Dyslexia is a specific type of learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristics of dyslexia include difficulties in areas such as phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities and is not an indication of intelligence or lack thereof.
The impact of dyslexia is extensive: if you cannot learn to read, you cannot read to learn and everything we do at school and throughout life requires us to have the skills to be able to read fluently and accurately. Above and beyond the difficulties and barriers that dyslexia presents, is the damage that low self-esteem can cause. However, with the right help and support, strategies to overcome difficulties associated with dyslexia can be learnt and dyslexia needn't be a barrier to achievement.
Here are the top 5 most frequently asked questions by parents about dyslexia answered
Q1. Can I go to my GP to get my child assessed for dyslexia?
A. Sadly no: dyslexia is not funded by the NHS and forms no part of medical training, in spite of being a genetic neurological difference which also frequently co-occurs with other specific learning difficulties.
Q2. My school refuses to arrange for my child to be assessed for dyslexia. They say he/she is too young and/or they can’t afford to do this.
A. There is no magic age when it appropriate to assess for dyslexia, although an assessment can be more detailed where levels of literacy are a factor. As soon as difficulties become apparent, and particularly where a child is becoming distressed or showing behavioural problems, an assessment should be carried out. Leaving a child to fail can be very harmful psychologically.
Specialist intervention at a young age is always recommended to enable the child to fully access the curriculum. At a later age, this will be harder to achieve. Budget cuts both at school and Local Authority level are making it harder for parents to obtain an Educational Psychologist assessment.
Contact your Local Dyslexia Association for local advice and for information about private assessments. If there is no local group, contact the BDA Helpline
You could also contact the British Psychological Society for recommendations of Educational Psychologist specialising in specific learning difficulties in children: tel. 0116 254 9568.
Q3. I think my child is dyslexic, but the school says he has behavioural problems and thinks he should be investigated for ADHD. He does not have behavioural problems at home.
A. Where schools do not have in depth training in specific learning difficulties, misleading assumptions can sometimes be made.
Where dyslexia is not well understood in a school, it is not uncommon for children with unidentified and unsupported dyslexic difficulties to become frustrated, distressed and develop behavioural issues. Difficulties with maintaining concentration and focus, being easily distracted and having difficulty in processing information are very commonly associated with dyslexia.
Behavioural problems can be a symptom of an underlying difficulty, not a problem in their own right.
Dyslexia frequently co-occurs with other specific learning difficulties including ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. It can also co-occur with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism.
Your child may be referred to CAMHS (Community Mental Health Services) for investigation. However you should be aware that medical and mental health professionals are not usually trained to diagnose dyslexia and this may not be the most appropriate route for diagnosing specific learning difficulties.
Make a firm request to the SENCO for a referral to the Educational Psychologist for an assessment for specific learning difficulties which may indicate dyslexia.
You could also contact your Local Dyslexia Association for advice on getting an assessment.
Q4. My school tells me that they have done a test in school and that my child is mildly dyslexic and so does not qualify for any help.
A. Tests conducted in school by a teacher may not be diagnostic assessments but only screening tests. These flag the probability of a pupil having dyslexic tendencies for further investigation. They are not 100% reliable in their diagnosis and do not give a detailed analysis of a child’s profile of strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately some teachers have not received sufficient training to appreciate the limitations of screening tests. In addition, a bright child with significant dyslexic difficulties, on a good day may not show up as clearly as they should on this type of test. Discuss your concerns with the SENCO and request further investigation and dyslexia support.
Q5. My school says that there is no point getting my child assessed as this won’t make any difference to what is offered in school.
A. The point of a full diagnostic assessment is that it provides a full profile of the pupil’s strengths and weaknesses, plus intellectual potential. A proper understanding of the child’s difficulties will enable support to be more effectively targeted. A well informed school would be able to provide a number of effective interventions to support dyslexic pupils.
Schools have a duty under disability legislation (SENDA 2001, Disability Discrimination Act 2005, Equality Act 2010) to ensure that pupils with disabilities are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable support. Specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia are recognised difficulties under disability legislation.
Lack of training and resources often limit what support a child may receive. Few schools have a trained dyslexia specialist on the staff, although the government is funding training for more specialist teachers following the Rose report in June 2009.