It has been so important to us here at The Learning Hub to put the spotlight on dyslexia, because it impacts so many children and adults around the country. Many schools are under resourced when it comes to supporting children with dyslexia, children often go undiagnosed and unsupported.
In our search for more information to share with schools and families, we discovered the fantastic team at Learning Matters Ltd. They work hard to educate and support people about dyslexia, and Carla McNeil the founder of Learning Matters Ltd, was kind enough to share some of her valuable knowledge about dyslexia with us in the following interview.
What is dyslexia, and how does it impact a child’s ability to learn to read and write?
To answer your question I have gone straight to the experts. Louisa Moats and Karen Dakin quote the following in their book Basic Facts about Dyslexia and Other Reading Problems;
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.
Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”. – Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz 2003, p.2.
Dyslexia impacts a child’s ability to learn to read and write in many ways, I have listed a few of the more common areas we see on a daily basis:
- Speech development.
- Ability to detect rhyming words.
- Mixed pronunciations (e.g. animal as aminal).
- Associating sounds to letters.
- Decoding (reading) of words.
- Difficulty learning words which don’t follow phonology (e.g. said, what, come).
- Spelling is commonly affected.
- Reading comprehension may be affected.
- Writing may be difficult as students don’t know how to spell often and therefore automaticity is affected. These children more often than not have great oral language but use easier to spell words to express their ideas.
- The less we engage with text the less likely we are to develop an age-appropriate vocabulary for speaking and writing.
I have included a PDF with the potential signs of Dyslexia for further information for those who would like this HERE
What should someone do if they suspect dyslexia?
In my experience, many parents or teachers don’t necessarily suspect dyslexia in the first instance. They are in all cases aware that a child is having difficulty. In many cases, as parents, we want to jump straight from awareness that there is a problem to action. (see image below)
If you suspect a child may have dyslexia and or if they are having difficulty in progressing in literacy it is important to seek to understand before taking action. Speak to a professional who is well informed and qualified to give you advice.
This could be Learning Matters, SPELD, LDANZ to name a few.
In some cases you may also speak to your school SENCO. Whatever you do don’t buy into comments such as “he is a boy it will click” “we don’t worry until children are 7” …. Let’s not take the Wait to Fail Approach….
It is not necessary to have a full Woodcock Johnson assessment unless you are seeking a diagnosis or this is required as part of a special assessment conditions application at secondary school.
The most important thing is early intervention in an explicit, well structured and systematic approach. This will include Phonology, Orthography and Morphology.
Parents money is best invested in intervention, not solely an assessment. For this very reason when building our services at Learning Matters we have created various options of assessment which enable us to get into intervention all the while taking a response to intervention approach.
What resources are available to support children with dyslexia?
There is a mountain of information, programmes and books out there for families. In the interests of maintaining an evidence-based perspective, I have attached below links which I would recommend.
Whatever parents choose to use and or do in terms of support it is important to work to build a wraparound effect for the child. This is where the external support person works with the child, the school and the family to ensure there is an appropriate and consistent approach to the teaching of literacy for this child.
This is something we work hard to achieve at Learning Matters.
We believe that what will make the biggest difference is not only working with children in 1-1, 1-2 and small group situations out of school but also raising the awareness, understanding, empathy and actions of teachers and school leaders who work with these children on a daily basis.
We are gaining some good traction across the country which is exciting.
Two very simple things I recommend both parents and teachers be mindful of;
1. Understand that there are words which follow phonology and those which don’t. Only 4% of our language doesn’t follow phonology so it is important that children are taught synthetic phonics in a multi-sensory way. Children learn these in a different way to those which follow phonology.
2. Many dyslexic children have great difficulty with decoding/reading fluency. We will never enable fluency by solely reading an authentic text ( a normal reader – PM, Ready to Read etc). This text simply encourages the glance and guess method.
Schools and homeschoolers really would benefit from having a bank of decodable texts in their reading resource rooms as these enable children to take what they have learnt in isolation during a well-structured lesson and practice this in a supported decodable text.
Taking this approach enables our children to be successful more often than not preserving their self esteem and confidence. We all know confidence is the biggest predisposition for learning.
I hope you all find the links below useful:
Great reads for parents:
For more support with learning challenges such as dyslexia please visit the helpful team at Learning Matters Ltd