What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia simply means difficulty with words. It is a specific learning difficulty which is neurobiological in origin and persists across the lifespan.
It is reckoned that about 10% of the population is affected by dyslexia to varying degrees. About 2 to 4% have severe learning difficulties. It is thought to have a genetic predisposition. Therefore if you are the parent of a dyslexic, you might wish to consider if you also suffer from it.
Dyslexic people are not stupid. Many dyslexic people have been highly successful in academia, sport, music, art, business and acting. e.g Einstein, Richard Branson, Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci. All dyslexics have strengths even if they have no outstanding talents.
Diagnosing Dyslexia in a child
Recognising the signs of dyslexia may not be easy because (a) symptoms can vary substantially from one child to another and (b) some dyslexic pupils develop remarkable compensatory strategies. However, we list here just a few factors, which may cause you to investigate further
- Family history of dyslexia (or problems with spelling, reading or writing)
- Reluctance to go to school
- Lack of self esteem
- Late speaker
- Reads slowly
- Mispronounces familiar words
- Misreads words
- Difficulty with rhymes
- Frustration at inability to find words needed
- Cannot follow dialogue on TV
- Cannot remember sequence of action games
- Difficulty with motor skills such as kicking or catching balls
- Difficulty with dressing tidily
- Cannot follow instructions
- Confusing nouns with adjectives
- Cannot recognise syllables
If a child is suspected of dyslexia, there are a variety of Dyslexia Screening Tests, which a school can do. If positive, it is recommended that the child is thoroughly assessed by a Chartered Educational Psychologist, who will then be able to recommend learning styles and multi sensory teaching – visual (seeing), auditory (hearing) and kinaesthetic (doing).
Dyslexic children may also suffer from associated problems such as Meares-Irlen Syndrome ( the brain’s inability to process visual information), Dyscalculia (difficulty with counting) and Dyspraxia (difficulty with motor skills). It is thought that possibly 50% of dyslexics have trouble with maths – so there is a considerable degree of overlap between dyslexia and dyscalculia. The CEP needs to assess for associated problems.
If it is so common, why does it cause so many problems in schooling? Part of the problem lies in the failure to diagnose dyslexia in a child. Difficulties at school can be labelled as insufficient attention, laziness, slowness, poor concentration etc. Another part of the problem is the pressures on class sizes, teaching and immigration in state schools. All UK state schools are obligated to identify Special Educational Needs and provide the necessary teaching environment – but so often, it just does not happen. The process of assessment can often be excruciatingly slow, despite the fact that Local Education Authorities employ most of the Ed Psychs in the UK. When it goes to the Local Education Authority, they are obligated to provide an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) to detail what educational extra resources are needed. Not so many years ago this used to be called a “Statement of Educational Needs” – hence the term “statemented” which in theory meant the LEA might fund private education. However, it’s quite difficult these days to get a child statemented for dyslexia and secondly most LEAs go out of their way to find the cheapest solution which means avoiding private education if they possibly can. If you cannot afford to pay private school fees without help, you could appeal the Local Authority’s decision, but this necessitates a specialist SEN lawyer and we can make introductions. We may be biased, but we truly believe that private schools provide much better support for dyslexics than state schools. A large part of the solution is simply having small classes where the teacher can identify problems and utilise appropriate teaching techniques. Additionally a number of private schools have Special learning Units, where the more severely affected dyslexics can go for one to one tuition.
If you think your child may have dyslexia, then we recommend you invest in your own Chartered Educational Psychologist’s report rather than wait for the LEA to do something. There is more information on our companion website, www.best-sen-schools.co.uk or speak to us directly at 01622 813870.