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Screening and Assessment of Specific Learning Disabilities in Higher Education Institutes in the Republic of Ireland

  • Emma Harkin (a1), Alison Doyle (a1) and Conor Mc Guckin (a2)


Students with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) in higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Republic of Ireland are required to have a formal psycho-educational assessment from an educational psychologist to register with Disability Services in HEIs, to be eligible for support through the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD). Such assessments are expensive and often beyond the financial means of students and their families. However, there is a sustained demand from students experiencing academic difficulties for diagnostic assessment of SpLD (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability [AHEAD], 2012). This study describes the SpLD screening and assessment practices implemented by HEIs in Ireland (n = 14), finding that (a) there are no defined parameters for assessment of SpLD in higher education (HE), meaning that methods and accuracy of identification of positive indicators may vary across HEIs; and (b) the majority of HEIs screen for dyslexia only, with little or no recognition of the need to assess for comorbidity of learning disabilities. Findings support the requirement for a reliable and valid standardised assessment procedure for Irish HEIs, which would provide equitable access to an initial diagnosis. Finally, a screening model is proposed, which is currently provided by one HEI.


Corresponding author

address for correspondence: Emma Harkin, Room 2054, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland. Email:


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