Could-my-child-be-dyslexic?

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is very common. It’s thought that 10-20%* of the population are dyslexic. How do you know if your child is? At Tutor My Kids, we see a greater percentage of children with reading and writing difficulties, because our private tutors work one-to-one with many of those students.

Symptoms

Symptoms of dyslexia generally fall into 3 main areas.

Reading difficulties

These tend to stem from the student having a weakness in their phonological understanding (this is the sounds that letters make that help us to read (decode) a word.) In addition, some dyslexic students perceive that the letters move on the page – this is know as Irlens Syndrome – and can compound reading difficulties. Children can be slow to read because they struggle to remember repeated words.  Because decoding the letters and sounds is so hard, students often dislike reading out loud. This can often have an impact on the child’s comprehension because each word has to be sounded out individually, the meaning of the whole sentence can be lost. Children can find copying from the board a difficult and time-consuming process.

Writing difficulties

These tend to show as handwriting being uneven or hard to read, inconsistency in spelling high frequency words (although more complex ones may be remembered more easily) and a difficulty in organising their ideas to get them down well on paper.

Whilst dyslexia doesn’t cause fine motor problem (e.g difficulty in writing neatly and evenly), it can occur at the same time. Difficulty in learning the sounds of letters in words (phonics) makes it hard for children to be able to learn words and spell them well.

Working memory difficulties

These are also part and parcel of dyslexia and become apparent when students are faced with multiple instructions – such as get your book, write the date, start at question 3, skip question 4, then do question 5. It’s not uncommon for children with poor working memory to struggle to remember the third and subsequent instructions.

If there is a noticeable difference between a child’s ability in maths and science, compared to their English, this can be an indication of dyslexia. Also if there is a marked discrepancy between a student’s ability to articulate their thoughts verbally and their ability to write it down. However care should be exercised here as some people tend to be stronger in the maths/sciences or English/humanities. However, if they are present with some of the other symptoms, it may be worth taking some advice on.

We’ve put together a Tutor My Kids Dyslexia Questionnaire for Children. This will help to see if your child might benefit from a dyslexia screening test.

Is dyslexia curable?

Dyslexia is a life-long condition, but with correct timely help it can be managed very successfully.

Why is it useful to know if my child is dyslexic?

Children with dyslexia or dyslexic traits find it so much harder to read, write and remember things. Often dyslexic children think they are stupid because they school friends can do things more quickly and easily than them. This is such a tragedy and can affect a child’s confidence really badly. Some parents/carers are concerned that finding out might label or stigmatise their child, but this is becoming less of an issue with so many well-known and successful people (Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson and others) declaring that they’re dyslexic. It is, thankfully, no longer something to hide. If you, and your child’s teachers, are aware of this, additional help can be put in place to make their life easier.

If your child is approaching GCSEs or A levels, it’s possible they may be able to get extra time in their exams. Take a look at Could my child get extra time for GCSEs and A levels? Tutor My Kids also does exam concession testing.

Screening vs Diagnosing

Initially, it’s always worth having a chat with the SENCo (special educational needs co-ordinator) at your child’s school because some schools are able to screen for dyslexia.

Tutor My Kids offer dyslexia screening to children in the Cambridge and Ely areas. It takes up to an hour and is usually done in the student’s home. It’s a quick and cost effective way to establish if there is a likelihood of your child being dyslexic. We use industry recognised, standardised tests, which are administered by qualified teachers, making it a great starting point to getting extra help from school.

This screening will not give you a formal diagnosis of dyslexia, as only Educational Psychologists are able to offer this, however in our experience parents often initially want an indication of any problems and this screening test gives that. Schools tend not to need a formal diagnosis in order to put additional help in place for students.

Fees for dyslexia screening are £198 (£165 + vat)

Irlens Syndrome

Irlens Syndrome is the name for the sensation that words and numbers are moving on a page, which can make reading text difficult. Sometimes coloured overlays can be used to ‘fix’ the letters on the page and consequently increase reading speed.

Tutor My Kids can offer Irlens Syndrome screening alongside their Dyslexia screening tests, for an additional £20 (inc VAT)

Who can I discuss this with?

It’s always worth having a chat with the SENCo at your child’s school, initially. At Tutor My Kids, Please contact Rachel Law by email or call her on 01223 858421 for help and advice.

*The British Dyslexia Association claim 10%, some American sources think nearer to 20%.

Dyslexia – Gift or curse?

I was discussing this with some of our personal tutors in Cambridge this week. We felt that we were a bit conflicted. It’s tempting to be swayed by high achieving individuals, such as Richard Branson, who firmly believe that the extra creative parts of dyslexia have been a huge help. In addition, that need to overcome these specific learning difficulties have been a pre-cursor to great wells of determination and tenacity. It’s great that dyslexia is being acknowledged and the stigmatisation of dyslexia is being removed. But is this everyone’s experience?
 
Many schools do a great job of supporting dyslexic children, by specific focused intervention plans, minimising the copying from whiteboards, offering different coloured paper, use of laptops and instructions given one at a time. Exams boards are set-up to give extra time to children who are dyslexic which can make a difference. 
 
My worry is, that by portraying dyslexia as a gift it minimises the discussion of the difficulties of dyslexia, in the classroom and in the world of work. Most companies are not set up to understand and help dyslexic adults with the difficulties they face. As adults we have a wider access to technology which makes it easier for dyslexic adults to be able to read and write with greater ease. Fortunately, gone are the days of hand writing a memo or letter, but technology isn’t a panacea. Word processors and speech to text and recognition (and visa versa) software are a great help.
 
What do you think? Gift or curse?