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.
A common difficulty I have noted is in regards to testing too much (“over-testing”) or not testing enough. Examples of this could be:
- administering (or not administering) the alternative phonological awareness assessments on the CTOPP 2;
- administering other subtests of the TOMAL 2, in addition to the Attention and Concentration Index (ACI);
- not administering the copy best/ fast and alphabet sections of the DASH.
This is all part of marking criterion 4 which states:
Age-appropriate assessment materials have been chosen to cover all core components as relevant to the SpLD(s) under consideration …
To administer or not to administer (the alternative phonological awareness subtests)? That is the question!
It may be that, despite average phonological awareness core subtest scores, difficulties are evident elsewhere. For example, in the background information, qualitative observations or in the attainment tests. In these cases, it can be of benefit to administer the supplementary phonological awareness subtests. This can (as the manual says) “yield much useful information about a person’s strengths and weaknesses”, providing us with further information and strengthening a potential diagnosis.
It is possible, in the core subtests, that an individual’s difficulties can be masked by the successful use of other abilities (such as logic and prediction, dare I say guessing?), or the positive impact of powerful interventions during earlier schooling. These abilities are not available when blending and segmenting non-words; in the supplementary tests there is less scope for using these strategies as the words are unknown.
In these cases, I would explain why this additional testing was carried out, e.g. Due to their reported difficulties in this area, further phonological awareness testing was carried out to investigate in more depth.
If the core phonological awareness subtests demonstrate below average scores, I think that to administer the alternative subtests may well be over-testing as you already have enough information.
Other subtests of TOMAL 2
SASC guidance asks us to report on working memory. One way this can be assessed is via the ACI Index in the TOMAL 2 (other assessments are available 🙂 ) Therefore, we have to be careful when adding additional testing from the TOMAL 2 that is not related to working memory (even though it potentially provides very good information). The essential tests we have to administer are already very comprehensive. We have to be mindful of the fatiguing effects of over-testing and the impact of this on the reliability of the results. This is not to say other tests cannot be used, but they need to be justified.
Bearing that in mind, it may be worth considering (but it is absolutely not expected or essential) carrying out the Visual Sequential Memory Subtest. This provides us with a composite score for Sequential Recall Index. If the Manual Imitation score is markedly higher than those of the verbal tasks, it may demonstrate that visual sequential memory is stronger than verbal memory. This provides us with further evidence of a specific weakness with verbal memory (one of the characteristic features of dyslexia), whilst also providing us with a potential strength on which to build.
Again, we would explain why this additional testing was carried out, e.g. further testing was carried out in order to investigate a possible strength with their visual memory and to further evidence a specific weakness with verbal processing, known to be associated with dyslexia.
For a pre-16 report, the SASC guidance tells us a copying task might also be given so that difficulties relating to motor skills and the process of composition can be teased apart. This is especially important if the background information, our own observations and other assessments (e.g. SDMT, Diamonds) have highlighted difficulties with fine-motor skills. If you are using the DASH, then this activity is provided for you and can be used qualitatively if the person is below 9 years of age. It does not need to be a formal assessment as the qualitative observations will provide us with information. If you have the DASH, I would recommend carrying out the 4 core subtests to be sure of covering all core components as relevant to the SpLD, whilst also supporting a possible onward referral for further investigation into motor skills. As the manual explains, “many children with poor fine and gross motor skills also have handwriting difficulties and may perform poorly on the DASH…further investigation will be helpful to quantify and describe their level of performance on a range of motor tasks.”
This will help ensure we are covering some of the core components, whilst not going too far and straying into ‘over-testing’, and will help inform our diagnostic decision. This also forms part of marking criterion 4 in the APC Review Proforma that all SpLD APC awarding bodies are using when reviewing an APC (The Dyslexia Guild, BDA and PATOSS).