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Easy tests for learning difficulties

nferNelson's "Dyscalculia Screener" gives children timed tasks over about half an hour. It asks them to discover, for example, if they can "see" a number of dots without laboriously counting them, and whether they can do simple arithmetic.

It's important that such tests are carefully timed, because speed of response is a key factor. Using the computer means the timing is accurate, and removes the pressure caused by a supervising adult.

The software creates a profile across the subtests and suggests whether the child requires specialist help. NferNelson's "Dyslexia Screener", still to be published, follows much the same pattern.

It provides a series of sub-tests over about half an hour, with different entry levels according to age. If children find something difficult, the software moves on so that they do not struggle.

Again, graphic profiling is provided, along with a recommendation for further action.

Lucid Research has a range of widely used products, mainly for screening and assessing dyslexia.

Software is targeted in various ways. Lucid Rapid is a 15-minute dyslexia screening test for ages four to 15. Lucid Cops (Cognitive Profiling System) is intended to predict learning difficulties in children from four to eight, even before they can read. (The term "dyslexia" is not appropriate for very young children, but the test forewarns of possible problems. The earlier the intervention, the better.) Lucid's "LASS" (junior and senior versions) is an assessment system that can be used for regular monitoring of reading and writing. (National Association for Special Educational Needs); www.bda-dyslexia. (advice on diagnosis and testing); (information on dyscalculia)

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