Dyslexia – Some Key Facts
Dyslexia is one of a family of Specific Learning Difficulties. Many people who have dyslexia have strong visual, creative and problem solving skills. Specific Learning Difficulties affect the way information is learned and processed. They are neurological (rather than psychological), usually run in families and occur independently of intelligence. They can have significant impact on education and learning and on the acquisition of literacy skills.
Dyslexia is a life-long condition which has a substantial effect on an individual’s day to day activities and is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, Whilst the term, Dyslexia usually consists of a number of consistent features, the impact that an individual’s Dyslexia has on their day to day functioning varies depending on their cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Children and young people that have Dyslexia often have difficulty processing and remembering information, they can also have difficulties with visual memory, auditory memory and working memory.
This set of difficulties often impacts an individual’s ability to read and spell as it can impede their efforts to learn the shape and formation of letters, words and numbers which impacts on their visual memory. Weaknesses in auditory memory can also result in the development of poor or incorrect phonological decoding skills. This combination of difficulties can result in a child or young person developing inefficient decoding skills which then impacts on the speed and accuracy of their reading.
Could my child have Dyslexia?
Not every child that struggles to read or spell has Dyslexia. There are a multitude of reasons why some children may experience more difficulty with literacy acquisition than others. Some simple explanations to rule out first are:
- Visual difficulties – Does my child need their eyes testing? This should always be ruled out first especially if the child is complaining of headaches, making comments about words moving around the page or moving the book nearer or further away from them when they attempt to read.
- Hearing difficulties – Does my child need their ears testing? Again this should be ruled out especially if your child seems to be mishearing words or sound patterns or not consistently responding to instructions or directions.
- Has my child missed a lot of school? Absence from school can have a huge impact (particularly in Key Stage 1) on your child’s ability to learn effective decoding skills.
- Has my child had access to Quality First Teaching? Sometimes teacher absence can impact on a child’s ability to develop effective early literacy skills. If you suspect your child’s reading and spelling development may be impacted for such reasons it may be helpful to speak with a member of your child’s senior leadership team.
- Does my child have attentional difficulties? Sometimes children do not naturally develop the sustained listening skills that are required to enable them to access effective reading and spelling tuition. If you feel that you child may be demonstrating poor attentional skills (across a range of contexts) you should discuss this with their teacher in the first instance. It may be that additional activities are required to then support your child to be able to concentrate long enough to access early literacy activities.
If you have ruled all of the above and yet your child continues to experience difficulty developing age appropriate literacy skills, you might find the following indicators helpful:
A preschool child may:
- Have had a history of delay in speaking or pronouncing words correctly.
- Experience difficulties following simple instructions.
- Have had a history of conductive hearing loss (i.e. glue ear).
- Find it hard to remember the names of familiar objects e.g. spoon, cup etc.
- Have had difficulty learning nursery rhymes and or familiar songs.
- Have other members of the family who have experienced similar difficulties.
A Primary School Child may:
- Have had particular difficulty learning to read, write or spell
- Often loses their place whilst reading or is over reliant on guessing. Can also miss words out of the text.
- Read slowly and laboriously, often losing their thread or focus.
- Have better comprehension of a text when the story is read to them.
- Have experienced difficulty remembering sequences such as the alphabet and months of the year
- Have difficulty distinguishing their left from their right
- Have persistent and continued reversing of letters and numbers (particularly past the age of 7)
- Is generally articulate and knowledgeable
- Sometimes experience “word finding difficulties” i.e have long pauses in their conversation or use the wrong word as an incorrect substitute
- Has poor hand-eye coordination and finds copying information from sheets, boards or books very difficult
A secondary aged child may:
- Have a tendency to read inaccurately and without adequate comprehension
- Have inconsistent and poor spelling
- Experience difficulty planning and writing essays
- Struggle to organise themselves and their equipment and start and complete tasks
- A tendency to confuse verbal instructions, times or places or dates
- Greater difficulty learning a foreign language
- Disorganised at home and school
- Greater difficulty revising and remembering content
- A tendency to get frustrated and suffer from poor self esteem
Many online tests claim that they “identify” Dyslexia. However, most often these tests give people an indication that they might be experiencing a specific learning difficulty rather than a definitive diagnosis of Dyslexia. As such, if you feel that your child could be experiencing Dyslexia then you might choose to:
- Discuss your concerns with your child’s class teacher in the first instance. Often this
- process alone can be reassuring and provide you with both contextual information in relation to your child’s performance in comparison to their peers as well as give you helpful advice and strategies regarding how best to support your child’s literacy acquisition.
- If after speaking with your child’s class teacher you remain concerned about their development and or educational progress you could choose to speak to your school SENCO. The SENCO can help identify specific approaches that could help your child that could be offered both in school and at home. They might provide alternative resources such as specialist reading schemes, access to computer programmes as well as ensuring that classroom activities are appropriate for your child. Upon raising your concerns your child should then fall into the schools assess, plan, do review cycle, thus ensuring that all approaches, strategies and interventions are kept under constant review in order to determine that they remain appropriate and are resulting in appropriate levels of progress for your child.
- Further to consulting your SENCO you may also choose to consult an Educational Child Psychologist, like ourselves. An Educational Psychologist will discuss your child’s developmental and educational history. They will consider assessment information in relation to your child’s current profile of strengths and weaknesses and may agree to undertake a number of tests with your child. Such tests may include:
- A reading and spelling assessment such as the TOWRE (test of word reading efficiency) which looks at the rate of reading as well as the child\young person’s phonological decoding skills
- A cognitive ability assessment such as the BAS 111 (British Ability Scales 111) or the WISC (1V) (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children 1V) which will look at your child’s verbal, non-verbal and spatial skills. Further diagnostic assessments could also be undertaken which would look at rate of information processing and visual, auditory and working memory. It is important to note that the key features to a good Dyslexia assessment should always consider:
- Rate of reading efficiency as well as decoding
- Visual, auditory and working memory
- Verbal and non-verbal skills – so that a comparison between strengths and weaknesses can be gained.
Interventions for Dyslexia
If after assessment your child has been identified as having Dyslexia there are a number of interventions which could make a real difference. These should always be bespoke to your child, agreed with their class teacher and school SENCO and kept under review so as to ensure their effectiveness. For further information about the appropriateness of assessment for Dyslexia and or to discuss suitable educational/developmental interventions for your child.