A parent has emailed me today worried that her child was dropping behind at school. Dyslexia was indicated but no support is being given – why?
Well……where to start with giving you some background into dyslexia that might help you. Here goes:
Whilst most people think dyslexia is about difficulties with reading and writing very few people appreciate there are a whole host of other underlying challenges which affect these people’s acquisition of literacy. Even a lot of teachers do not fully appreciate the underlying challenges!!
All dyslexics will be different . Some will be mildly dyslexic, some moderately and some severely. Whilst people talk about being diagnosed for dyslexia it is not an illness – and therefore there is no ‘cure’. So there is little point in investigating those companies which claim to be able to cure. However, there are lots of things that you can do as a parent to help your child. In fact you are much better placed than the teacher to really start to make a difference especially in respect of helping with low self esteem and confidence issues. A teacher has a class of around 30 pupils – all of whom are individuals with varying needs and classroom time is 4/5 hours a day. Even when you take away a parent’s working hours etc. parents or a child’s main carer will probably have more time with their children than any teacher will !
Sadly many dyslexics feel that they are not good at anything and in time stop trying new things for fear of failing. This is due in part to the fact that we all measure ourselves against our peers and in school environment the measure is mostly on academic achievement – and not on practical ability. Therefore getting dyslexic children involved in new and fun, non academic things outside school can work wonders for their self esteem. They then also have new things to talk about at school and can feel proud of achievements etc.
The main underlying challenges with dyslexia tend to be:
- visual processing
- phonological processing
- short term and working memory
- organisation of ideas and ‘things’
- time management
- orientation issues – difficulties remembering or knowing their left and right
Some dyslexics will have all of these, others will have a selection of them and to varying degrees. An important thing to remember is that they will not realise they have any of these difficulties because the way they are is normal to them!
All of these things come as a result of difficulties in processing information. However, there are lots of coping strategies that can be developed to help dyslexics overcome the impacts of these things and something really important to know and to remember is that dyslexia is not just about difficulties. It is widely recognised that dyslexic individuals tend to have some common key strengths which include;
- good problem solving skills
- many are very practical and hands on
- big picture thinkers
- motivated and determined when they feel good about themselves
I think you can see that whilst a teacher may be quite patient and understanding with a child who appears to have reading challenges they may be less understanding when a child reads ok but is unable to/or reluctant to answer questions related to what has been read. They may also be less understanding about a child always forgetting to bring in their PE kit or bring the correct books to school etc.
Unless teachers have had additional training in working with specific learning difficulties following their teaching degrees they will probably only have had 3 hours training in special education needs ! If they have studied for a PGCE (which is a one year post graduate study to become a teacher) they will probably have done about 45 minutes study on working with children with special education needs. If this is the case they may not appreciate that whilst a child may be seen to read ok, due to having short term memory and working memory challenges, their reading comprehension may be very poor indeed.
There are hundreds of famous people who are dyslexic.
These include Winston Churchill, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Leonardo di Vinci, Thomas Edison, Agatha Christie…….and the list goes on. These people had the right type of support, at the right time and developed coping strategies to support themselves so they could discover what they were good at. Also, many people view dyslexia as a gift rather than a problem.
It is natural to be concerned about your child and that you want to do what you can to get the right support but please don’t be disheartened by the current situation. I would suggest you learn more about dyslexia so that you feel more confident about giving the most appropriate support and this in turn should help with your relationship with teachers and schools in the future.
I hope you find this helpful. If you let me know what the main challenges are at the moment then I can come back to you with some suggestions.
I extend this offer to anyone reading this post.