Providing feedback

16 Although each administrator will have their own style in providing feedback following a LADS Plus screening, when working with this particularly vulnerable client group the feedback part of the process is vital and should be undertaken not only with a high degree of sensitivity and professionalism, but also provide the individual with a clear explanation of both their strengths and difficulties and how this relates to dyslexia. It is, therefore, important the person providing the feedback has a reasonable understanding of dyslexia in order that they can provide appropriate and useful information.

All human beings have a profound need for praise and reassurance and without this we feel insecure and unhappy. For vulnerable individuals there are may not be many opportunities to secure praise and reassurance, yet there will often be discouragements. Therefore we need to know not only when we have been successful but also why we have been successful so that we can try and repeat this success. In the case of dyslexia identification we also need to provide an individual with information on how they can capitalise on the positive to support those areas where there might be specific difficulties.

Feedback is more likely to help an individual if it:

  • is given promptly
  • gives specific information
  • contains positive words,
  • gives detailed comment on how success has been achieved or not achieved,
  • can be linked to further positive courses of action.

For feedback to work effectively it has to be a two-way process. It is sometimes difficult to find the necessary balance between being honest about performance and being gentle on another person’s feelings. This can be a particular difficulty where an individual has achieved a low score on the verbal and/or non-verbal reasoning tests. On such occasions it is probably best not to draw attention to this. Where an individual has scored average or above, providing this information can provide an individual with an enormous confidence boost, as many within this vulnerable client group genuinely believe that their difficulties stem from a lack of intellect as opposed to a specific difficulty. It is also vital that the feedback provides them with the opportunity to move forward in a direction of their choosing if they wish to.

The way that feedback is delivered is almost as important as the content. Using superior, condescending or disinterested tones and inappropriate body language will ensure that the person to whom you are giving feedback does not receive it well, no matter how constructive you think it is.

The knowledge of the other person and their background that will have been gathered at a previous stage of the screening process is important within the feedback context so that you can illustrate the information about their strengths and difficulties with specific examples that have relevance to them. For some individuals this information will be new and can potentially affect the way that they see themselves. It can also bring to the surface a great deal of emotion.

It is also vital that any such feedback session is conducted in private and sufficient time is allowed for this process. It is also up to the individual to decide what information will become public knowledge.

It is easy to assume that you have been crystal clear in the information that you have given and yet the other person may not have understood what you have said or has misinterpreted the meaning of what you have said. Thus it is often useful to ask open questions to ensure this has not happened, e.g. ‘would you like to summarise what we have discussed?’ Avoid asking closed questions, e.g. ‘Have you understood?’ or ‘Is that all right?’ which make it harder for the person to say ‘No, I haven’t understood’ because they may feel that any failure to understand is their fault. 

Also, use of emotive words that can be misinterpreted should be avoided. An example of this was where an individual was told that they were ‘slow at reading’ they interpreted it that they were ‘slow’ in terms of general thought processes and intellectual ability. This had a profoundly negative impact on their self-esteem that took a great deal of effort to undo.

The skill of giving effective feedback following a screening session requires both a high level of thought and consideration, effective use of communication skills and a variety of strategies. It also requires that there is an opportunity for an individual to get further information and support at a later date if they wish to, so information about support agencies should also be provided. Identification of dyslexia should not usually be viewed as the end of a process but instead the beginning of a new and, hopefully, more positive one. The individual should be leaving with a greater level of awareness and understanding.

Key points in giving feedback:

  • The importance of this process should not be under estimated.
  • The effect of the screening/identification process on an individual should not be under estimated.
  • Without effective feedback the process of identification is pointless.
  • Feedback is a two-way process that should be positive.
  • Screening should help an individual to move forward if they wish to, and in a direction that they have chosen.
  • Feedback should contain information that is useful and relevant to that individual and others who may be in the position of providing support.
  • The ownership of the decision about where the information is used and by whom is that of the individual who has been screened.
  • Screening should be carried out in a professional and sensitive manner by someone with knowledge and understanding of dyslexia.

16 Please first refer to the general guidelines on giving feedback, which may be found in Section 4.4.1.