Phone: 9447 2000
Fax: 9447 2022

Dr Isabel Fernandez & Associates offers diagnostic assessments for children and adolescents at risk of a Specific Learning Disorder. Our assessments are conducted by highly qualified Clinical Psychologists and Clinical Psychologist Registrars with experience and expertise in recognising a range of learning issues.

What is a Specific Learning Disorder?

A Specific Learning Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impedes the ability to learn or use key academic skills, including reading (Dyslexia), writing (Dysgraphia) and math (Dyscalculia). Signs of learning difficulties may appear in the preschool years (e.g., difficulty learning names of letters or counting objects), but they can only be diagnosed reliably after starting formal education (usually the beginning of Year 2).

Key skills that may be impacted by Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia include reading of single words, reading comprehension, writing, spelling, math calculation and math problem solving. Difficulties with these skills may cause problems learning in other higher-level academic subjects, such as history, science and social studies. However, it is important to remember that problems in these areas are attributable to difficulties learning the underlying academic skills.

Could my Child have a Specific Learning Disorder?

To be diagnosed under the DSM-5 with a Specific Learning Disorder, a child must have difficulties in at least one of the areas listed below. The symptoms must have continued for at least six months despite targeted help and not be attributable to other mental or neurobiological disorders, or adverse learning conditions (i.e., significant time of school).

  1. Difficulty reading (e.g., inaccurate, slow and only with much effort)
  2. Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read (reading comprehension)
  3. Difficulty with spelling
  4. Difficulty with written expression (i.e., problems with grammar, punctuation or organization)
  5. Difficulty understanding number concepts, number facts or calculation
  6. Difficulty with mathematical reasoning (i.e., math calculation or solving math problems)

How is a Specific Learning Disorder Assessed?

The majority of schools and government agencies require an assessment for a Specific Learning Disorder (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia) to be completed by a Registered Psychologist with expertise in identifying difficulties in learning. A complete and comprehensive Educational Assessment for a Specific Learning Disorder incorporates both a Cognitive Assessment and a range of achievement tests. At times, other assessments may be included, such as socioemotional or behavioural. These assessment components are integral to pinpointing the areas of difficulty and ruling out other possible diagnoses (i.e., intellectual, attentional, behavioural and/or emotional).

To assess for a Specific Learning Disorder, we firstly gather information from parents in an Initial Parent Consultation, as well as from teachers, school reports, medical and allied health reports and NAPLAN. This gathering of information allows us to better understand the child’s difficulties at home and in the school environment, allowing for an individually tailored assessment plan. In all assessments we use the most recent version of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V), as well as a battery of other standardised tests that assess phonological processing skills, literacy and numeracy skills, oral expression, written expression, handwriting, attention and socioemotional functioning. Standardised testing means your child’s scores are compared against thousands of other children within the same age range.

Will an Assessment or Diagnosis help my child?

If your child is at risk of having a learning difficulty (i.e., known family history, early hearing issues or speech delays) or they are showing signs of struggling with literacy or numeracy learning, the most important step to take is early assessment and intervention. For example, the best interventions for children with Dyslexia are systematic, well-structured and multi-sensory and should include training in letter sounds, phoneme awareness, and linking letters and phonemes through writing and reading from texts. Our Specific Learning Disorder Assessment identifies the areas where your child struggles the most, allowing for an intervention plan that is attuned to your child’s specific needs.

It is also important to provide a copy of the assessment report to your child’s educator. This will help them to make appropriate accommodations and develop an individualised intervention and learning plan for your child at school, as well as providing a base-line for subsequent monitoring and review of progress. The report can also assist in making an application for special examination arrangements for WACE to the School Curriculum and Standards Authority (SCSA).

Will I be Provided a Diagnostic Report?

Yes, you will receive a comprehensive, diagnostic report following your child’s Specific Learning Disorder Assessment. This report will contain several sections including their biographical, developmental and educational history, cognitive profile and academic strengths and weaknesses. If your child meets the DSM criteria for Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia, the diagnosis/es will be included in the report along with recommendations individually tailored to your child’s needs.

Do I Need a Referral for my Child?

Young people are often referred for a comprehensive assessment by Paediatricians, General Practitioners, teachers and school counsellors. However, a referral isn’t a necessity, with many parents directly seeking an assessment for their child for a variety of reasons.

How can I have my Child Assessed?

If your child is experiencing difficulties at school or you feel an assessment might be helpful for your child, the first step is to book an Initial Parent Consultation. This appointment is an opportunity for you to voice any concerns you have for your child and it allows the Clinical Psychologist to closely review your child’s developmental, educational, and psychosocial history. This information is essential in the development of an assessment plan tailored to your child’s presentation.

Simply call Isabel Fernandez and Associates on (08) 9447 2000 to book an Initial Parent Consultation today and get the right advice for your child’s needs.