Dyslexia in children

“Why can my child talk in detail about dinosaurs yet put nothing onto a piece of paper?”

This is the sort of question, which makes parents ask if their child might be dyslexic.

Our Helpline receives many calls from parents, who feel that they are not getting enough support for their struggling child in school. Parents understand their children best and are often the first to realise that something is not quite right.

We always recommend in the first instance that the parent goes to the school SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) for help, but often the parent is still left not knowing if dyslexia is the cause of their child’s difficulty.

Common responses from school include:

  • “We don’t like to label children”
  • “she’s too young to assess”
  • “there are others worse than your son”
  • “we don’t have the resources to do more”

The Dyslexia Association believes that it is really important to look for the causes of difficulty in a child who is struggling. If the nature of the child’s difficulties and their strengths are understood, it will be possible for schools to use the available resources as effectively as possible to meet individual needs. The dyslexia ‘label’ certainly does not have to have negative connotations.


The role of the parent

You will be aware of your child’s difficulties in the classroom.  If you can describe all the difficulties that you think your child experiences, you are quite likely to reach some agreement with the school.

There may well be disagreement as to why your child has these problems or what to do about it, but the evidence of their difficulties is a good starting point.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2014 (SEND Code of Practice) states in Chapter 6, Section 6.14 “The benefits of early identification are widely recognised – identifying need at the earliest point and then making effective provision improves long-term outcomes for the child or young person.”

The SEND Code of Practice also states in Chapter 6, Section 6.20 “In particular, parents know their children best and it is important that all professionals listen and understand when parents express concerns about their child’s development.”

Describing special educational needs

A dyslexic, or neurodivergent child may have specific needs with some of the following:

  • reading
  • writing
  • spelling
  • numeracy

With possible weaknesses with:

  • working memory
  • sequencing
  • phonological awareness
  • visual perception
  • organisation skills

They may well have additional problems with:

  • self-esteem
  • social skills
  • behaviour
  • motor skills
  • spoken language

The definition of special educational needs is a learning difficulty that calls for special educational provision to be made.  Once it has been established that your child has special educational needs, school governors have a responsibility to make sure the school does its best to provide the right sort of help.

If you have any worries about your child’s progress at school, you should not hesitate to talk to the class teacher.  It is best to put all your questions and points in a letter to the school.  It will help the teacher to be clear about your worries and will make sure that everything you want to talk about is recorded.

Special educational provision

Once your child’s difficulties are agreed, you can discuss with school the appropriate provision that should be put in place.

If you are doubtful about the value of the suggested provision, you can ask: ‘Why do you think that strategy will be effective?’ or ‘What progress do you expect my child to make as a result?’

Finally, it is important to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and the school.  Suggest arranging a date for a follow-up discussion before you leave.

Questions to ask a secondary school before your child goes there

Some of these questions are also appropriate for prospective primary schools.

  • Is dyslexia mentioned in your Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Policy?
  • Is your special educational needs and disability coordinator (SENCO) knowledgeable about dyslexia, the difficulties pupils experience and the effect it can have on a pupil’s whole school life?
  • If the SENCO has knowledge of dyslexia, and if they are involved in delivering CPD to the wider staff group?
  • What types of specialist interventions are available to identified pupils?
  • How do the school identify dyslexic and neurodivergent pupils, and how is this shared with the wider staff group.
  • What is the whole school approach to neurodivergence and dyslexia in terms of CPD, and behaviour support systems?
  • Are pupils given help with, and encouraged to use technology, such as a desktop / laptop computer or tablet?
  • What is the schools process for exam access arrangements?
  • How will the school support your child(ren) to reach their potential?