Finding out your child has dyslexia can be an overwhelming experience, and the importance of trying to learn, understand and empathise with the condition should not be underestimated.
Many of us have heard of dyslexia and understand it simply to be a learning difficulty that results in sufferers having difficulty with numbers and words. Though this is common, the complexities of dyslexia are often far more complicated and can affect a person's ability to cope with daily activities, and can leave them anxious, frustrated and prone to stress.
For a long time, educating teachers and parents about this condition has been overlooked, and proper dyslexia support in schools across the UK has scarcely been available. New definitions of what dyslexia is, what having it means and different ways it can be treated need to be explored, and it is the responsibility of our Government to provide resources and materials so that parents, school and teachers can offer dyslexia support to all pupils affected by it.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia, in a nutshell, is the name given for specific leaning difficulties in reading. It's a common learning difficulty that is often characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, absorbing written and verbal information and then the spelling of words.
It may cause problems with identifying words on paper, resulting in a lack of understanding with reading comprehension and could even result in slowing down vocabulary growth. It's not neurological but is often genetic. Often Dyslexia is considered a disability of learning, however with the right attention and continued support almost all people with Dyslexia have the ability to become good readers and writers.
These are of course scientific explanations, I believe that dyslexia is a multi-dimensional disorder in which both children and adults alike, become very upset and frustrated when presented with even the most basic reading, writing or memory tasks. Ultimately people with dyslexia can go into 'hiding' when this upset starts, and we need to prevent that from happening.
How to Identify Dyslexia
There are several signs and symptoms to look out for which will indicate whether children may have the condition. If they have difficulties with phonological awareness (the ability to identify how words are made up of smaller units of sound) this could be an early warning sign. Similarly children with Dyslexia tend to have a weakened verbal memory and find it difficult to process what people are saying to them, or to write things down when they are told to.
Another test is to ask someone who you think may have Dyslexia to name a series of colours or numbers as quickly as they can in a process known as rapid serial naming. If they struggle to do so this could be an indication that they are Dyslexic.
Of course if you are concerned this may be the case it is best to arrange for a dyslexia test to be carried out, or gathering information on-line from robust sources such as the British Dyslexia Association, which offers a wealth of dyslexia advice is a good place to start.
Helping Children with Dyslexia
All children have a right to education and a right to similar opportunities when it comes to their learning. There are many ways in which schools, teachers and parents can help children who suffer from learning difficulties, including 6 of our own key points:
1. To have robust systems in place for testing children, from a young age and young adults who may have dyslexia.
2. To have a clear definition of what dyslexia is and how it may affect those that struggle with it.
3. To have established and effective guidelines, and dyslexia support in place in schools to ensure that educators across the board are aware of how to recognise the signs of dyslexia, and how to help those who have been diagnosed for the condition.
4. To have access to funding and equipment, which will help children with Dyslexia to learn.
5. To be continuously making efforts to improve equipment, teaching methods, and the individual's understanding of Dyslexia.
6. To enable those who are affected by it, be it teachers, parents or the children themselves to have the best standard of education and minimise any disadvantages between them and children that don't struggle with learning.
In the UK we have a problem in our schools. Dyslexia is not well understood, and often schools in the UK find it difficult to recognise the signs and symptoms of a child with dyslexia. A lack of understanding therefore may result in a contemptuous attitude towards the condition, with a distinct inability to recognise or empathise with how it can impair learning.
Teachers face the problem of time, all the tutors and teachers I speak to who work in schools, say that there is simply not enough time in the day to help individuals. What can they achieve in 90 minutes with 25 children is limited?
It is therefore imperative that the Government works with qualified Dyslexia professionals to come up with clear and definitive definitions for Dyslexia and then offer relevant support to educators to enable them to help pupils in their care fulfill their academic potential.
Children who have been diagnosed as Dyslexic deserve to have access to one to one tutoring and support to help them deal with their learning difficulties. There are Government schemes in place, which mean that sufferers have access to special equipment and funding, however more needs to be done. Dyslexia sufferers deserve the same quality of education as other students and it is therefore crucial that they receive additional help and support to enable this to happen.
We must call for the Government to put time and resources into more schools across the UK. More qualified special education teachers need to be properly trained and available to assist with helping children with learning difficulties. We need to research new and improved ways to best educate those with Dyslexia, and thus provide better technologies and equipment to support their learning. More emphasis and resources should be put into effectively training teachers and parents to identify Dyslexia at a young age. We can then start building towards giving those that suffer from dyslexia the same quality of education as everyone else, just as it should be.