One is not better than the other it just depends on who you intend to screen. LADS is suitable for screening adults whose education is at university or college level, while LADS Plus is suitable for screening all adults in the general population, including ethnic minorities, prisoners and young offenders, and those from socially and/or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.
Published research studies have shown that the dyslexia sensitive tests in LADS and LADS Plus are extremely good at identifying dyslexia (see also FAQ 2). But very bright adults who have dyslexia can are notoriously difficult to detect in screening because they have developed clever ways to compensate for their dyslexic difficulties. LADS and LADS Plus both avoid these bright dyslexics being missed in screening by factoring the person’s non-verbal intelligence into the system. At the other end of the intellectual scale there is a risk that individuals with low general ability might be wrongly classified as ‘dyslexic’ when they really don’t have dyslexia. LADS Plus guards against these mistakes by factoring the person’s verbal intelligence as well as non-verbal intelligence into the system. These mechanisms enable LADS and LADS Plus accurately to classify the risk of dyslexia for most adults, regardless of intelligence, education, socio-economic or ethnic background. Adults whose educational background is at university or college level are unlikely to have low general ability, so when screening these individuals it is not strictly necessary to include verbal intelligence. LADS is perfectly adequate for screening these brighter adults, which also means that screening time is minimised; LADS Plus could be used equally well but does take a bit longer. However, because any other group of adults might well include some with low general ability, LADS Plus (which includes verbal intelligence) is required to ensure the most accurate screening result.
Research studies published in international peer reviewed journals(i) have shown that both LADS and LADS Plus have high levels of screening accuracy and are more accurate than other methods of screening for dyslexia(ii). When comparing the screening accuracy of different products, it is essential to check that the tests have been validated to satisfactory scientific standards (LADS and LADS Plus have). Usually this will be evidenced by publication in peer reviewed journals, which provides the essential verification that, when the tests have been developed and validated, proper scientific procedures have been adhered to.
An additional advantage of LADS and LADS Plus is that there is a ‘borderline’ category, which, in effect, lets the person carrying out the screening know that they should examine this individual’s results more closely to determine whether or not they are likely to have dyslexia, which helps to improve accuracy even further.
There are many good reasons why LADS or LADS Plus should be your product of choice. Here are some of the main ones:
* Practical solutions to identifying dyslexia in juvenile offenders (British Dyslexia Association, 2005). See also Education and Child Psychology, 2001, Vol. 18, pp. 58-74.
LADS Plus (but not LADS) is suitable for screening most adults for whom English is an additional language (EAL), and, in fact, is often used for this purpose. However, there are certain provisos.
(1) The person being screened must have a reasonable standard of spoken English, so that they would not be able to understand the tasks.
(2) Particular care needs to be taken when interpreting the results obtained by EAL adults, because their relative lack of experience of reading and writing in English can lead to more usual patterns of scores.
For example, where the results show a normal or above average score for non-verbal reasoning but a low score for verbal reasoning, this could well be because the person has limited spoken vocabulary in English. In such cases the non-verbal reasoning measure is clearly the more reliable indicator of intellectual ability. In cases like these, the person will often show major difficulties on the word recognition test because they cannot distinguish between real words and non-words quickly enough. Under other circumstances this result would be strongly suggestive of dyslexia, but in EAL cases is not by itself such a clear dyslexia indicator because the person is probably lacks experience of reading English. For EAL adults, the areas that yield particularly useful information in terms of dyslexia identification are the word construction and memory tests. If these are giving positive indications then the overall probability of dyslexia is likely to be high, even though English vocabulary skills are weak.
LADS and LADS Plus were designed to screen specifically for dyslexia. However, the use of LADS to screen for dyspraxia has been investigated by an independent group of researchers at the University of Worcester and the results were published in a paper in the peer-reviewed international journal ‘Dyslexia’ in 2009.
In the sample of 74 students who were analysed in this study, 30 were dyslexic and 20 were dyspraxic, with an overlap of 11 students who were both dyslexic and dyspraxic. The researchers compared the accuracy of various methods of screening for identifying these dyslexic and dyspraxic students and found that LADS gave higher accuracy than other conventional approaches. However, they also found that LADS combined with a tutor administered battery of tests that included assessment of hand-eye coordination, sequencing and orientation was even more accurate. Unfortunately, these researchers did not break down their dyslexic/dyspraxic group (i.e. in analysing the accuracy of screening they did not distinguish between those who were dyslexic and those who were dyspraxic) so we do not know the differential accuracy of LADS in discriminating the two conditions. It is possible that LADS was best at picking up the dyslexic students (including the dyslexic students who also had dyspraxia) but may have missed some of the dyspraxic ones who did not also have dyslexia (a total of 9 students in the sample). Perhaps this is why the addition of the tutor administered battery of tests that included assessment of hand-eye coordination, sequencing and orientation improved the detection accuracy, but we don’t know for sure.
So it is clear that LADS and LADS Plus can deliver useful results when screening for dyspraxia as well as dyslexia. However, if you want to be sure about the accuracy of the system to pick up dyspraxics it might be a good idea include some assessment of hand-eye coordination, sequencing and orientation in your screening, e.g. by asking questions about these skills when students are interviewed.
The original program, ‘LADS’, is not suitable for assessing offenders because many offenders have low levels of literacy due to social background factors, disrupted schooling, etc. LADS was originally designed to screen for dyslexia in adults at college, university and in employment-related situations, and if used to screen offenders could produce increased numbers of false positives (i.e. cases where the program classifies an adult as probably having dyslexia, when their poor literacy skills are most likely due to other factors).
However, the later version of the program, ‘LADS Plus’, is suitable for assessing offenders and, in fact, was developed partly to achieve that specific objective because there is clear evidence that dyslexia is significantly more common in offenders than in the general population. Hence there is a need to identify these individuals and be appropriately supported. Dyslexia is not a direct cause of offending but the condition – especially if undiagnosed and untreated at school – dramatically increases the risks of education failure, loss of self-esteem, and reduced employability, all of which are contributory factors in offending.
During 2004–2005 the British Dyslexia Association embarked on a wide-ranging programme of research in prisons, young offender institutions, probation services and youth offending teams. This initiative, funded in part by the European Social Fund and carried out in cooperation with NACRO, the national crime reduction charity, and other organisations, was designed to improve techniques for identifying and supporting offenders with dyslexia in order to raise their employment prospects and reduce reoffending. One of the direct outcomes of the BDA initiative was the enhancement of LADS Plus to increase the accuracy of the program in detecting dyslexia in individuals who may have poor educational attainment and limited verbal skills. Much of the ground work for this was carried out by researchers working at Wetherby Young Offenders Institution.
The various improvements to the LADS screening program brought about by this research included addition of a verbal reasoning test and refinement of the assessment calculations to deal with individuals with poor reading skills and low verbal ability. The verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests in LADS Plus complement the three dyslexia-sensitive tests and increase the accuracy of the program in detecting of dyslexia across the IQ spectrum, including individuals who may have limited or disrupted education. The reasoning tests also enable the administrator to reach a fair estimate of the person’s intelligence, which may be important when making decisions about educational support and further action after screening.
Yes, LADS Plus is a recognised test for use in connection with applications for examination access arrangements (aka ‘exam concessions’). The regulations regarding the types of information that should be obtained in order to support an application for exam access arrangements, and who is qualified to carry out the necessary assessments and present such information, are produced and updated annually by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) [See www.jcq.org.uk/examsoffice/access-arrangements-and-special-consideration]. These regulations are then applied by the awarding bodies.
However, JCQ does not specify the tests to be used, as that is left to the professional judgement of the qualified specialist carrying out the assessment. Hence there is no ‘JCQ recommended list’ and neither does any of the awarding bodies produce a list of approved tests. However, JCQ has approved Lucid’s guidelines showing how its other product Lucid Exact can be used when assessing students for examination access arrangements (see Fact Sheet 61). Teachers planning to use information from LADS Plus in examination access arrangements are advised to consult this Fact Sheet.
When applying for examination access arrangements, JCQ specifies that the information supplied should include standard scores on tests of literacy. Although LADS Plus is a screening test that helps identify dyslexia, the test doesn’t assess literacy directly so it does not provide standard scores. Consequently LADS Plus results are not directly applicable to this purpose. However, the supplementary information provided for examination access arrangements should also include what JCQ refers to as ‘painting a picture of the student’s needs’ [see JCQ Regulations 2014-15, Sections 5.2.2, 7.5.12 and 7.6.1], which should include a history of how and when the student’s difficulties where identified, how they have been supported, and what their normal ways of working and undertaking examinations and assessments have been. Information from LADS Plus is clearly appropriate within this context and is recognised as such by awarding bodies. However, the test of choice for this purpose would be Lucid Exact, which was specifically designed to comply with JCQ requirements.