May 23, 2019 by Kim Wyrley-Birch
It was in Year 1 when my children first started to show signs of dyslexia. In Year 2 the signs became even more apparent, and I knew we had to do something about it.
The next step is not always clear. Some schools are well equipped to help families, and however sadly some need guidance. To help save you time, energy, and worry, here’s a guide for what to do next if you think your child has dyslexia.
STEP 1: Identify critical areas your child is struggling with
As soon as you notice signs that your child might have dyslexia, document the areas you can see they’re struggling with. Your detailed observations will prove invaluable when you come to talk to professionals about your concerns. For example – are they able to learn the alphabet sequence, can they remember all the letter sounds and names, do they find it difficult to remember what a word looks like in a book, what mistakes do they make when reading words (was – saw, no – on, bad - dab), do they struggle to write letters and words, do they find it challenging to find the correct word when talking (use ‘thing’), are they disorganised?
Step 2: Speak with your child’s teacher
Get an appointment to sit down and talk with your child’s teacher. Ask the teacher if they have also seen signs of dyslexia and to give examples. Add these to your observations to ensure everything is documented.
STEP 3: Speak with the SENCO or Learning Support Department
Following the appointment with your child’s teacher, they should advise you to talk with the school’s Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo). Private schools will have a Learning Support Department. Chat through your concerns, and they should be able to advise you how the school can help your child learn with dyslexia.
STEP 4: Get your child assessed at age 8
I am often asked what the best age is to get a formal dyslexia diagnosis. My personal preference is around eight years old. If you test any earlier, the results might not be accurate, and you may have to repeat the process further down the line. As children get older, they start to become aware of their difficulty, and it’s essential to catch the diagnosis before their self-esteem drops. Some schools will carry out their testing. However, when my son was tested at school, the results came back to say he didn’t have a learning difficulty. As his mother, this didn’t feel right. We went on to a private assessor who was much more helpful and gave us an accurate diagnosis. I have to tell you, the sense of relief my son experienced when he found out what was causing his difficulties was incredible! We found out what he was good at, why he was struggling, and what we could do about it.
STEP 5: Consider extra support
Your child is entitled to additional support in school whether they have a formal dyslexia diagnosis or not. You, as a parent, are within your rights to request provisions for your child in their lessons. It will, however, depend on the school as to how much support they can offer. 1-2-1 support, which may be an extra charge, is often invaluable as it is designed around your child’s individual learning style and specific weaknesses can be addressed.
STEP 6: Establish a good working relationship with your child’s school
Schools and teachers are more likely to go that extra mile to help your child if you work collaboratively with them. It’s easy to get frustrated and have heated conversations. I’ve been there! However, trying to solve struggles by working in partnership will prove more successful in the long run. Book regular meetings with the school to get updates about your child’s progress. Give the school your updates from your observations at home too. In these meetings, you can hopefully come up with a plan to support your child in their lessons and at home, together. There is absolutely no doubt that children who make the most progress have coordinated home and school support.
STEP 7: Provide a sanctuary
Finally, the most significant piece of advice I can give as a parent of children with dyslexia provides a refuge at home. Our dyslexic children are exhausted when they get back from school as they have to work a lot harder and the extra effort drains energy. Because of this, it’s essential they can relax at home. It prevents anxiety from taking over. When you do come to tackling homework, set small goals for them to achieve. Be optimistic, but remember to be realistic. Your child will take a lot longer to learn new things than peers. With the right support and a chance to step away from learning, they will get there in the end.