“Gust becos I cud not spel It did not mean I was daft”
Gust Becos I Cud Not Spel, Brian Patten
Dyslexia. An ironically difficult spelling for a difficulty that affects a person’s ability to read and spell. Around 1 in every 10 people in the UK are dyslexic and despite an increasing awareness, it continues to be misunderstood and underdiagnosed.
If your child is dyslexic, it is crucial that they receive support to help them access learning. The role of parents in the education of dyslexic children is vital and one that is often overlooked in schools.
Dialogue with the school
With school budgets being continuously squeezed and timetables ever-busier, it is important that parents keep an eye on provisions being made for dyslexic children. Enquire at Parents’ Evening what is being put in place for your child and ensure that if a plan of action was drawn up by the school it is being stuck to. You are well within your rights to ask teachers how they are adapting the learning to help your child to ensure they are taught in an accessible way.
Closely linked to close contact with school is the thorny issue of homework. From my experience as a teacher, this is one of the greatest hurdles dyslexic children (and their parents!) face. Often having poor memory skills, they can struggle to remember the exact requirements of the task or, indeed, if there was any homework in the first place! These difficulties can be avoided if they are encouraged to use a homework diary and are shown how to use it effectively.
Sometimes, even if homework is remembered they may have significant difficulties with the task. The teacher may not have adapted it properly and what appears to be a straightforward task can actually turn out to be insurmountable. If your child finds the homework impossible, write a note to their class teacher explaining their difficulty with it. If it becomes a regular feature, perhaps arrange a meeting with them to discuss the troubles they are having.
Very often, dyslexic children can cause the people around them significant frustration- try and have a little patience! Behaviour that might appear to be flippant or beyond all reason is very often a manifestation of their underlying difficulty, particularly with memory and reading.
They may struggle at school, despite clearly being intelligent, and this can lead to deep frustration and a low self-esteem. Encourage, praise and support them, every step of the way. Be wary also of comparing them to non-dyslexic brothers and sisters- it’s an incredibly unfair comparison and one that can cause their fragile confidence to be knocked even further.
That is not to say that children should use dyslexia as a “pass card” and devolve all responsibility for their learning- rather, they should be given a level of support which overcomes any potential barriers to them learning.
Reading every day is fundamental for dyslexic children. This is usually their bete noire and can provoke fierce resistance. However, regular reading is essential for students to develop their literacy skills and it needn’t become a chore. Read aloud with them if they become disheartened- that way, they will still be able to understand and enjoy the book. Audio books are also a God-send and allow children to develop their literacy skills in a low-pressure way, taking in the content of a text without the toils of having to decode the words.
Being organised is usually an ongoing challenge for dyslexic children and it’s important that they learn how to. Teach them how to manage a homework diary and how to record tasks efficiently, ticking off items once they have completed them and ensuring they are aware of deadlines.
Organising their school work with folders is also useful, as is colour-coding items, which makes things far easier to manage and monitor. Small things such as packing their school bag before school and having a laminated, small-version of a timetable and school-map, can also help significantly.
If your child is having huge difficulties with revising, it can be prudent to arrange a meeting with the school SENCO (Special Needs Coordinator). They should be able to advise them and you on effective learning strategies, study skills and how to make sure information sticks.
Again, colour-coding revision notes or using highlighters can also help with revision, as can looking at video tutorials and activities on the computer.
There are some incredible websites and organisations that offer support and guidance for parents with dyslexic children. Have a look at the British Dyslexia Association and, for younger pupils, websites like Nessy and Toe-by-Toe.
If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, be open with them and don’t shy away from it- dyslexia is not something to be ashamed of! Remind them that some of the greatest minds in history were dyslexic- Albert Einstein of course the one most often cited!
If they have a clear understanding of what dyslexia is and how it shouldn’t hold them back in life, along with clear and manageable strategies for coping with it, the world will be their oyster!