The assessment of adults with dyslexia: Psychologists’ experiences [Paper presentation]

  • Andrea Sadusky (Contributor)

Activity: Community Talks, Presentations, Exhibitions and EventsPublic event


Background: Dyslexia is a type of Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) categorised by difficulties in the use and acquisition of reading and spelling skills. There has been ongoing disagreement about how to best operationalise dyslexia in assessment practices. Almost all research that has investigated the dyslexia assessment practices of psychologists has recruited psychologists who practice (1) with school-aged children and young people and (2) in countries where legislation governs dyslexia identification practices.

Aim: This presentation will report on a study which addressed some of the research gaps by empirically investigating the dyslexia assessment practices of psychologists who work with adults and in a country that does not have SLD identification legislation (i.e., Australia). The aim of this study was to explore how psychologists assess and diagnose dyslexia with adults, and what influences these practices.

Design: A qualitative design was employed to explore the perceptions, experiences, and beliefs of Australian psychologists with respect to the assessment of adults with dyslexia.

Method: Nine Australian psychologists with prior experience assessing adults for dyslexia were interviewed using a semi-structured schedule to collect information about their beliefs and practices. Their collective responses were analysed using thematic analysis to find common themes amongst the psychologists’ experiences and beliefs.

Results: Psychologists’ assessment practices with adults were similar to those used with children. Participants were uncertain if their extrapolated practices were valid. Although all employed the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5) criteria for diagnosing adults with dyslexia, they expressed various understandings of its response-to-intervention criteria. Participants perceived a lack of training and evidence-based practice for assessing adults for dyslexia. Clinical judgment was essential for overcoming barriers associated with incomplete background information about adult clients, different presentations of adults with dyslexia compared to children, inappropriate test norms for assessing adults, and determining the extent that the DSM-5’s response-to-intervention criteria can apply to diagnosing adults.

Conclusion: This presentation will provide unique insights into the practices and professional development needs of Australian psychologists who assess adults for dyslexia. Participants desired further training and research about the lifelong trajectory of reading skills (and, by extension, reading disorders such as dyslexia) and recommended empirically based decisions when assessing adults. Recommendations, based on the experiences and perceptions of the interviewed psychologists, will be discussed.
Period11 Feb 2021
Event titleAustralian Psychological Society (APS) College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists Virtual Conference 2021: Working together for the future
Event typeConference
LocationMelbourne, Australia, VictoriaShow on map


  • dyslexia
  • learning difficulties
  • psychoeducational assessment
  • specific learning disorder
  • educational psychology
  • lifespan practice
  • psychologist
  • diagnosis
  • psychology training