What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia makes it hard to learn to read and spell, and sometimes maths is affected too. It is not related to general intelligence, but comes from a difficulty in dealing with the sounds of words. Children with dyslexia often find it hard to remember lists of things they have heard, or to remember a name or a fact quickly, although they often have individual strengths in reasoning, visual and creative fields.
Dyslexia makes it especially hard to learn to read words using phonics (sounding out the letters in a word and blending the sounds together e.g. the letters in cat sounded as /k/, /a/, /t/).
Dyslexia is not the same for everyone: it can be mild or severe and it varies depending on other strengths or difficulties that person may have. More importantly, it varies depending on the kind of support and encouragement that is given at school and at home.
When can dyslexia be identified?
Children can display signs of dyslexia from an early age – as young as age 3 or 4 – but dyslexia is generally not formally identified until the age of 6 or 7.
It is not necessary to wait for a formal test prior to support. All children learning to read in school are taught with structured phonics teaching which is also a good start for those who are dyslexic.
If there are concerns, it can be very helpful to have a ‘screening’ test to identify strengths and weaknesses. This does not identify dyslexia but will pick up on ‘risk factors’ such as difficulties with segmenting words into smaller sounds; teachers can then use this knowledge to adapt the way they teach. Dyslexia Action offers a ‘Key Stage 1′ screening service; and our specialist teachers can also deliver tuition to children aged four and above as well as liaise with schools to support intervention strategies.
My child has dyslexia, or I think they may have dyslexia, what next?
A step-by-step support guide
- First write a list of your concerns and the reasons why you feel your child may have dyslexia.
- Then speak to your child’s class teacher and/or head of year about your concerns. It may be recommended that an assessment is appropriate. Some schools may prefer not to use the term dyslexia, but all will have much to offer children with literacy difficulties. As part of the ‘School’s Offer’, schools must publish details of the approaches they use to support children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), including those with dyslexia and this should be on the school’s website. Schools may choose to buy-in specialist services from elsewhere.
- Make an appointment with either Dyslexia Action or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at your child’s school to discuss the options available or the possibility of an assessment from a Local Authority Educational Psychologist.
- Discuss the assessment report with your child’s teacher and/or SENCO and set in place an action plan.
- Dyslexia Action has produced a useful Parent/Carer Support Guide: The ‘How to… Navigate the changes in Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provision’, which highlights the new legal requirements that schools and colleges have a duty to follow in England, and what this means for your child. Visit: www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk.
What is Dyslexia Action?
Dyslexia Action is a national charity with over 40 years’ experience in providing services and support to people with literacy difficulties and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, through a network of Learning Centres in over 100 locations across Great Britain.
What support can I get from Dyslexia Action?
- Free advice
Dyslexia Action Learning Centres offer free 30-minute advice sessions to help you find the best course of action.
- Dyslexia and specific learning difficulty testing
We offer a range of assessments for children if it is suspected that they may have dyslexia. Options range from a short screening to a full diagnostic assessment.
Diagnostic assessments are carried out by a specialist assessor to identify strengths and weaknesses. The assessment may indicate dyslexia, another specific learning difficulty, or that no specific difficulties exist. Whatever the outcome, recommendations are provided to help with the most appropriate way forward.
An alternative is to complete a short screening interview using a questionnaire. This will not give a formal ‘diagnosis’ but it should allow possible problem-areas to be recognised and give a good starting point for an action plan.
It is important to discuss the range of options for assessments with a Dyslexia Action Advisor prior to booking, to ensure you get the assessment that is most appropriate for your needs. All the centres have fully qualified staff to support you with your choice and ensure you are provided with the most appropriate and value-for-money solution. Assessors may be specialist teachers or psychologists, and all are professionally qualified and registered.
- Tuition and support
Dyslexia Action Learning Centres offer teaching on an individual or group basis to help with literacy, numeracy or organisational skills. For some children, extra tuition outside of school can be vital. Once needs have been identified, our specialist teachers can work with your child to develop coping strategies. Dyslexia Action also runs information and awareness courses for parents and catch-up clubs for children to get extra support after school.
- Assistive Technology: This can be useful for general support and learning. It includes voice recognition software, text-to-speech communication aids, organisational aids such as mind mapping software and electronic calendars. Visit our website for more information.
- Coram Children’s Legal Centre Community Legal Advice: Coram Children’s Legal Centre works with Community Legal Advice to provide legal advice on special educational needs and disabilities. Parents who are not eligible for legal aid can seek advice from the Child Law Advice Line at Coram Children’s Legal Centre. Child Law Advice Line – T. 0808 802 0008 / Education Law Line – T. 0845 345 4345 (permission) childrenslegalcentre.com
- Dyslexia Action Learning Centre: Everyone with dyslexia is different so it is best to discuss specific needs with your local Dyslexia Action Learning Centre
- Dyslexia Action Online Shop: Additional learning resources and games can be a great support for learners with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. Products offered include Units of Sound; a computer-based literacy programme to support reading, writing and spelling and the DIY readers support pack, developed with parents in mind to assist children with reading dyslexiaactionshop.co.uk/
- Dyslexia Action Website: Our website provides a range of helpful resources. Or you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular ‘top tips’, resources and support.
- Information, Advice and Support Services: Local authorities must provide free, impartial and confidential advice and support to parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs through an Information, Advice and Support Service. Typical services include: a confidential helpline; support in preparing for and attending meetings; help with filling in forms and writing letters; support in resolving disagreements with school and the LEA (permission)
- Local Support Groups: Our website lists some support groups that may be useful
- Parent Champions: Parent Champions is a website developed by The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust which supports parents and carers of children with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties parentchampions.org.uk
For further information or support, visit: www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk.