What is dyslexia?
Jodie Grant, Bredon School
Jodie Grant is Head of Learning Development and SENDCo at Bredon School, a dyslexia specialist day and boarding school in Gloucestershire. www.bredonschool.org.
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) which creates challenges in understanding and working with language. It can have an impact on a person’s ability to read, write and spell easily. It is thought that roughly one in ten people are dyslexic and it is likely to be common within families. If parents are dyslexic it is quite possible their children will be too.
How might it impact my child?
It is often thought that dyslexia causes people to reverse letters and numbers and see words back to front. This can be part of but not a definitive indication of someone who has dyslexia - in fact reversals are a common and normal part of development.
Children with dyslexia tend to have difficulties with basic phonological awareness which is the ability to work with sounds in spoken language. They may have trouble isolating sounds in words and making the connection between the sound and the letter symbol for that sound. This makes it much harder to recognise short, familiar words and to sound out longer ones. It can take a long time for someone with dyslexia to sound out a word - often losing the meaning of it due to the efforts needed to decode it. This can lead to very poor reading comprehension skills.
These difficulties will also impact an individual’s ability to spell accurately, or could lead to them having trouble expressing themselves in writing and in some cases speaking.
It is vital to highlight that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence - dyslexic students are just as smart as non-dyslexic students.
Should I get my child tested?
When dyslexia is left undiagnosed, an individual’s learning in school can often feel like it is being taught in a foreign language. Students can be left feeling that no matter what they do or how hard they try they will not succeed, this can lead to low self esteem.
Early diagnosis will support dyslexic students with a greater sense of control and confidence. Making
school aware of it ensures that the correct support is provided and those students with barriers to their learning are able to make expected progress in line with their peers. The job of all educators is to provide students with the tools necessary to manage in the classroom and achieve their full potential.
What should I look out for?
The symptoms of dyslexia will often change depending on the age or stage of development for an individual.
However there are some general signs that your child might need some additional support:
Learning new words slowly
Problems forming words correctly, such as reversing sounds in words or confusing words that sound alike
Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers and colours
Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games
Reading well below the expected level for age
Lacks interest in reading
Problems processing and understanding what is heard
Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
Problems remembering the sequence of things
Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
Teens and Adults
Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
Slow and labour-intensive reading and writing
Avoiding activities that involve reading
Mispronouncing names or words, or problems retrieving words
Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
Struggles to summarise a story
Trouble learning a foreign language
Difficulty doing maths word problems
Can my child grow out of it?
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition; it is not something which can be cured or that will be outgrown. Emotional support is important. People with dyslexia can feel frustrated due to the fact that no matter how hard they try, they are unable to keep up.
They may feel that their peers are smarter which can lead to poor behaviour choices in an attempt to avoid being asked to do something they find difficult.
How can I support my child at home?
You can help by reading aloud with your child every day, giving them the opportunities to explore a range of text in the hope to tap into their passions and develop an interest in reading. Playing rhyming games, reading nursery rhymes and singing songs can also support children.
Family and friends can help by showing that they understand the difficulties and appreciate that they are trying as hard as they can. Taking the time to embrace and celebrate their strengths allows them to gain the resilience to face the challenges of life and recover quicker. There is a vast range of tools available which support in levelling the playing field including speech to text, computer readers, spell check, predictive text and calculators.
People with dyslexia should not feel that they are limited in their academic and career choices - with the correct resources and support they are able to lead very successful lives despite the challenges they may face.