- Need to know: Dyslexia when writing and spelling
- Dyslexia symptoms
- Dyslexia reading
- How to help dyslexic students
Dyslexia when writing: How to help dyslexic students
You are sitting in front of your child and they are crying. Your child threw a book the teacher sent home across the room and they refused to read it. This is not uncommon. When asked to read anything, including books of interest, your child becomes inconsolable and will avoid it at all costs. At first, you wondered if they were being defiant or just lazy, and on occasion, you’ve asked yourself if their inability to read like their peers was a direct result of their cognitive abilities. Now you are concerned that there might be more to it.
Reading difficulties can be an indication of ADHD or a learning disability. Dyslexia is thought to affect 20% of the population and it represents 80–90% of all those with learning disabilities. It is the most common of all neuro-cognitive differences. It is most commonly due to a difference in phonological awareness, a skill needed to associate spoken words with written language, which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, and spell.
Children have a 50% chance of having dyslexia if one parent has it, and a 100% chance if both parents have it. Researchers also have uncovered evidence that specific regions of the human genome are involved in a number of reading-related processes within the brain. Dyslexia is not something that can be cured, it is a neurodevelopmental difference that, when diagnosed early, does not impede learning. In fact, it can be an advantage where creative thinking is needed.
Dyslexia assessment: Why it’s important
Very few educators have had training on how to identify, let alone support, a dyslexic child. Ideally, all dyslexic children would be identified upon entering primary school, and intervention would be provided immediately. Dyslexia can be identified with 92% accuracy at the age 5.5 years old. The “wait and see” approach for dyslexic children can be incredibly damaging. The earlier a child’s difficulties are diagnosed, and appropriate interventions are started, the better the prognosis for remediation.
Dyslexia remains hidden in most schools, with 4 in 5 dyslexic children (80%) leaving school without their dyslexia being identified. Many unidentified dyslexic children find themselves in special education classrooms because they are classified as slow learners. In fact, most dyslexic children are extremely bright but learn differently to their peers, and without specialist instruction will fall behind.
As a parent, it is absolutely crucial that you request an assessment by the school or get it done privately. Dyslexic children are at increased risk of anxiety, academic and social problems and early identification reduces the risk of the development of emotional and behavioural problems. Unsupported or unidentified dyslexic children may try and cope in 4 different ways:
- Suppression: The child will internalise feelings of anger, frustration, etc. This can present as task and school avoidance.
- Aggression: The child will externalise their fear in situations where they feel unsafe. This can present as aggressiveness, deviant behaviour and delinquency.
- Depression: The child will internalise feelings of inadequacy, which erodes their self-esteem and overtime impacts their ability to feel joy. This can present as withdrawing, hiding, self-blame.
- Regression: The child will regress as a reaction to traumatic experiences This can present as stammering and bed-wetting.
How to treat dyslexia: Resources for dyslexia students
Don’t wait – If you’re concerned about your child’s reading, spelling or writing, get in contact with their teacher to discuss your concerns and request that the school conduct a dyslexia assessment. Not all schools have the resources to provide this service, in this case it is best to get in touch with an educational psychologist. Some universities provide assessments either for free or at a lower cost; give them a call or have a look on their website. With a diagnosis, you can access resources, support networks, and specialised professionals who can guide you in navigating the educational system.
Advocate for the right intervention – Evidence-based interventions can be implemented at an early stage, targeting specific difficulties associated with dyslexia. Not all programs have strong and conclusive evidence so be cautious. The best evidence-based programs for dyslexia are based on the following:
- Direct Instruction (E.g.: Spelling Mastery, Reading Mastery, Elementary Maths Mastery, DISTAR programs, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) – Strong research evidence from independent studies showing positive outcomes achieved across most academic areas when delivered exactly as prescribed.
- Structured Synthetic Phonics (E.g.: Intervention: Sounds-Write, MultiLit, MiniLit, MacqLit, Phonic Books UK. Whole Class: Sounds-Write, Letters and Sounds, PreLit, PLD Literacy and Learning, Little Learners Love Literacy, Phonic Books UK, No Nonsense Phonics Skills, Jolly Phonics, Read Write Inc.) – Very strong independent research evidence worldwide that shows programs based upon Structured Synthetic Phonics provide the best opportunity to produce significant and long-term improvements in children’s literacy skills. Needs to be delivered exactly as prescribed by a skilled practitioner.
Build self-confidence – Dyslexic children often face frustration, self-doubt, and a sense of inadequacy due to their struggles with reading and writing. Double down on your child’s interests so that they have plenty of opportunities to experience success, helping them develop a positive self-perception and belief in their abilities.
Request individualised instruction and accommodations – Talk to your child’s teacher about developing and implementing an individualised education/learning plan. An IEP/ILP outlines specific accommodations, modifications, and strategies tailored to a child’s unique needs. Educators can implement specialised instructional approaches, provide additional support, and offer necessary accommodations. Audio books and text-to-speech applications are two of the most important accessibility tools.
Nurture potential and talents – Dyslexia is often accompanied by unique cognitive strengths, such as creativity, problem-solving abilities, and visual thinking. By focusing on their strengths and providing opportunities for growth, you can help your child explore their interests and excel in areas aligned with their abilities.
Keep track of your child’s wellbeing – If you are worried about how dyslexia is affecting your child’s wellbeing and general day to day school life, particularly when writing, reading and spelling, use the Keywell app to keep track of your observations and monitor any changes. Being in tune with your child will help you address any concerns swiftly.