Is your child slow to learn to read, write, spell or learn their times tables compared to their peers? Are they bright in every other way but you are concerned that something isn’t quite right?
The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) says: ‘10% of the British population are dyslexic; four per cent severely so.’ This means that in a class of 30 children, three will be dyslexic. Many dyslexics are never diagnosed, or if they are it may be much later in their lives. Being undiagnosed means a child may not fulfil their potential and grow-up with low self-confidence.
With correct intervention many dyslexics go on to become high achievers due to their considerable strengths in other areas. Building your child’s confidence is vital to their success.
The BDA supports early identification of all specific learning difficulties which can include attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, dyspraxia and dyscalculia (which mainly affects numeracy).
Signs in pre-school children include: persistently jumbled phrases when talking such as ‘cobbler’s club’ for ‘toddler’s club’, difficulty remembering rhymes (cat, sat, mat), slow speech development, forgetting names of common objects, difficulties with putting shoes on the correct feet and getting dressed.
Older children who are at school may leave letters out of words, write letters and numbers in a reverse image, transpose letters in words (was for saw), have problems learning their times tables, days of the week and spellings. Many dyslexic children can learn their spellings for the weekly test but have forgotten those words a week later. All children may have poor concentration, forget what they have just read, forget verbal instructions at home or school, find copying from the board hard, and have good and bad days at school for no apparent reason. A child who was once enthusiastic about school may become demotivated as the work becomes more challenging and they can’t keep up.
Don’t try to diagnose your child from those lists; they are simply a guide. Family history is an important factor: if anyone else in the family, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, has similar difficulties it will increase the likelihood. In state schools children are tested in Year 1 on their phonic ability: the Phonics Test. This is not a dyslexia screening test but a low score may be relevant and alert you to some further assessment.
Educational psychologist Teresa Bliss advises: “Below the age of seven, dyslexia assessment is unreliable. A child needs to be given time to learn. A child with a summer birthday may often be behind their peers.” Bliss also suggests; “Don’t have your child assessed solely on family history of dyslexia; wait and see if they develop any of the signs.”
Your child can be assessed by an educational psychologist or a teacher trained in assessing dyslexics. Some schools (mainly independent) have suitably qualified teachers who can do the assessment.
You can find an educational psychologist through the charity Dyslexia Action – they offer assessments across the UK – or through the British Psychological Society. A specialist teacher can be found through Patoss which is their professional association. The costs range from around £300 for a teacher’s assessment to £500 for an educational psychologist.
Specialist teaching is always the best option, either in or after school with a specialist teacher. If your child is severely dyslexic, there are a handful of schools across the UK (some are boarding) exclusively for dyslexic children.
With correct intervention many dyslexics go on to become high achievers due to their considerable strengths in other areas. Building your child’s confidence is vital to their success and make sure they know that dyslexia is not linked to intelligence. There is plenty of support available but early diagnosis is key to academic success and confidence.