Frequently asked questions

Those most often asked...

No. Some schools offer basic dyslexia screenings look to see if there are 'signs' of dyslexia but they do not provide a diagnosis. Screenings can be a useful first step before investigating difficulties further but they're not 100% reliable. For example, a screening may indicate no signs of dyslexia yet teachers see clear difficulties in the classroom. A screening may indicate that a chlid probably has dyslexia yet the difficulties may relate to something else.

When thinking about pursuing a full diagnostic assessment for a young child, it is advisable to consider the following:

  • Is your child having unexpected difficulties?
  • Are your child's difficulties purely related to the disruption caused by COVID / missed education or were those difficulties there beforehand?
  • Is your child not responding to the right interventions? 
  • Is your child needing high levels of support to sustain progress? 

Please either call me on 01342 714065, email me at [email protected] or reach me through my website contact form. Please give me some brief information so we're sure that I'm the right professional to help. Once we know that you'd like to go ahead, I'll send you a link to my online booking system where you can choose your assessment date/time and pay the deposit. 

My availability is at the bottom of the homepage HERE.

Having assessed for so many years, I very quickly pick up on other needs through pre-assessment information and on the day, even though an assessment takes around just 2 hours. I'm always very open yet senstive with my feedback. I regularly see signs of other needs such as ADHD (including the inattentive type), speech and language, autism, dyspraxia, sensory processing and visual discomfort/disturbances. Pre-assessment questionnaires may reveal information where I'll ask you (and possibly the school if assessing your child) to complete screening forms. I'm able to write referral letters for some needs but I'll always offer advice about how further assessments can be pursued if it's something that I can't personally diagnose. 

Schools and colleges play a critical role in determining whether students need support in their exams because any help put in place must reflect their needs and normal way of working. A formal diagnosis of dyslexia doesn't automatically entitle students to exam access arrangements. A formal diagnosis is rarely needed at GCSE and A' level.

If you feel that help is needed for your child, you must speak to the SENCo first to see whether the school can conduct a brief assessment for this. If it can't, please ask the school whether it will accept an external report from someone like myself as I'm very happy to complete JCQ form 8 but the school would need to send me this form before the assessment takes place. You may like to give the SENCo a link to this website.

Having assessed for more than 20 years, my reports are held by schools and colleges all over the south east (and beyond) in terms of providing a formal diagnosis. My 'assessment practising certificate' (APC) is the gold mark that anyone pursuing an assessment should look for in an assessor. Renewing an APC is a stringent process that happens every 3 years and I've done this succesfully several times. Clients and schools can check to see if an assessor has an APC on the SASC website 

My reports are also accepted by universities and by Student Finance England for those applying for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA).

No. There's no link whatsoever between visual discomfort / disturbances and dyslexia, even though many schools continue to give out overlays if dyslexia is a possibility. Any signs of a visual difficulty must be investigated by an optometrist or optician who's had the specialist training because being given an overlay may mask a significant underlying eye difficulty. For example, it may be that some exercises are needed to strengthen the eye muscles and ensure the eyes are working together. Visual discomfort / disturbances can still occur when a standard eyesight test comes back as 'normal'. Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed by an optometrist or optician. There is no such thing as 'visual dyslexia'.

Yes, whilst clients of all ages are welcome to come to my home in Crawley Down, I offer assessments via Zoom for adults and young people in year 7 and above. This means that I regularly assess people from all over the UK and abroad such as Open University students across Europe and Asia.

After the assessment, you'll receive a very detailed report which is really easy to understand and has extremely practical strategies. This can be shared with schools, universities, workplaces, etc. I often write referral letters for a variety of needs that arise from a full assessment such as potential ADHD, dyspraxia for children and speech & language and there is no extra charge for these letters. Adults can choose to pay an additional fee of £50 if they'd like an executive summary to share with their employer that takes out the most personal information. 

Yes, recently received legal advice has stated that everyone with parental responsibility for the child needs to give permission for the assessment going ahead. Signing the family questionnaire will ask you to confirm that this is the case. Otherwise, this could lead to legal action being taken by one party. If this is not possible, please contact me as I will need to seek legal advice.

Other questions

My contact hours for phone calls and email enquiries are Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm.

I offer a great deal of flexibility for assessments that take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Assessments at my home can take place from early morning until late evening. Assessments over Zoom can be offered at any time of the day or night which is particularly ideal for those who do shift work or live abroad (including those living in very different time zones).

For Zoom assessments, I can see anyone regardless of where they live, whether in the UK or abroad. Therefore, I've seen people from all over the UK, Europe and Asia. 

Clients are welcome to come to my home in the village of Crawley Down which is in-between Crawley and East Grinstead, West Sussex. I've also had clients fly into London Gatwick Airport which is just a 15 minute drive away or come down by train from London to the nearest stations (Three Bridges and East Grinstead). The airport and train stations have taxi ranks.

There're many factors that can dictate how long a typical assessments lasts. My assessments are usually spot on 2 hours for under 16s but they can be quicker for those with exceptionally low literacy levels. I always strive for an assessment to feel really chilled (and fun!) but I also intend to make an assessment no longer than it needs to be. Otherwise, fatigue can set in and the results may not be so reliable.   

I ask that you're not with your child during the assessment for a few reasons:

  • Because of COVID, I ask that only the person being assessed comes into my house. My dining room where I assess is visible at the front of the house from a safeguarding perspective. Zoom pre-assessment 'hello's are offered to those being assessed to meet me first so they can put a face to a name, ask questions, etc.
  • I've found from experience that even the most shy children settle down really quickly as the assessment's kept fun and chilled, and it lasts no longer than it needs to be. Please see my COVID measures page HERE about my back garden cabin if you'd prefer not to drop off/return.
  • Children and young people tend to look to their parents for the answers or to see if their responses are 'okay'. This can affect the reliability of the results and less information being shared (such as if a child doesn't feel able to voice their thoughts if they might differ from the parent's perspective).
  • In the past, parents found the assessment really interesting but were rather too keen to join in!! This very much affects the realibility of the results and the potential outcome. However, once the assessment has finished, you'll be included in the immediate feedback.

I hold an enhanced DBS certificate last renewed in August 2021. 

Feedback from various sources is definitely encouraged. I'd advise you to speak with your child's teacher or SENCo to say that you're thinking about or you've already booked an assessment and would the school be happy to complete a questionnaire. Sometimes, families have clear reasons why they don't want the school involved or the school isn't willing to provide information. In these cases, I'll ask to see your child's last school report and I'll add a brief note in the report to say that information has come from only the family.

For anyone aged 17 or under, the report goes to the parent who can share it as appropriate. For anyone aged 18+ (including those in sixth form or college), the report is sent to the person named on it although they may want to give permission for the report to also be sent to a parent or employer.

For adults whose reports are commissed by and paid for by employers, the full report will go to the employee only but an executive summary will go to the employee and the employer.

I assess children aged 7+. In my view, it's important to identify difficulties as early as possible so that appropriate interventions can be put in place and the child's self-esteem isn't adversely affected. However, a child might just need slightly longer to acquire those early skills, after which they flourish without any difficulties. This is especially the case with the disruption from COVID. Therefore, I assess children age 7 and above. In very rare and exceptional cases, I will see a 6 year old but only with the FULL involvement and support of the school. Parents must speak to the school in the first instance.

In terms of a maximum age, no, not at all! I see many adults in their 30s, 40s, 50s who need assessments for work, returning to study or just to get an answer to a lifelong question about having some type of learning difficulty. I've assessed several people in their 70s.

When someone has physical difficulties (such as walking, self-care, falls and cooking), it's advisable to seek a medical assessment through the GP or with a private occupational therapist. This is especially the case if the symptoms are new or have worsened.

For dyspraxia to be diagnosed, there must be a longstanding history of motor skill difficulties (i.e., before the age of 12) but it can also affect organisation, planning and coordination. It can be diagnosed as a specific learning difficulty for those aged 16+ by specialist assessors (like myself) who've had the necessary training. Clients can use my reports diagnosing dyspraxia to apply for support through the Disabled Students' Allowance, with employers, etc.

Please note that dyspraxia can't be diagnosed as a specific learning difficulty for those under the age of 16 and it must go through the medical route. Any concerns about motor skills must be raised with the family GP who may refer your child to a paediatrician or occupational therapist. 

The only way that ADHD can be diagnosed is via the medical route (such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist). It's not something that an educational psychologist or specialist teacher can do. I can highly recommend clinical child pscyhologist Dr Selina Warlow and further information can be found here:

If you think that your child has ADHD, the first step is to talk to the school as there must be clinically significant evidence in at least two settings for a referral to be considered. I regularly write referral letters that bring together information from screening forms completed by the family and school, background information, my observations in the assessment and the child's own perspective and these letters can be shared with the school. It is important to note that there's more than one type of ADHD and symptoms can go under the radar such as the inattentive type (that used to be called ADD) with symptoms like zoning out, being easily distracted and procrastinating. However, I'm coming across increasing numbers of children and adults who appear to have undetected difficulties with language (such as not understanding what others are saying) and therefore appearing to be daydreamy, etc. may be more linked to language than ADHD.

For those age 16+, I can formally assess and conclude that someone has a profile which 'strongly suggests' ADHD. This is not a diagnosis but it's enough for university students to use my reports on the basis of probable ADHD and apply for the Disabled Students' Allowance. I undertook ADHD training with UKAAN at the Institue of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in London as well as with one of my professional bodies, Patoss. However, I still write referral letters for adults that can be shared with the GP to seek a formal diagnosis.

Please contact me if you'd like details of private assessment centres / professionals who can medically assess for ADHD in children and adults.

No, I'm a specialist teacher assessor. Many, many years ago, only educational psychologists could formally diagnose specific learning difficulties but specialist teacher assessors who hold a relevant post graduate qualification have been able to do this for a very long time. Being qualified to assess involves holding a post graduate diploma or equivalent as well as having teaching experience. See the 'About Sarah' page regarding my qualifications, experience and membership of nationally recognised professional bodies. It may be helpful to know that neither educational psychologists nor specialist teacher assessors can diagnose ADHD or autism.

Although I've assessed for many years and families are welcome to share my reports at tribunals as evidence of a diagnosis, I don't offer work as an expert witness. This is partly through a lack of specialist training in tribunal work. If you're considering going to a tribunal and you're looking for someone who can a) conduct an assessment and b) attend, I can signpost you to databases to find other assessors.

 Up until 48 hours before the assessment date, you may cancel or postpone the appointment without incurring charges other than the non-refundable £75 deposit. However, please give me as much notice as possible so that I can offer the assessment slot to someone on my very long cancellation list.

If the assessment's cancelled within 48 hours before the assessment date or the assessment can't be completed due to reasons on the day concerning the assessee (such as a child not wishing to continue), 50% of the balance will be due on the assessment date. If rebooking, the fee for the new date will be the remaining 50% subject to any fee increase during that time. 

Sarah McCahon Dyslexia Services is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ref: ZA104580)

Why I collect personal data and what I do with it

I collect personal data for the purpose of organising and conducting assessments and writing reports. I retain it for as long as necessary for the purpose it was intended.

If you share documents in addition to family, school and adult questionnaires, I will read these and then delete these immediately (unless previously discussed) to avoid holding onto surplus personal data, especially when summaries from these documents can instead often be captured within the questionnaires.

Assessment notes and test papers are cross-cut shredded when reports are sent.


Distribution and retention of full diagnostic reports

Under 17s

If your child/young person is aged 17 or younger, full diagnostic reports and letters will be sent only to you to share as appropriate. Others who have parental responsibility for your child/young person will have a legal right to the report being shared with them on request and so will the young person aged 12+.


If you’re aged 18+, the report will be sent only to you. For an additional fee of £50, you can ask for an ‘executive summary’ which is a shorter version of the report that takes out most personal information, details of the individual tasks, the scores obtained, etc. This can be useful for sharing with a current or potential employer if you don’t wish to provide the full report.                                                         

For all ages where assessments are being paid by third parties

Full diagnostic reports will be sent only to you as the data subject of the report (or the parent/legal guardian of if aged 17 or under). If the third party requires a copy of the report, it will be for the third party to agree this with you, such as asking you to give me written permission to share it with them.

Retention of reports

I strongly suggest that you keep a secure copy of the report. Copies of reports are securely kept for 6 years for adults or until children turn 25. These timescales are set by the Limitations Act 1980 where data protection principles allow retention of records for as long as necessary to be able to defend myself against a complaint or claim.  


Exam access arrangements

Schools and colleges may send me JCQ form 8 (for GCSE/A’ level exam access arrangements) to complete and this will be sent directly back to the school/college.                             


Children's access to personal data

The Information Commissioner’s Office deems that children around the age of 12 with capacity have various rights including the right to understand how their personal data will be used and therefore I give them the choice to be involved in the assessment feedback. They can also ask for copies of their personal data (i.e., their report), have inaccurate personal data rectified, etc. More information can be found HERE. They also have the right to allow parents to exercise their rights on their behalf.


Sharing of personal data

Personal data is not used for direct marketing by myself or shared with third parties to do so.

Data about individuals is not shared unless a) there’s serious concern about your or someone else’s safety and b) information is requested by a court or a person who has parental responsibility in the eyes of the law.