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Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that principally affects reading and writing skills. Dyslexia is fundamentally about information processing. People with dyslexia may have trouble remembering and processing information that they see or hear, affecting their learning and acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia also has an impact on areas such as organisational skills.
If your child is struggling with spelling, reading, writing or numeracy, how do you know whether these difficulties are potential indications of dyslexia? There are some signs that you can look out for if you suspect that your child has dyslexia. Please note that many young children may display these behaviours. It is the severity of the behaviour and the length of time that it persists, which give vital clues to identify a difficulty such as dyslexia.
Weaknesses: Family history of dyslexia. Difficulty in following instructions. Needs time to produce an oral response when questioned. Lacks fluency in reading, which affects their understanding. Fear of reading aloud. A lack of enjoyment of reading. Persistent and marked difficulty with spelling. Laboured and untidy handwriting. Mispronounces words. Difficulty in finding the right words to describe things. Difficulty in remembering sequential information, e.g. times tables, alphabet. A poor short-term working memory. Takes longer than most to complete written tasks. Difficulty copying from the board. May describe visual discomfort when reading. Can be clumsy and lack co-ordination. Mixing up numerical symbols. Low self-esteem. Behavioural difficulties.
Strengths: Imaginative. Good at thinking and reasoning skills. Able to see the "big picture". Good general knowledge skills. A good understanding of texts if they have been read to them. Good visual-spatial skills.
Weaknesses: Family history of dyslexia. Problems recalling facts. Problems recalling facts. Difficulty with following instructions. Difficulty remembering sequential information, e.g. historical facts. Poor concept of time. Problems with note-taking. Organisational difficulties, remembering homework, equipment, etc. Word-finding difficulties. Difficulty with fluent, accurate reading affecting comprehension. Avoids reading aloud in class. Persistent difficulty with spelling. Poor structure and organisation of written work. Difficulties producing clear, legible handwriting. Low self-esteem. Aggressive or non-compliant behaviour. Work avoidance tactics. Lack of confidence.
Strengths: Sophisticated receptive vocabulary. Good critical thinking and reasoning skills. Capacity to perceive information 3-dimensionally. Creative, imaginative, practical skills. Good interpersonal skills. Intuitive. Visual-spatial skills. Good visual memory. Good general knowledge. Good at sport, music, drama.
If you suspect that your child may have dyslexia and would benefit from additional support, you should initially consult your child's teacher or your school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) to discuss your concerns.
The SENCO may carry out screening tests to find out more about your child's strengths and weaknesses to see how best they can be supported in the classroom.
A school doesn't need a formal diagnosis to put support in place for your child, and a lack of diagnosis should not delay them in providing appropriate support and interventions. However, a Diagnostic Assessment can be helpful to ensure that the right interventions are put in place.
Dyslexia can only be formally diagnosed using a Diagnostic Assessment, which a certified dyslexia assessor can carry out. This assessment will confirm if your child has dyslexia or not. You will receive a report detailing your child's strengths and weaknesses and giving you a better idea the cognitive profile of your child and how you can best support them.
The aim of the assessment is to understand your child's style of learning or working and what does and doesn't work for them, to collect information about reading, spelling and writing skills, to identify whether there is an apparent discrepancy between the general level of ability, and reading and writing attainment, to consider other factors which may be affecting learning, to identify whether any reasonable adjustments will need to be made for your child to access the curriculum and exams fully.
Through consultation with your school SENCO, these assessments can either be requested by the school directly or can be arranged and paid for privately.
If your child has dyslexia encourage them to do activities that they like to do and feel good doing, e.g. music, sports, drama or anything else that helps build confidence. Dyslexia can result in low self-esteem and confidence, frustration and embarrassment as your child has difficulties performing tasks that seem to come naturally to others. Demystifying dyslexia will help your child develop the tools and resilience necessary to manage it, both in school and in social circumstances.
Discuss the challenges that dyslexia brings directly with them: "You know that you find it difficult to read signs or to copy notes from the board? That's called dyslexia." If your child says things like, "I'm just stupid," don't ignore it. Listen and help put their frustrations into context. Help them identify what upset them and show them that one bad experience doesn't equate to being the worst at something.
Acknowledge the effort given and celebrate hard work, even if your child still makes small mistakes: "I know how difficult that reading was for you. I am proud of how hard you worked."
Make sure that your child recognises their strengths: "You showed great sportsmanship and teamwork in the football game, and that was a great goal you scored!"
Other things that may help your child with dyslexia are: listening to audiobooks as an alternative to reading, typing on a computer instead of handwriting, reducing visual stress by using coloured papers or overlays.
Children with demonstrated dyslexia are accommodated by schools and should be given extra time in tests and public exams.