Assessing & Supporting Dyslexia: Glossary (including acronyms)



Enabling arrangements which are put in place to ensure that the dyslexic person can demonstrate their strengths and abilities, and show attainment.


Allied Health Professional – e.g. Speech and language therapist, Occupational therapist, Physiotherapist, Clinical psychologist, Orthoptist, Dietician, Family therapist, Art therapist.


Additional support for learning


Additional support needs

Assessment (SQA)

The process of collecting and interpreting evidence of candidate performance.

Assessment arrangements (SQA)

Alternative instruments of assessment and/or support to enable a candidate to demonstrate competence against the qualification standards.

Assessment of literacy difficulties

The assessment of literacy difficulties typically involves a combination of formative, observational and standardised assessment. It will consider a child’s progress in a range of skills and any barriers to learning in reading, spelling and written work. A complete profile of the strengths and weaknesses is built up, and factors that may seem to be peripheral to the essential literacy skills are also considered.

Assessment on demand (SQA)

The use of the assessment process to confirm competence without requiring candidates to undertake any further training.

Assessor (SQA)

The person who applies the assessment process to candidates for their achievement of a qualification.

Assessor and Verifier Units (SQA)

Nationally-devised Units which centre staff can complete to prove their competence in the assessment process.

Atypical behaviour

Behaviour that is deemed to be out of character or abnormal.


Heard or perceived by the ears.



Letters that are not vowels, produced by a momentary stoppage of air as the sound is pronounced.

D – Definition of Dyslexia

The following working definition of dyslexia has been developed by the Scottish Government, Dyslexia Scotland and the Cross Party Group on Dyslexia in the Scottish Parliament. This is one of many definitions available. The aim of this particular working definition is to provide a description of the range of indicators and characteristics of dyslexia as helpful guidance for educational practitioners, pupils, parents/carers and others.

Dyslexia exists in all cultures and across the range of abilities and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a hereditary, life-long, neurodevelopmental condition. Unidentified, dyslexia is likely to result in low self esteem, high stress, atypical behaviour, and low achievement.

Dyslexia can be described as a continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and/or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual’s cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.

The impact of dyslexia as a barrier to learning varies in degree according to the learning and teaching environment, as there are often associated difficulties such as:

  • auditory and/or visual processing of language-based information
  • phonological awareness
  • oral language skills and reading fluency
  • short-term and working memory
  • sequencing and directionality
  • number skills
  • organisational ability

Motor skills and co-ordination may also be affected.

Learners with dyslexia will benefit from early identification, appropriate intervention and targeted effective teaching, enabling them to become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.



The adjustment of teaching and learning to suit the learning needs of pupils.

Differentiation can be to suit:

  • the whole class
  • particular groups
  • particular individuals.

Differentiation can be:

  • by task (different tasks for different student levels)
  • by outcome (setting different expectations and/or tasks) or
  • by support (giving more help and/or accommodations).

Differentiation should enable all pupils to learn.


Two letters that make one sound. There are vowel digraphs and consonant digraphs (e.g. ea [vowel digraph] as in ear, ch [consonant digraph] as in church).

Disappearing Strategies

Children who have a quiet disposition may adopt the strategy of becoming a ‘Disappearing Child’ in the classroom, by being exceptionally quiet and not drawing attention to themselves at all. They avoid eye contact with the teacher and do not put up their hands to ask or answer questions. Many will perfect a performance that makes it seem as if they are engaging in a task appropriately. They will appear to be writing or reading even though they may have a poor grasp of what the task entails or may not have the skills to accomplish the task. In a busy classroom such children may be difficult to identify for a considerable time which means that they may be lagging far behind peers once they are identified.

In some cases a child will develop a strategy that means they are physically not in the classroom when a particular task occurs, most often reading aloud, which dyslexic children often find the most frightening aspect of the classroom. This strategy may take the form of being particularly helpful, so the child may volunteer to take the register to the office or to take messages around the school to other teachers. They will perhaps take rather longer than is necessary to complete such tasks in the hope that the activity that they are trying to avoid will be finished by the time they return. Some children use the pretext of frequent and extended trips to the toilet to achieve the same aim. Teachers should be alert to the timing of these activities. Is there a pattern for example in a child’s behaviour that suggests s/he is concerned about a particular task? At the extreme of the continuum of ‘disappearing’ strategies a child may use illness as a mechanism for avoidance so a pattern of absence related to the timetable may alert either teachers or parents to the child’s underlying difficulty.

Disruptive Strategies

If a child does not have the verbal confidence to become the ‘Class Clown’, or the sporting prowess to aim for ‘Team Captain’ status, then being a ‘Disruptive Child’ may seem a reasonable alternative. Again, as adults we can see how misplaced a strategy this is, but children do not have such a long-term perspective and focus mostly on resolving their immediate difficulties. If the dilemma is how to avoid failing at a particular task, especially in front of friends, then standing outside the door of the classroom as a result of obnoxious behaviour is actually a reasonable solution to the immediate problem. Again, children who adopt such behaviour may well be popular with their peers as watching someone else get into trouble is entertaining but presents no personal risk to members of the ‘audience’.

At the extreme of the continuum of disruptive strategies are the children whose behaviour leads to them being excluded or those who play truant in order to avoid the stress of facing tasks in the classroom that they cannot complete. This of course means that they have also, quite literally, ‘disappeared’. Such extreme strategies tend to occur if some of the other strategies have not elicited the recognition and support that the child needs. By this time the child is likely to have developed ‘learned helplessness’ which is a state in which an inability to undertake particular activities undermines confidence in all tasks, even those that could be accomplished successfully. Such children, though rare, are at this stage ‘lost’ to education as they feel no sense of engagement or ‘belonging’ in a context that has failed to meet their needs.

Children tend to be pragmatic creatures. In reality the child’s day to day life in the classroom would be easier if s/he simply undertook the tasks presented so we must conclude that if a child could complete text related tasks, s/he would – simply because it is easier to do so. If a child persists in not completing tasks successfully in the classroom then we should assume that there is likely to be an underlying reason for such behaviour. One possible explanation is that the child is dyslexic and therefore needs additional support in order to develop the text related skills required.

Distracting Strategies

For dyslexic children who have good verbal skills the preferred strategy is often that of becoming ‘The Class Clown’ – the child who is always ready with a quip or a joke. On the face of it this behaviour is not likely to endear the child to a teacher but it is likely to result in a high level of peer approval and for a child who feels that he is unable to do what the teacher requires, being popular with peers may seem a worthwhile alternative. This strategy also distracts everyone from the task that the child may fear and is an attempt to avoid being seen to fail by the peer group.

If a dyslexic child is skilled at sport then a focus on that activity may also serve to distract teachers from the child’s difficulties with classroom tasks. Such children often maintain high self-esteem and peer group approval despite having difficulties with text based tasks so there is a possibility that engagement in the sporting activity may lead to difficulties in other areas being overlooked.



Individualised Educational Programme

Independent assessment (SQA)

An instrument of assessment applied by the awarding body to improve the rigour and credibility of assessment decisions across different awarding bodies and centres.


Modification to suit the wishes or needs of a particular individual.

Instruments of assessment (SQA)

A means of generating evidence of a candidate’s competence. Sometimes referred to as ‘approaches to assessment’ or ‘assessment methodology’, eg observation checklist, project specification or peer report.

Integrated assessment (SQA)

Where the application of an instrument of assessment allows for assessment of more than one Unit within a qualification.

Internal Verifier/ Moderator (SQA)

The person within the centre who checks that the assessment process has been valid, reliable and practicable.


Literacy (A Curriculum for Excellence)

The set of skills which allows an individual to engage fully in society and in learning, through the different forms of language, and the range of texts, which society values and finds useful.


Meares-Irlen Syndrome

Also known as Visual Stress, ‘Irlen Syndrome’ and ‘Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome’, it is a perceptual problem that seems to upset the way the brain processes incoming visual information with various detrimental results – for example, print seeming blurry, perhaps seeming to move around and/or peculiar patterns or ‘rivers’ seeming to appear. It is not an optical problem nor does it affect only those with literacy difficulties, but can it be exacerbated by factors such as bright lighting, high contrast, glare, patterns and colours. It can affect not only reading and writing ability, but also fluency, comfort, concentration and attention, and therefore comprehension and behaviour.


Awareness of, and understanding how we think and process information; thinking about thinking.


Using all of the available senses to aid learning – hear it, see it, say it, write it: – do it, act it out, shape it with dough, trace it, type it on the computer, feel it etc.



The development of the nervous system; relating to the development of cognitive functioning.



The initial consonant(s) of a syllable e.g. spr in spring, or p in pat.



Physical education


A distinguishable speech sound.

Phonological awareness

Sensitivity to the sounds of language. It includes the ability to segment and distinguish individual and groups of sounds – i.e. phonemes, syllables etc.

It is generally agreed that phonological awareness links to children’s reading development at three levels

  • Syllable
  • Onset-rime
  • Phoneme.


Relating to the sound system of the language.


Personal Learning Plan


Element placed at start of a word to qualify its meaning.



The extent to which a test or assessment can be depended on; the extent to which the test gives the same results when used under the same or similar circumstances on different occasions.


A string of letters at the end of words which sound the same e.g. which and rich.


The group of letters in a syllable following the onset.

Generally speaking the rime is the part of the syllable that begins with the vowel and comes after the onset e.g. ay in play or say.


Religious, moral and philosophical studies



Screening typically consists of looking at a group of indications that may mean that a child is showing signs of being dyslexic. It is not the same as a dyslexia assessment that will involve thorough investigation of the child’s cognitive functioning as well as considering various other factors. Screening can however indicate that a child requires specific help or intervention that can then be monitored and, if appropriate, full assessment can follow later. Screening can often be done with groups of children rather than individually.


Support for learning


Specific Learning Difficulties (to differentiate these difficulties from more general learning difficulties).


Transposition of initial or other sounds or two or more words – e.g. wellie boot ⇒ bellie woot.


Scottish Qualifications Authority


Element added to end of a word to qualify its meaning.


A pronounceable ‘beat’ in word, unit of spoken language.


Text (A Curriculum for Excellence)

The medium through which ideas, experiences, opinions and information can be communicated. Examples of texts include novels, short stories, plays, poems, reference texts, the spoken word, charts, maps, graphs and timetables, advertisements, promotional leaflets, comics, newspapers and magazines, CVs, letters and emails, films, games and TV programmes, labels, signs and posters, recipes, manuals and instructions, reports and reviews, text messages, blogs and social networking sites, web pages, catalogues and directories.



The degree to which a test actually measures what it says it does – the extent to which the tool is ‘fit for purpose’. There are several types of validity. No attempt has been given here to define all of them here.


Seen or perceived by the eyes.


The letters a, e, i, o, u. Y can behave like a vowel when it makes an ĭ or an ī sound as in happy or sty.