vision practitioner, e.g. optometrist. For further support with filling in the questionnaire, there is additional guidance and the presentation from the SASC conference in June 2019.
Assessors are advised not to:
- use the term “visual stress” as a catch-all;
- assume specific association of SpLD & visual stress;
- suggest or diagnose visual stress;
- use Irlen-related terminology.
This will form one element of the range of background information you consider, which will help inform your diagnostic decision and is part of marking criterion 3 in the APC Review Proforma that all SpLD APC awarding bodies are using when reviewing an APC (The Dyslexia Guild, BDA and PATOSS).
I have migrated the original PDF into a Microsoft Word version of the pre-16 visual screener.