Most children learn to read and write easily. Others take longer and may need extra help, but do manage it. However, a few children find the process of learning to read, write and spell particularly hard.
Such children may have underlying problems that affect their ability to learn these skills. This is called “dyslexia”, which means “difficulty with words”. It is sometimes referred to, particularly by professionals, as a “specific learning difficulty” or “SpLD”.
The Rose report in 2009 gave this description of dyslexia which has been adopted by the British Dyslexia Association:
“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.”
Dyslexic tendencies occur in people of all backgrounds and of all abilities. It is estimated that about 10% of the population may be affected, with 4% of these having severe difficulties.
If you feel that your child’s difficulties with reading, writing and spelling are affecting their progress at school, this may be the time to talk to your child’s teacher and discuss your concerns.
Dyslexia creates difficulties with the ability to deal with text,and sometimes numbers too. Children may find it difficult to sort out the individual sounds that make up words. This will mean that they have problems with reading, writing and spelling.
Children may also have difficulty with memory and sequencing, numeracy and sometimes in other areas too. Some dyslexic children are described as being disorganized and forgetful – they never seem to have the right books and equipment for school. Dyslexia is sometimes seen alongside other conditions such as dyspraxia, so others may have difficulty with motor skills – that is, how they move their body or use equipment such as pens or scissors.
However, dyslexia is not all about difficulties. Children may be good at problem-solving, many are artistic or sporty. Everychild has things they like and are good at. It helps to discover and celebrate these strengths and work with the school to develop them. It is important to keep a child’s self esteem high.
What should I do if I think my child is dyslexic?
If you are worried about your child’s progress then always speak to your child’s school. You may wish to make an appointment to seethe class teacher or the school SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). They may be able to reassure you that adequate progress is being made, or they may share your concerns.
If you feel you would like support to talk to the school staff, you can always take along a friend or talk to someone from Staffordshire SENDIASS to help you prepare for your meeting.
Teachers in school will have experience of supporting children with reading and writing difficulties. Many will have received some training on dyslexia and some may have additional qualifications in teaching pupils who are dyslexic. They can help think about what changes may be needed in the classroom to make it easier for these children to learn.
What can the school do to support my child?
Teachers regularly assess a child’s progress to help them plan new work. If they are concerned about a child’s progress the teacher will look at how they can adapt their teaching to help the child learn. High quality teaching targeted at a child’s area of weakness is the first response if a child is identified as making less than expected progress for their age. This may include making small changes to the way the lesson is taught, the materials that are used, or the support given to a child during normal teaching. These are reasonable adjustments to increase a child’s access to the curriculum. These strategies will be identified on the school’s website in their SEN Information Report, and in their school offer on the Local Offer website.
A small number of children need additional support (see the section on “SEN Support” below). This involves a more detailed and structured teaching approach or further changes to the teaching methods to allow them to be included in lessons.
If your child’s difficulties are such that they are placed on SEN Support, the school will follow the 'Assess, Plan, Do, Review' process and set up an individual learning plan. You, and your child, will be involved in this. Outside agencies and specialist support may also be asked to give their advice. Your child’s progress will then be regularly monitored and reviewed.
If your child is meeting their targets and making good progress, it may be possible to reduce the support. If not, the school may ask for advice from their SENSS (special educational needs support service) learning support teacher or educational psychologist. Your permission will always be sought before this is done.
SENSS is now part of the special educational needs and inclusion service (SENIS) provided by Entrust, the provider for Staffordshire local authority.
The input may include:
- Looking at the school's assessment of the child.
- Reviewing the strategies that have already been tried.
- Helping consider how the child's needs can be met.
- Thinking about how the school could adapt the learning environment.
- Planning what to do next.
- Drawing up targets as part of the child's learning plan.
- Providing appropriate training for school staff.
What help is available within Staffordshire schools?
Dyslexia Friendly Schools Initiative
The special educational needs support service (SENSS) works with schools in Staffordshire to help them achieve 'dyslexia friendly’ school status.
Dyslexia Friendly Schools: Level One
The award is valid for three years. After this schools must re-visit their action plan.
Dyslexia Friendly Schools: Full Status
As for the level one process, the full status is valid for three years after which time the school needs to re-apply for the award.
Other sources of help
There are a large number of voluntary organisations, businesses, charities and local support groups dedicated to dyslexia. Some are listed below. This information is provided in good faith and does not constitute a recommendation.
Dyslexia Association of Staffordshire (DAS)
Studio 9 St James House
Phone: 01782 869791
View their website.
Dig-iT (Dyslexia Information Group in Tamworth)
Tel: 07534 513338
View their website.
Useful link to various free dyslexia / neurodiversity checklists developed by the Dyslexia SPLD Trust and used in a government-funded project on awareness training for schools.
There are various age levels, some with listed condition categories and some without. It's a very useful tool for schools and colleges to use and we use them at Dig-it to help identify if struggles might be related to other conditions besides dyslexia.
National Groups / Organisations
The British Dyslexia Association
Old Bracknell Lane
Phone: 333 405 4567
View their website.
This is a charity offering free advice to parentsand carers on special education.
Phone: 0800 018 4016
Visit their website.
Websites dedicated to dyslexia
These are not recommendations, but may be a starting point for you.
2 Simple Software: View their website
Barrington Stoke: View their website
Crick Software Ltd: View their website
Crossbow Education: View their website
Enabling Computer Supplies Ltd: View their website
Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre: View their website
Iansyst Ltd: View their website
Inclusive Technology Ltd: View their website
LDA: View their website
Learning Materials Ltd: View their website
Multi-sensory Learning Ltd: View their website
Nessy Learning Ltd: View their website
REM: View their website
SEMERCSmart Kids (UK) Ltd: View their website
Toe-by-Toe: View their website
The law and further reading
Special Educational Needs (SEN)
A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.
A child or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:
- Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of other children the same age.
- Has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.
Disabled Children and Young People
A child or young person has a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have:
“a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
“Long term” is defined as “a year or more” and “substantial” is defined as “more than minor or trivial”.
The Equality Act 2010 sets out the legal obligations that schools and other education providers have towards disabled children and young people;
- They must not discriminate in relation to admission.
- They must not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise in the way it provides services.
- They must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled children and young people are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with their peers.
See more information.