Picture: Darren Baker via Canva
Your child has been struggling at school for some time and so you have decided to seek an assessment for dyslexia. You may think the assessment is it, final, and that all your problems will then disappear. Actually, this is just the start of you and your child's journey and here are 10 things you need to know.
1. You will be hit by an avalanche of emotions.
I have seen many parents go through this. Your emotions will range from relief that you know what is wrong, to anger that the school hasn't picked this up to a type of grieving for the perfect child that you don't have (that none of us have actually). I have seen some parents really struggle with this last one, to the point of needing time to come to terms themselves with the diagnosis.
2. You don't actually understand much of the report!
Your child's report is full of jargon and specialist terms which you - and most people - don't understand. Really useful for something that has just cost you £500 or more.
3. You will be spending most of your free time doing internet searches about dyslexia.
This will drive you completely mad and you will not be much wiser about what dyslexia is at the end. There is so much misinformation out there about they 'type' of dyslexia, the 'degree' of the dyslexia and how your child is going to learn.
4. You will join Facebook groups.
These groups can provide you with emotional and practical help at a time when you are feeling all at sea. Be aware, though, that most people on these forums dole out advice according to what worked for their child. Dyslexia is a complex issue and there is often not a 'one size fits all' solution; helping a dyslexic child is more like piecing together a jigsaw where each piece forms part of the help your child needs.
5. You may start focussing on all the negative aspects of your child.
Yes, your child has weaknesses which is affecting their school learning. The way dyslexia is assessed is an extremely negative process as it focuses on the deficits that your child has in their learning. It is really important that you look for your child's strengths and make sure that your child gets a lot of time doing things which play to these.
6. You think that your child's school will now provide lots of 1 to 1 extra help.
This will very much depend on whether the school trusts the origin of your dyslexia assessment and how much your child is struggling in relation to others in the class. I would love a pound for every time I have heard 'they won't do anything because my child isn't the worst in the class.'
7. You are going to have to toughen up and become your child's fiercest advocate.
Our school system doesn't suit our dyslexic students at all and there will be many frustrations along the way. These will include the class teacher keeping your child in at break to finish work when they need the mental break more than any other child in the class; knowing how much homework is reasonable to expect of your child and making sure you stop when this is reached, even if homework is returned incomplete; knowing when the help being given isn't appropriate and telling the school to stop this so that your child can go to the drama/art/sport class that they really enjoy. You will be talking to your child's teacher to try and prevent injustices on a regular basis.
8. You are going to become more of an expert on dyslexia than your child's class teacher.
Unfortunately, in the UK, dyslexia is not a compulsory part of teacher training. If you are lucky, your child may have a teacher who has taken it upon themselves to become more knowledgeable. If not, you are going to have to be the expert and spend lots of time explaining to the teacher why your child must have their break times, why they can't learn 10 new spellings at a time, why they can only manage half the homework in the 30 minutes it is supposed to take them.....
9. You will have lots of fun learning with your child.
Your child will only learn if they are relaxed so you are going to have to get creative with the ways you help your child learn. Forget about setting up a mini classroom at home and instead focus on fun. Learn spellings by shouting out the letters of the words whilst jumping on a trampoline, read together and act out stories.
10. You will appreciate your child for being the unique, wonderful and amazing human being that they are.
Once you arrive here, you will have come full circle through all your emotions and arrived at the only true answer about your child - they are a wonderful individual.
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